Weekly Wrap: Managing Monkeys, Business Cards Thrive, and a Classic Cover Letter

How would your HR staff handle a workforce of monkeys?

Sometimes it’s good to take the Weekly Wrap on the road, as I did last week from the HR Technology conference in Chicago. As you might gather from my coverage, it was an interesting and informative HR event.

But that was then and this is now, and TLNT’s Weekly Wrap is back to regular business. You know what that business is; Every Friday, I highlight and summarize a number of interesting workplace news items you may have missed while you were getting serious about your job. It’s just one way that TLNT can help keep you updated and informed.

Is this wrap-up working for you? Am I missing something you would like to see, or giving you too much of this and not enough of that? I’d like to know, so please leave a comment here, or send it directly to me via e-mail (john@tlnt.com). Tell me what you like, don’t like, and whether you’d like a little more, or maybe even a little less (or something different altogether).

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Yes, this is a weekly round-up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to:

  • Health care reform starts to get sticky. No one ever said it would be easy, but implementing health care reform (aka, Obamacare) is off to a rough start. Just look at what happened this week. First, there was a flap about how employers like “McDonald’s might have to eliminate health insurance for their workers because of the Affordable Care Act,” according to Time magazine. “The Administration moved swiftly to react, saying the health insurance offered to McDonald’s restaurant workers was likely eligible for a waiver that would allow it to stay in place. Phew, right? Well, yes, except that the insurance offered by McDonald’s is precisely the kind the ACA aims to eliminate. “ Okay, then health care plans for children (a non-controversial part of Obamacare) ran into trouble in Minnesota, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to go to war over a bill that would “mandate sick leave for all workers in New York City, arguing the bill would be ‘disastrous’ for small business,” The Wall Street Journal reports . There was one positive note for Obamacare supporters, however — a federal judge in Detroit upheld the constitutionality of the new health care law .
  • A frat boy management culture on display. It’s not often that you get an up close look at a management culture that’s gone off the rails, so this week’s New York Times story about the shenanigans at Tribune Company, the media giant that publishes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun, is one to really dig into. I wrote frequently about Tribune management and it’s foul-mouthed owner Sam Zell in my previous gig over at Workforce, but the NYT story surpasses all of that. “New management (at Tribune) did transform the work culture … (and) the use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective shocked and offended people throughout the company. Tribune Tower, the architectural symbol of the staid company, came to resemble a frat house, complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk.”
  • A digital age surprise: business cards thrive. Just in case you think everything is going digital and will soon only be able to be accessed by computer, iPad, or smart phone, here’s a throwback story to remind you that sometimes, the old ways are the best ways. “Paper is in peril…But one paper tool is thriving,” The Washington Post reports. “It is 3.5 inches long and 2 inches tall. Its use dates to Victorian times, when respectable people presented themselves with a formal flourish and a simple calling card. The digital revolution has swept away many tree-based products, but the lowly business card, against all odds, is thriving.”
  • A job that only a monkey could love. Here’s a workforce that must be a challenge to manage, according to theweek.com: “Along with 100,000 human personnel, India has hired 38 langur monkeys to act as security at the New Delhi-hosted Commonwealth Games.” And why do they need to hire monkeys you might ask? “Primarily to defend Games athletes and visitors from other monkeys. A simian attack may sound cartoonish, but it’s no laughing matter — such incidents are a common occurrence in India and can be fatal.” A BBC video (take a look at it below) helps to explain why in India, bringing monkeys into the workforce actually makes a lot of sense.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHhep1639mE

  • Jobless rate holds steady, but we’re still losing jobs. There’s nothing wonderful in the Labor Department’s September jobs report, according to John Zappe over at ERE.net (sister website to TLNT). “Depending on which survey you looked at, this morning’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was pretty much what everyone expected … Unemployment in September didn’t improve, but it didn’t get worse. Private sector hiring rose by 64,000 jobs, not as much as some economic surveys predicted, but about what others expected. And overall, 95.000 jobs were lost, the result mostly of the layoff of temporary Census workers.”
  • A “why I want this job” cover letter for the ages. The late, great gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson never did anything in a small way, and that’s why the Ottawa Citizen this week reflected on a job request Thompson sent along to a Canadian newspaper 52 years ago this week. It’s a remarkable letter for many reasons, and the newspaper reprints it in its entirety, but it also makes you wonder: how would a cover letter like this be handled today in our litigious, politically correct day and age? How would a hiring manager or HR professional react to someone who wrote, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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