All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

U.S. Army Streamlines HR function

In a move that could be predictive of future federal budget cuts, the U.S. Army announced it will cut 500 human resource and training jobs at its Fort Knox facility, thereby saving $50 million in budget expenses, according to this report:

“Headquartered in Fort Knox, the U.S. Army Accessions Command will be phased out by the end of the 2012 fiscal year. But the base, which employs approximately 18,600 military and civilian personnel and 2,800 contractors, will continue serving as the national headquarters for human resources and training, [Army spokesman Brian] Lepley said.

By mid-July, there will also be a transfer of 81 additional employees to Fort Knox from Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., which is shutting down, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Hackathorn said.

The changes will eliminate 195 military and civilian jobs and 290 contracted jobs in Fort Knox.”

McJobs Day Turns Violent

After announcing it would hire 50,000 workers on April 19, many took the announcement by burger-meister McDonald’s as nothing more than an act of self-promotion.

But with so many people out of work in this country, such an announcement was also seen by some as one company’s efforts to help lower the unemployment rate.

So, while there were many positive stories coming out of the event, including thousands of Americans shedding the “unemployed” tag, not every story tied to this event was exactly “Happy Meal” material, including this one out of Cleveland.


McDonald’s just released a statment, via spokesperson Danya Proud, on its April 19 hiring event:

“At McDonald’s, we are excited to play our part in helping to fuel economic growth and recovery. Our recent National Hiring Day is a great example of this.

While we are still in the process of determining how many people McDonald’s and our franchisees hired, we know that National Hiring Day was a resounding success based on the thousands of applications for employment our restaurants received. You will be hearing more on the results of National Hiring Day next week.

Whether you’re with us for a short time or a career, a McJob provides limitless opportunity and potential for growth. We are pleased to celebrate and share our success with communities around the country.”

Greetings from SIOP

Here in Chicago, the city of Big Shoulders, the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology is holding its 26th annual conference through Saturday, where the topics are as diverse as the city’s many culinary options.

(As a gustatory aside, my new favorite Chicagoland restaurant is Harold’s Chicken Shack, with dozens of locations throughout the city. And if you don’t mind a little bullet-proof glass as part of a restaurant’s design, then you’ll likely agree. Get the wing dinner — with hot sauce —  and thank me later.)

This morning, I’ll be attempting to be in a variety of places at once, as a number of interesting topics will discussed at the same time, including: measuring the effectiveness of executive coaching; learning the lessons that Bank of America, Avon and Pfizer have learned from the mergers and acquisitions each has pursued; and a discussion on whether the Industrial/Org community is ready for employee selection via smartphone.

Before flying home to dear Philadelphia, I also hope to sit in on NASA’s presentation on their problem-solving model for training flight controllers, which they say could be used to improve training in other operational environments.

I personally believe that, any time the “rocket scientists” speak, it’s the wise man who listens.

On a personal note, I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of Pres. Obama’s motorcade, as he is back in his hometown today to begin his re-election campaign in earnest. I just hope my view of his motorcade comes from a Chicago Hilton window and not my cab’s.


HR Does More With Less

With the release of its 2011 Book of Numbers, The Hackett Group is further proving the idea that the human resource departments at world-class organizations are doing more with less.

The Hackett Group’s research finds that world-class companies now spend nearly 30 percent less per employee on HR, while operating with 25 percent fewer employees.

World-class companies also deliver better efficiency and better effectiveness than their peers, according to the research. World-class companies have 34 percent lower process costs (which includes both outsourcing and labor) than their peers; and world-class companies make 75 percent fewer time-collection errors than their peers.

“As the recession forced companies to make staffing cuts, world-class HR organizations were in a better position to make smarter downsizing decisions, and were able to move faster than typical companies, and control costs more effectively,” says The Hackett Group Global HR Transformation and Advisory Practice Leader Harry Osle.

