Cisco … Simply the Best

I do over 100 presentations on HR issues around the world every year. In addition, I often get the opportunity to meet with some of the premier employment departments. Wherever I go the question that invariably comes is ” who is the best employment professional?” I never hesitate with an answer and no one has yet disagreed with me when I say… it’s Michael McNeal, the director of employment as Cisco systems. He is… simply the best! Employment is a profession which has few heroes, celebrations, or awards. Well, since Fast Company magazine designated me as “the Michael Jordan hiring” I feel comfortable in nominating Michael McNeal as the employment “Man of the Year.” Why? Well Michael has done many extraordinary things. But the most significant is that he assembled and developed the best team of employment professionals that I’ve ever met. Together they:

  • Pioneered the targeting of passives as the primary recruiting target
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  • Were the first to institute speed hiring as a competitive advantage
  • Began the trend of using “non-recruiting events” to source passives candidates
  • Were the first to allow “resume-less” applications on the web through their “profiler” system
  • Led the way in coordinating the recruiting, sales, and PR strategies to simultaneously increase sales and recruiting success
  • Developed the best web-based employee referral program in the world
  • Developed and instituted the concept of an employment “brand” at Cisco
  • Instituted the innovative “friends program” which ended up being one of the most talked about web features in employment
  • Added “fun” to recruitment with features like their “boss button,” the “dancing baby” and links to the Dilbert Web page
  • Developed internal Internet tools which help eliminate paper and empower managers to assume the primary role for recruiting
  • Refined the use of metrics to continually improve the “quality of the hire”
  • Developed a world class recruitment strategy and got top management’s buy-in to make it one of the premier elements of Cisco’s business strategy
  • Developed the benchmark employee referral program using web technology
  • Pioneered the use of market research tools to identify what it takes to identify the best candidates

And if you were amazed with what Cisco has already done, their future plans will take your breath away. Michael and his team have simply developed the best employment function on the planet. They are in the league by themselves. In addition to being an employment wizard, I also like Michael because he occasionally listens to my advice and because he is a world class dad, a pretty fair basketball player, and is funnier than most comedians. Honorable mention should of course go to Barbara Beck, the VP of HR that hired him as well as to other employment visionaries like Kevin Wheeler, Brian Gaspar, Gerry Crispin, Eric Lane, and others too numerous to mention. As the employment function continues to grow in stature, it is important to celebrate our heroes! Way to go Michael, you are “the man”!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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