By Steven Delgado, Special to WC&P Magazine

The good news is the U.S. economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, as exemplified by an extended housing booms despite multiple interest rate hikes, by consumer replacement of economy cars with bigger and bulkier SUVs and by a marked increase in shareholding investors and stock-optioned employees in their 30s now sitting in income tax brackets once only reserved for executives.

The bad news—at least for small- to medium-sized business owners anyway—is that U.S. business has grown faster than the trained workforce can keep up with, at a demanding pace even illegal workers from south of the border are having a hard time meeting. Unfortunately for you, the business owner, and your in-house payroll accountant—both already overworked—much of the existing labor force has somehow sensed this shortage and often walk off a job they perceive as unfair. They hike over to the next jobsite or company down the street faster than you can dial and say, “Hello, is this the temp service?”

So how do you keep your company’s end-of-the-year W-2s from looking like a bulk mailout of sales flyers? You can’t make the job any easier, or it would be called “play” instead of “work.” And, because you’re a small business owner, you can’t increase your non-skilled payroll to Silicon Valley IPO levels.

The answer is to change the perception of the job by either adding cost-effective benefits to your employment package or to repackage existing ones. And what better place to start this program than the Internet, your virtual human resources consultant?

http://www.safetyvillage.com
Making the workplace safe or instilling a high profile a safety awareness program can mean the difference between you being perceived as either Ralph Nader or Darth Vader by your employees. http://SafetyVillage.com’s intent is to supplant the lethargy normally associated with OSHA and other government job safety offshoots and replace it with rapid, functional information for both small business and employees.

Of particular attraction is the individual safety certification programs that can be customized to fit employee schedules, where test takers can log on to the website and complete a course or exam at any time, no matter the shift hours.

This website is the only one of its kind so far and the official launch won’t be until the fall. Right now, it’s difficult to determine what the exact cost will be to be a registered client. It does promise, however, easy access to employee training, certification, information and software products. Personalized access and an online wellness center will also be available, to help keep your Workers’ Compensation payments from reaching levels similar to Charles Keating’s expense account.

http://www.ifebp.org
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is the 45-year-old educational association that says it’s the largest information provider to the employee benefits industry. Most of the information here is available through its publications and its “Inforsource” document service, an electronic or hard copy article distribution service that delivers information specific to your interest. The online archive from which to choose is extensive and covers in detail such topics as personalizing health care, health care cost statistics and 401(k) plans.

Under the “Hot Topics” section is a list of resources for humans of all make and models. And in case you don’t have the time to conduct this research yourself, simply pop over to the “Job Postings for HR Professionals” section and thumb through the posted resumes to see if there’s any available human resources talent for hire in your region. After all, when your current HR person sees you coming at her with a bunch of bright ideas exclusively for her department (i.e. more work for her) she’s probably going to walk off the job, too.

http://www.ebri.org
The Employee Benefit Research Institute is a public service group specializing in research and education of benefits including economic stability for employees on a national level. Numbers surrounding percentages of the U.S. population currently without health insurance, small employer retirement surveys and interesting examinations of Social Security revamp proposals are all available here.

Also here are selected chapters from the institute’s leading publication, Fundamentals of Employee Benefits Programs, a straight-talking primer that doesn’t require an accounting degree to understand. A chapter called “Cash Balance Pension Plans and other Hybrid Pension Plans” explains the history, reasoning and effectiveness of the latest plans, including updates. All this information was fresh and available without membership, telling me these guys really are on the up-and-up and not just selling software.

http://www.benfitslink.com
http://BenefitsLink.com is an exclusively online, independent publication of cyber-based information for both employers and employees, offering a number of formats and sources for comprehensive benefits information. Started in 1995 by an employee benefits attorney, the site is a dense but effective mixture of government links, articles, search engines, software and message boards, all concentrated on employer-based benefits options.

An exploration of the “Q&A” section opened documents that were not quite as layman-friendly as those found on ebri.org; there almost seems to be more pension plans available than actual pensions. The Q&As are sectioned smartly: everything from COBRA coverage for your domestic partner to cafeteria plan complications are covered here. The questions are answered thoroughly by the experts in the field, hence the terms used can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the latest in employee compliance and laws, of which we are many. Not to fear, however: human resource resumes are posted here also, along with consultants who specialize in these lines.

Conclusion
National economic strength in combination with widespread and savvy use of the Internet has evolved the sport of job-hopping into a whole new era. Employers on all levels have answered with complex benefits packages, now a little easier to keep current and compliant thanks to these websites.

New employee benefit packages in combination with better packaging of existing benefits can go a long way in attracting and keeping the best employees in the region to your operation, not to mention keeping competitors and their recruiters from stealing away your best talent. Keeping your key players in place by polishing the game board once in a while is also an easily delegated mission that frees your hands for more important matters…like making the capital to cover all these wonderful spiffs.

About the author
Steven Delgado is a former WC&P Senior Editor and is currently an Internet Recruiter for Terry Young & Associates, a Tucson-based recruiting firm specializing in technical engineering and manufacturing. He can be reached at stevedelgado@juno.com


Websites: Make your own bennies

http://www.safetyvillage.com
Internet startup promising to save employers by reducing workplace risk; http://SafetyVillage.com is an assembly of experts with a “Cycle of Workplace Compliance” in hand. Official launch set for the fall.

http://www.ifebp.org
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans comprehensively transcribes national surveys, trends and definitions of employer benefits. Find both the resources and the specialists who instill them here.

http://www.ebri.org
The Employee Benefits Research Institute disseminates bean counter data into usable benefit trends in a clear, user-friendly format.

http://www.benefitslink.com
Links and more: Benefitslink is an independent online publication that acts as a hub for safety, compliance and legal aspects, straight from an attorney to your screen.

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