“At the same time, they have a better understanding of their companies, and can more effectively identify and develop HR capabilities and infrastructure that provide powerful support for the unique strategic needs of the business,” he says.

And among those strategic needs, according to the research, is the issue of outsourcing.

The research finds that 90 percent of world-class companies are moving “more work within the existing portfolio of service offered in low-cost geographies out of the business divisions or units,” compared to 63 percent of peer companies.

A detailed abstract of the HR Book of Numbers, including sample metrics and a complete index of metrics, tables and charts in the full book, is available here.

You Want Fries With That Job?

In a clear sign that the economy is once again expanding in accordance with our waistlines, McDonald’s has announced an audacious goal of hiring 50,000 workers in a single day, according to the good folks at CNNMoney:

“We’re excited to offer 50,000 new jobs, all across America, all in one day,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s U.S.A.

Fields, who started working at a McDonald’s restaurant as a crew member behind the counter in 1978, said the 50,000 new hires will increase the U.S. workforce to 700,000 from its current level of 650,000.

She said the average pay for the jobs is $8.30 an hour. That’s compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, though in some states the minimum wage is higher. She said that restaurant managers can make $50,000 a year.

Let Us Now Praise Progress

As news headlines continue to track the strife and struggle across the Middle East on an hourly basis, let us now take a moment to welcome the end of a hiring rule that once embodied a centuries-long struggle between two warring parties.

According to the Associated Press:

The British government says Northern Ireland’s police force will stop being required to hire a certain number of Catholics over Protestants following a decade of swift social change.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson says the affirmative action policy in force since 2001 can no longer be justified because today’s Police Service of Northern Ireland is nearly 30 percent Catholic.

Reform of Northern Ireland’s overwhelmingly Protestant police force was a central goal of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended decades of sectarian violence. Only 8 percent of police at that time were Catholic.

For the past decade, recruiters have been legally obliged to ensure that at least 50 percent of job-winning applicants were Catholic. Paterson said Tuesday that law will lapse March 28.

So, while it may be difficult for American employers to even ponder the concept of hiring policies based on religion, and the debate over the merits of affirmative action rages on, we can at least all agree that it’s a grand and glorious day when such considerations are no longer necessary.

Business-Book Title Mash-Ups (Vol. I)

We here at Human Resource Executive magazine receive A LOT of business books in the mail — many times, multiple copies of the same title — which are then placed in the various bookshelves that surround our happy little newsroom.

While we can’t guarantee that the books are always read, some of the titles are clever enough on their own to warrant mention here. 

So we recently decided to embark upon a meta-media experiment to pair these books together in order to form new book titles, and we humbly apologize in advance to the authors of these esteemed tomes.

With that said, and with the help of web editor Anne Freedman and staff writer Jared Shelly, we now present a list of  mashups of our favorite business-book titles.

Enjoy your Friday!

“The Unforced Error”/”Ooops!”/”How Did That Happen?”

 “This is the Moment”/”At Your Own Risk”

“What’s Next, Gen X?”/”Ties to Tattoos”

“Riding the Tiger”/”The India Way”

“On My Honor I Will”/”Decide & Deliver”/”Clever”/”Daily Yoga Class”

“Happiness at Work”/”Can They Do That?”

“The Truth About Middle Managers”/”In the Workplace”/”Working for You Isn’t Working for Me”

“Your Next Move”/”Getting Naked”

“Flight Plan”/”Never Fly Solo”/(in)/”Turbulence”

“How Full Is Your Bucket?”/”Standing in the Fire”

“Reality-Based Leadership”/”Just Enough Anxiety”

“Leadership and Self-Deception”/”The Leap”

“The Executive and the Elephant”/”The Power of Pull”

And finally, the winner for lonest mash-up title goes to …

“Perfectly Able”/”Millennials in the Workplace”/”Who”/”Buy In”/(to a)/”Fully Charged”/”Shockproof”/”Well Connected”/”Orange Revolution”

House Arrest for HR

The former human resources manager of a Mississippi company has been sentenced to six months house arrest for hiring hundreds of illegal immigrants, the New York Times is reporting:

Jose Humberto Gonzalez was the only Howard Industries official charged in the 2008 raid at the company’s electrical transformer plant in Laurel, [Miss.]. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to conspiracy in December 2009. He was sentenced Thursday.

