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Good Ecommerce Help Is Hard to Find

January 25th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you having trouble finding employees to run your ecommerce site? You’re not alone. While the nation faces widespread unemployment, qualified ecommerce employees are not among those looking for work, according to Forrester Research data reported by Internet Retailer.

The Forrester report Trends 2011: Staffing and Hiring For eBusiness found that a whopping 83 percent of e-commerce businesses lack adequate staff; just 17 percent say they have all the employees they need.

The situation is going to get worse before it gets better, Forrester cautions. With more companies getting involved in ecommerce, the demand for experienced ecommerce employees is only going to increase.  “The supply problem is simply an issue of time,” the report notes. “E-business has not existed for long enough to produce many employees—especially good ones.”

What area is the most challenging? Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they have the most trouble hiring customer experience workers. Forrester theorizes that’s because these types of workers prefer to work for advertising/marketing agencies, where they can work with a wider range of clients and get more experience.

Another tough market exists for companies seeking business analysts; 53 percent of respondents said it’s hard to find this type of worker. A good business analyst has experience in both business and data collection, which can be difficult to find and costly to hire.

While developers and engineers are not as difficult to find, ironically, the most competition for these workers is in tech-centric regions such as the Silicon Valley. Smaller companies have difficulty competing against big companies like Google or Facebook with their perks, prestige and opportunities for advancement.

So how can you find qualified ecommerce workers? Forrester suggests three steps:

  • Use outside recruiters with specific ecommerce recruiting expertise. Finding the right candidates from the beginning can save you time and headaches.
  • Be ready to pay. The cost of ecommerce employees is not going down anytime soon, so don’t expect to get these workers cheaply. Glassdoor and PayScale are two sites Forrester suggests using to benchmark compensation in your region and industry.
  • Mentor employees. Once you get some good ecommerce workers on your team, having them mentor younger workers can help build your “bench” so you don’t have to go outside the company to hire quite as often.

Image by Flickr user Daniel Broche (Creative Commons)

6 Work Force Trends for 2012

January 12th, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

What changes can you expect for your work force this year? The Herman Group has issued its annual forecast, which predicts that 2012 will be much like 2011 due to prolonged economic challenges. Here’s a closer look at some of the key trends:

1. Recruiting will intensify among smaller employers. Herman Group believes that while many small and midsized companies will add staff, others will try to hold off until the 2012 election outcome is decided.

2. Bad news if you’re looking for skilled workers: Despite high unemployment (over 7.25 percent throughout 2012 in all parts of the country), it will be harder than ever to recruit experienced people. As a result, more communities will realize there is a critical need for work force development if they are to grow economically, and will work to provide the training candidates need to be successful.

3. Companies will use social networks not only in recruiting, marketing and public relations, but also in training and development, and even in succession planning. Bigger companies will increasingly use social media for internal communications.

4. A growing number of unemployed people will become consultants or personal coaches, and more executives will turn to coaching to fulfill their potential. Continuing a trend from the past few years, more companies will “rent” the talent they need instead of hiring.

5. Big companies, in particular, will continue to reduce staff to optimize productivity and profitability. However, smart companies will realize that reducing staff too much will hurt employee engagement, and will pull back before disengaged workers start to affect the bottom line.

6. An escalating regulatory environment in the U.S. means employers need good legal advice more than ever to avoid costly problems and errors. If you don’t already have legal help in place, now is the time to engage it.

What changes are you seeing in your work force? What challenges are you facing?

Image by Flickr user Daniel Ramirez (Creative Commons)

Tricks to Hiring and Managing Gen Y to Help You Grow #12SMBTips

December 20th, 2011 ::
This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series 12 Ways to Makeover Your Business in 2012

Rieva Lesonsky of SmallBizDaily (@rieva)


Are you looking to hire in 2012? Rieva presents everything you need to know about hiring Millennials/Gen Y. She debunks the myths about this generation that employers often peg as entitled and hard to satisfy. Rieva gives tips about your hiring process and management style that will enable you to find hardworking and driven young professionals for your business.

About Rieva: Rieva Lesonsky is founder and CEO of SmallBizDaily and GrowBiz Media. Former Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine, Rieva has been meeting with, consulting to and speaking to America’s SMBs—and the big corporations that want to reach them—for over 25 years.

Ring in the New Year for your small business with a new domain name.  This month only, purchase a domain name for $1.99, the lowest price of the year. This offer expires December 31st. Visit http://bit.ly/12SMBtips to redeem. Terms, conditions and limitations to this offer apply.


How Changes in HR Regulations Will Affect Your Small Business in 2012

December 15th, 2011 ::

By Karen Axelton

Does your small business have employees? If so, there are some changes affecting your treatment of those employees in 2012 that you need to be aware of, HR Morning reports–many of them relating to health insurance. Here’s what you need to know to stay in compliance for 2012.

Changes to W-2 reporting requirements:

Starting in 2012, companies with 250 or more employees are required to report how much each employee’s health care coverage costs on the employees’ W-2 forms. If you have fewer than 250 employees, you are off the hook until at least 2014 (when 2013 W-W-2 forms are issued, although there’s a good chance this will be delayed any further.

Changes to 401(k) fee disclosure regulations:

Beginning January 1, 2012, employers that sponsor 401(k) plans or similar retirement plans for their employees will have to disclose all the associated fees and expenses to the employees. You have 120 days to comply, so the real deadline is April 30. The goal of the change is to make it easier for employees to understand the costs of various plans so they can make informed decisions about investing.

HSA rollovers will end:

The deadline for your employees to transfer the balance of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) into a Health Spending Account (HSA) is December 31, 2011. Rollovers will be prohibited after January 1, 2012.

