Recent Congressional reports regarding Y2K preparedness among small businesses are at odds with a study conducted by Irvine, Calif.-based Sage Software, Inc. Congress estimates. 750,000 small businesses are at risk of temporary shutdown or significant financial loss due to Y2K problems, and another 4.75 million might be affected in other ways. When Sage asked information technology decision makers about their companies’ Y2K readiness, the company found a different story: 55 percent say they have already fixed the problem, and another 38 percent say they are currently working to fix the problem. The survey also found that small businesses are allocating an average of $16,600 toward Y2K mitigation. Y2K compliance costs among some of the nation’s largest firms aren’t so clear, however. Weiss Ratings Inc. found that many Fortune 1,000 companies have failed to disclose costs of their Y2K fixes to investors, despite efforts by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to urge such disclosures. While the SEC says each company should reveal its total estimated Y2K budget and Y2K expenditures to date to investors, many companies report only partial data, or none at all. Some of the biggest offenders: IBM and Hewlett-Packard, who have failed to provide any information regarding actual expenses; and Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dell Computer, Enron, Merck, Microsoft and SYSCO, who have disclosed neither actual Y2K costs nor Y2K budget estimates.
A balancing act can retain staffers Work/life balance issues are taking over as a key role in retaining top information technology (IT) talent, according to a poll by RHI Consulting. Eighty-eight percent of the chief information officers polled said offering programs that meet their employees’ needs is more important than it was five years ago. Flexible hours and personal days led the list of benefits offered. ‘The competitive IT labor market has made it imperative for more companies to offer their staff a better balance between work and personal life,” said Greg Scileppi, executive director of RHI Consulting. “In order to attract and retain IT talent, businesses must have a well-thought-out strategy in place that includes progressive benefits in addition to traditional programs such as medical and dental insurance. Even the strongest employers could seem less enticing to prospective job candidates if they fail to offer employee-friendly programs.”
Issue best left to individual states? It’s becoming a perennial issue in the national Legislature – an increase in the minimum wage. This year proves no exception. However, one conservative think-tank is taking a new approach, suggesting that hikes in the minimum wage are best left to states to determine. Former U.S. Department of Labor economist D. Mark Wilson, now with The Heritage Foundation, asserts a higher minimum wage would do more than reduce the number of entry-level jobs; he says it would also make it harder for states to move welfare recipients into work. According to Wilson, those too unskilled for jobs at $5.15 an hour won’t be lifted by a minimum wage raise to $5.65 an hour. The possible consequence? Fewer welfare recipients will be hired, and states could lose millions of dollars in welfare block grants. Wilson says a better solution would be to “give states the flexibility they need to adapt their own minimum wage policies to local economic, demographic and development needs.”
Good people harder to find? I f you’ve noticed key executive vacancies at your office going unfilled for weeks, you ‘re not alone. A nationwide survey of CFOs conducted by Accountemps found it now takes an average of four months to replace an executive. It’s even taking longer to replace middle management and staff – 10 weeks and seven weeks, respectively. ”Today’s high employment environment is resulting in protracted vacancies for many businesses,” said Max Messmer, Accountemps chair. “However, these firms are bringing in project professionals to immediately access needed skills, avoid productivity losses and keep pace with growth initiatives.” That trend gels nicely with an increasing tendency among experienced workers to prefer consulting or project assignments over traditional full-time positions, Messmer added.