The case came to light after the “nation’s largest immigration raid”  yielded 600 illegal immigrants on Aug. 25, 2008, the story reports.

The story also notes that “[t]he company pleaded guilty to conspiracy on Feb. 24 and was fined $2.5 million.”

But, given the current administration’s oft-repeated vow to crack down more on illegal hiring practices such as the one uncovered by the 2008 raid, it is perhaps a little surprising that the only person charged in the case received such a relatively light sentence.

Big Game, Big Consequences

Apparently, the leadership at U.S. Steel isn’t viewing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ upcoming tilt against the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s Super Bowl with quite the same amount of excitement as some of its workers.

A recently released U.S. Steel memo says workers in a number of mills who miss work Sunday or Monday “without just cause” will face “severe disciplinary action,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story:

The threat elicited a tongue-in-cheek response from USW International ice president Tom Conway. He called the warning “ham handed.”

“I’m concerned that since [Mon Valley employee relations manager] Preston [Henderson] hails from the Philly region, he may not be as flexible and that this is just some kind of Eagles sour grapes being displayed here,” Mr. Conway wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Henderson, U.S. Steel general counsel James D. Garraux and Donald C. Rizer, another employee relations executive.
The e-mail featured alternating paragraphs of black and gold type.
Mr. Conway proposed adjusting work schedules by enlisting volunteers for Super Bowl duty and making up any production lost during Sunday’s 3 to 11 p.m. shift over the coming week. He also suggested a post-game party for the Sunday shift workers at U.S. Steel’s training center in Duquesne, where they could watch a replay of the game.


“This would be a better approach to this weekend than your threat of SEVERE discipline … whatever that means,” Mr. Conway wrote.

U.S. Steel declined to comment on the issue, according to the report.

So enjoy your Super Bowl weekend, but not too much!

High-Impact HR

This morning, the good folks at Bersin & Associates released a new report based on surveys and interviews at more than 720 global organizations, which finds that overall spending levels, organization structure and team size have far less impact on business performance than the skills of the HR professionals themselves.

The report, entitled The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence, is based on a two-year global benchmarking study that looked at 14 talent management and HR effectiveness measures across global businesses, and included a company’s ability to source the best talent, hire and onboard top candidates, identify and develop leaders, build a culture of learning, allocate compensation effectively and drive high performance through coaching and feedback.

“This research clearly shows that the days of bloated HR organizations focused on administrative tasks are over,” said company CEO and president Josh Bersin in a press release announcing the findings. ”

Among the findings, the report states that companies that empower key HR professionals to take on a “strategic business partner” role create HR teams that outperform the average HR organization by 25 percent or more.

It also found that companies that focus on modern tools for empowerment, including knowledge sharing, collaboration and social networking, are delivering twice the business improvement of those that focus on traditional HR strategies such as pay-for-performance or new HR information management systems.

The report also will become a foundational piece of research for the firm’s new HR Research Practice, which offers benchmarks, tools, case studies, operational frameworks and proven service models that define best-practice human resources organizations.

“This whole new practice takes an overarching approach in order to give a much bigger picture for our clients,” says Stacey Harris, director of strategic HR research at Bersin & Associates.

“The challenge for HR professionals today is living up to the high expectations that come with a seat at the table — expectations to drive business results through people and culture,” she says. “Our new HR Practice and this particular body of research reveal the keys to driving impact. We are also addressing long-standing requests by our members to help them prioritize and align their HR strategies with the business to deliver the greatest return.”

The link to an upcoming webinar featuring Stacey Harris introducing the new practice can be seen here: