button Vol. 8
No. 1

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Employer Cell Phone Liability Update
line Workplace Violence and Domestic Violence
line Obesity In The Workplace: Update
HR Outsourcing Trends
line Looking At Employee Turnover
line Employer Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

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Top Employer Briefs

Checkmark Graphic Camera Phones and Employer Concerns

Even though there is growing concern about new camera phones and potentials for abuse around privacy and security issues, there have been few documented cases to date.

The paradox here is that how would you know if someone took your picture and posted it to the internet, or took a picture on the job site and e-mailed it out?

Though the issue of camera phones in the workplace is an interesting area to watch, and new aspects of this phenomenon will be appearing every day, banning camera phones or writing new policies may be a bit premature.

The fact that bans are nearly unenforceable, combined with the fact that there are very few actual cases of abuse, might lead to the conclusion that "cautious concern" could be warranted in some cases but probably not any drastic actions at this time.

Here are some factors that may come into play around the issue of camera phones in the workplace:

  • The market for camera phones is increasing dramatically. It has been estimated that four out of every five cell phones shipped annually in the U.S. and Western Europe will feature a built in camera by 2006. Globally sales of camera phones now exceed those of regular digital cameras.
  • New models of camera phones are coming with manual focus, shutter speed controls, the ability to shoot and store video clips, and high-resolution color displays. Though resolution for most phones now is rather limited, it is increasing every day.
  • Some lawyers and consultants are worried that allowing these camera phones in the workplace may lead to security or privacy concerns, or new forms of harassment and abuse. They point out the potential vulnerability of proprietary information that runs the risk of being photographed, or employee privacy that may be compromised.
  • One thing that is unique about the imaging capabilities of camera phones is their ability to send or publicize images via the Internet immediately. The images can then be deleted without even leaving a trace that they were there.

In response to all this, an increasing number of locations and venues in the public arena are attempting to ban the camera phones.

There are plenty of public and government locations where camera phones are banned or even confiscated. The first to ban them were federal courthouses.

One movie premiere stated clearly on the tickets that all video recording devises were prohibited, including camera cell phones. Some health clubs have bans for camera phones in locker rooms.

As for employers, some are banning camera phones as well. Daimler Chrysler has added to its security policy a ban on camera phones, and Texas Instruments has a written company policy prohibiting all types of recording devices on the premises, including camera phones.

In reality these bans and prohibitions may be unenforceable. Bans can be put in place, but enforcing them is a different story. And what laws apply?

Some companies are dealing with this issue by developing technologies to remotely and automatically disable certain kinds of portable devises in a given area.

For now, it may be wiser to consider putting sensitive items or data in special areas that have increased security and to provide better training or guidelines to employees to watch for behavior involving camera phones that may inappropriate.

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Checkmark Graphic Recruiting and Researching Candidates on the Web

An interesting development in researching and recruiting for candidates on the Internet is the case of the Cambridge, Massachusetts based company Eliyon Technologies.

Eliyon is a hybrid between a regular search engine like Google and services like Hoover's that use human editors to compile, extract and analyze information on companies and job candidates. The service is based on software that searches the Internet for information and then utilizes sophisticated algorithms to analyze how the words are used.

For example, it can recognize a string of words that is a person's name and job title, and it can identify things and put them in context, such as the fact that John Deere is a company and not an animal. It searches through about 100,000 web pages a day, including federal securities filings, corporate web sites, blogs, press releases, and articles in business publications.

Sometimes the software can make mistaken connections, and even company spokespersons admit that glitches do occur because the software still has imperfections, and that web content is uneven in quality and reliability. However, the company is dealing with that by refining the algorithms as well as providing links to content it finds so users can evaluate for themselves the source's credibility.

In an attempt to avoid potential privacy issues the company avoids scanning sources that might contain sensitive personal information, like lawsuits or credit reports, and relies heavily on clearly public sources of information such as corporate annual reports. With the new FACTA laws in force now this is particularly important.

Subscribers to the service pay about $12,000 apiece annually for individual access, and the Eliyon's client list already includes a quarter of the Fortune 100 companies. Users can quickly search the 20 million Eliyon profiles and locate high-level people in the U.S. corporate workforce, including more than 11 million scientists, engineers and other professionals.

The company notes that their search technology is very good at pulling in higher-level executive candidates who would not be likely to post a resume on line at all. Eliyon can generate a more detailed profile of a candidate that contains whatever information it can pull from its online sources. This profile might include a list of present and past positions, professional association memberships, conference presentations made by the candidate, education, links to professional journal articles by the person, and a phone number and/or e-mail address.

It seems to be an innovative way of utilizing the information that is publicly available on the Internet for purposes of recruiting and researching new talent for employers.

Source: thanks to workforce.com for information contained in this article.

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Checkmark Graphic New Looks at Employee Orientations

Some employers are taking a new look at employee orientations.

It may be called employee orientation, employee integration, or "onboarding", but it usually involves a day or two of getting a picture taken for photo ID, filling out forms, discussing benefits, watching company videos, and learning about parking variables, etc.

Why this process is done the way it is done now hasn't been examined much in the past. Some employers are questioning the wisdom of first day "information dumps" as they consider whether there might be a better way to introduce an employee to the workplace on the first days of the job.

Understandably the logistical requirements may dictate that this type of detail needs to be covered before the actual beginning of work, but even that point is open to debate now.

Some new ideas for employee orientation come from the book "First Break All The Rules" by Marcus Buckinghame and Curt Coffman. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a stepped or staggered approach to orientation. Have brief meetings over the first three to four weeks, starting with a short meeting on the first day and then a second meeting later that week. Stagger the times of the meetings, and have the meetings in different parts of the job site or different departments in order to give a more complete understanding of the breadth of the organization.
  • Get new employees to their work sites as soon as possible. Give them a job to do and let the employee do it. Let them go to work. Chances are what a new employee really wants to do is get in there and show you what they can perform; so let them start working on something. Give a new hire some goals that they can reach in the first few days, or possibly weeks.
  • Involve the manager as soon as possible. Even though orientation is a primarily a human resources activity it may be more effective when other co-workers or managers are involved. A new hire may pay more attention to what their manager will say than what someone from human resources might be telling them. In addition, managers realize that they have a stake in the new employee and will probably want to get involved in getting the new hire off on the right foot.
  • Make the orientation about more than just benefits, forms, and policies. Most people want to be proud of an organization they work for, so the orientation should reflect the mission, values, and culture of the employer.
And finally, some employers are hoping that these changes in the orientation process may be able to affect turnover and make other long-term positive impacts.

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Checkmark Graphic Companies Blocking Websites

Some recent studies show that more companies are blocking out websites from employees.

One such study is by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute in which they surveyed 526 companies on their technology policies and procedures.

The study found that 65% of companies block connections to inappropriate web sites, a 27% increase since 2001. They also found that 25% have fired employees for misusing e-mail and 26% for misusing the Internet.

About 55% of respondents said they retain and review e-mail messages, while some actually track employee keystrokes.

For the most part companies do not monitor on an ongoing basis, but more often in response to a problem, and then they will do spot checks.

Also, when companies do monitor whether inappropriate websites are being viewed it is usually not by pinpointing an individual employee but rather by looking at the aggregate as a whole.

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Checkmark Graphic FACTA Update

At Braun Consulting Group we wrote a special report recently titled "FACTA: Compliance and Liability." This report explains many of the main aspects of this new law as it affects the protection and disposal of personal information collected about employees by their employers.

In March of 2004 a provision of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act took effect that enables employers to commission investigations of workplace misconduct by outside agencies without triggering the fair-notice and paperwork aspects of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This provision nullified the Federal Trade Commission's "Vail letter," issued in 1999, which asserted that the Fair Credit Reporting Act's definition of "consumer reporting agencies" included outside providers of workplace investigations.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act does not affect the Fair Credit Reporting Act's limitations on routine pre-employment background and credit checks, which still apply.

The Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction over the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which prohibits consumer reporting agencies from compiling "consumer reports" for "employment purposes" without first disclosing the nature and scope of the investigation to the individuals involved and obtaining their consent.

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