All posts by Michael J. O'Brien

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:

File Under: Too Much Information

And a happy Monday morning to you all!

Thanks to the good folks over at The Associated Press, which brings us news this morning that Swiss bank UBS is changing its way-too-specific dress-code guidelines after it was recently mocked in business circles.

From the AP:

The bank said Monday it is whittling down its 44-page style guide to a more modest booklet that will concentrate on how to impress customers with a polished presence and sense of Swiss precision and decorum.

“We’re reviewing what is important to us,” UBS spokesman Andreas Kern told The Associated Press.

The existing code tells female employees how to apply makeup, what kind of perfume to wear and what color stockings and lingerie are acceptable. It advises them not to show roots if they color their hair and to avoid black nail polish.

“You can extend the life of your knee socks and stockings by keeping your toenails trimmed and filed,” UBS tells its female staff. “Always have a spare pair: stockings can be provisionally repaired with transparent nail polish and a bit of luck.”

While the old version of the dress code may be excessively granular about how its employees should present themselves, The Leader Board found at least one UBS rule that it hopes is retained for the new edition:

Both sexes were advised to avoid garlic or onion breath.

Buzzword Overkill

The good folks at LinkedIn recently combed through their 85 million profiles and found the top 10 most overused buzzwords of the year, including such gems as  “extensive experience” and “innovative.”

“We wanted to reveal insights that help professionals make better choices about how to position themselves online,” DJ Patil, LinkedIn’s lead data analyst, said in a statement on

Now, onto the list:

1. Extensive experience

2. Innovative

3. Motivated

4. Results-oriented

5. Dynamic

6. Proven track record

7. Team player

8. Fast-paced

9. Problem solver

10. Entrepreneurial

But with a national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, here’s one phrase that sadly hasn’t been overused in 2010: You’re hired.

Into the Crystal Ball

With the end of the year approaching faster than employees can run to a plate of free holiday cookies, a few organizations typically take this time to cull their collective wisdom in an effort to predict the coming trends for the new year.

Among them is Bersin & Associates, which this morning released their view into the 2011 crystal ball: Enterprise Learning and Talent Management 2011: Predictions for the Coming Year — Building the Borderless Workplace.

In a brief chat yesterday afternoon with Josh Bersin, the Oakland, Calif.-based firm’s president and chief executive officer, he said the main themes of the coming year will be globalization, collaboration and employee re-engagement, as organizations shift to a global, borderless workplace in 2011.

“Companies are significantly shifting their new investments towards China, India, South America, to the growing parts of the economy, and they don’t have their people enabled to fulfill on that,” he said. “This is forcing HR to globalize learning and development and HR programs, as well as its own operational structure.”

In fact, Bersin research found that 17 percent of all organizations cited “globalization” as one of their top three business strategies in 2010 — three times the percentage of midyear 2009.

In addition to pressing outwards, Bersin said companies must also turn the lens back on themselves to ensure proper engagement levels are met.

“We have found that HR needs to look at their culture, because there’s been two or three years of upheaval at companies, and you can implement social networking all you want, but there’s really cultural issues underneath it that still need to be addressed.”

In addition to engagement, organizations will be re-focusing their energies on creating more innovative processes in 2011, Bersin said.

That’s based on their research that found 34 percent of all HR and business leaders now cite “driving innovation” as one of their top three talent challenges, up from only 14 percent last year.

“How do we create a culture of collaboration and innovation? Those are problems that companies haven’t thought about the last two or three years,” he says.

For access to the full report, click here.

Can’t get work done? Blame the office.

CNN’s web site has an interesting post this morning from Jason Fried, co-founder and president of 37signals, which produces software enabling teams to work together online. He is also co-author of a new book entitled “Rework.”

Fried’s piece, entitled “Why the Office Is the Worst Place to Work”, takes a very interesting look at why so few people think of their office when asked where they’d go if they really needed to get something done:

I don’t blame people for not wanting to be at the office. I blame the office. The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore … .

When you’re in the office you’re lucky to have 30 minutes to yourself. Usually you get in, there’s a meeting, then there’s a call, then someone calls you over to their desk, or your manager comes over to see what you’re doing.

These interruptions chunk your day into smaller and smaller bits. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there, another 15 minutes before lunch, then an afternoon meeting, etc. When are you supposed to get work done if you don’t have any time to work?

Fried then goes on to uncover the striking similarities between work and sleep:

I believe sleep and work have a lot in common. I don’t mean that you can sleep at work or you can work in your sleep. I mean sleep and work are phase-based activities. You don’t just go to sleep or go to work — you go towards sleep and towards work.

You aren’t sleeping when your head hits the pillow. You start the sleep process. You have to go through phases to get to the really beneficial sleep. And if you’re interrupted before you get there, you have to start over.

The same is true for work. You don’t just sit down at your desk and begin working effectively. You have to get into a groove. You go towards good work. It takes some time to settle in, clear your head, and focus on what you need to do.

I don’t think anyone would expect someone to get a good night’s sleep if they were interrupted all night long. So why do we expect people to get a good day’s work if they are interrupted all day long?

He concludes by suggesting a few options to increase productivity and uninterrupted work time, including “no-talk Thursdays” instead of casual Fridays, and using passive communication, such as instant messaging, instead of popping in on a colleague’s office.

But he saves his best bit of wisdom — at least in this over-scheduled writer’s opinion — for last:

3. Cancel your next meeting. Or just don’t attend it. I’m not suggesting you boycott all meetings — just the next one. Life will go on. And all that stuff you thought you had to talk about with eight other people around a table will get worked out some other way. You’ll gain an hour of time you can spend on more important things. And so will those eight other people. Work can happen without that next meeting. Once you recognize that meetings aren’t as necessary as you thought, they’ll become a last resort instead of a first resort.

Now go enjoy your Monday staff meetings! (Or not.)