New federal regulations on health care:

Some aspects of health care reform have been delayed, so keep an eye out for further guidelines from the federal government on how employers will need to comply with these reforms once they are implemented. Two areas to watch for:

  • Summary of benefits and coverage: Under health care reform, all health plans must give participants a summary of their benefits and coverage. The original deadline of March 23, 2012, has been indefinitely delayed and the federal government has not issued a new one (or said when they plan to).
  • Nondiscrimination rules will apply to any health-care coverage that isn’t “grandfathered” in. This will prevent companies from offering either former or current executives any coverage that average employees don’t have access to as well. The federal government is expected to issue a deadline fairly soon as to when these rules will kick in.

Image by Flickr user Walt Stoneburner (Creative Commons)

DISCLAIMER: The information posted in this blog is provided for informational purposes. Legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information presented here is not to be construed as legal advice. Network Solutions recommends that you consult an attorney if you want professional assurance that the information posted, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular business.

What Kind of Holiday Party Is Your Business Hosting This Year?

December 14th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your small business planning to host a holiday party this year? I hope so, because workers who have put in long hours to keep your company growing deserve some recognition of their efforts. Here are some creative ways I’ve heard about small business owners using to keep costs down while still rewarding employees.

Switching it up. Many companies that traditionally held a party in the office, such as by hosting a luncheon, are turning to outside options after finding that restaurants and hotels, especially smaller ones, are hurting in this economy and more willing to deal. One company in this Chicago Tribune article actually saved by moving their party off-site this year.

Limiting or eliminating alcohol. This isn’t just a cost-saving move but can also be a smart one for legal reasons. Companies can be held liable if employees drink too much at a party, then drive and get involved in an accident. Another option is to provide just enough alcohol for a celebratory toast.

Thinking small. More businesses are switching to parties that feature just appetizers and cocktails instead of a full dinner or lunch. This saves considerably on costs without affecting employees’ enjoyment of the event. In fact, many people may appreciate smaller portions during the traditional holiday “weight-gain” season.

Keeping it short. Instead of hosting a big dinner event, more companies are hosting a luncheon either on or off-site and then giving staff the afternoon off to shop or spend time with family. Catering or restaurant costs for lunch is lower, and employees these days value the gift of time as much as they do a big party.

Save it for later. Some companies are beating the rush by hosting parties in the New Year instead of the pre-holiday rush. Again, smart move because everyone from caterers to hotels to restaurants typically sees a slowdown after New Year’s Day, so rates will likely drop. Plus employees may appreciate not having one more event to cram in during their busiest time of year.

How will you be celebrating this year?

Image by Flickr user Danny Norodo (Creative Commons)






How Will Small Business Owners Celebrate the Holidays?

November 21st, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What are your small business’s plans for the holiday season? Will you be giving customers gifts, exchanging gifts with your staff or celebrating with a party at your office or store? The 2011 American Express OPEN Small Business Holiday Monitor surveyed entrepreneurs about their plans for gift-giving, celebrating and more. Here’s what they found.

About half (43 percent) of small business owners will be giving their clients or customers gifts this holiday season. The average budget for client/customer holiday gifts is $827, up substantially from $740 last year and $455 in 2009. Overall, fewer entrepreneurs than last year (53 percent in 2011 compared to 65 percent in 2010) say the economic downturn has changed their holiday gift-giving behavior when it comes to customers. Of those who said that the economy has changed their behavior, here’s what they’re doing differently:

  • Giving fewer gifts – 39 percent
  • Giving less expensive gifts – 39 percent
  • Giving gifts without spending cash (by bartering or giving away your own products/services) – 26 percent
  • Giving no gifts at all – 23 percent

Interestingly, 12 percent say their reaction to the downturn has been to increase gift-giving (I’m betting those companies really stand out in the crowd!).

This holiday season, more than one-third of small business owners will throw a party for their staff.  That percentage has declined steadily from 2009. On average, entrepreneurs will spend $1,029 on their celebration, about the same as last year. While the percentage holding parties is declining, this year more small business owners (22 percent) say their staffs will participate in volunteer activities as a group than in the past few years. And 29 percent will give year-end bonuses, up from 25 percent last year.

While the economy isn’t putting much of a damper on holiday festivities, it does seem to be affecting small businesses’ holiday marketing strategies—and particularly those of small retailers. Nearly one-quarter of small business owners overall (24 percent) and 42 percent of small retailers say they will be discounting products or services to boost demand during the holiday season. Of these, more than three in five say they will be giving even deeper discounts than they were last holiday season (the average discount is 11 percent). In addition, one-third say they plan to start holiday promotions earlier this year than last year. But despite the marketing challenges they’re facing, only one in 10 retailers and one in 20 small businesses in general say they plan to hire extra help for the holiday season.

How is the economy affecting your plans for the holidays?

Image by Flickr user Julian Lim (Creative Commons)






How Father-Friendly Are Your Small Business’s Policies?

November 18th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

I’m sure your small business offers maternity leave to new moms. And maybe you even congratulate yourself on mom-friendly policies such as letting employees work from home so they can stay home with a sick child. But is your business equally father-friendly? If not, you could take a lesson from what some major corporations are doing these days.

Big companies like IBM and SAS are wooing male employees with father-friendly policies, reports Human Resources Executive Online. IBM, a leader in the father-friendly arena, won an award from the National Fatherhood Initiative recognizing its policies, which include a two-week paid paternity leave. According to a 2011 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, just 16 percent of U.S. companies offer paid paternity leave.

One reason big companies are taking the lead in this area is that they have global workforces—and in many parts of the world, benefits for fathers are far more generous than is typical in the U.S. For example, the SHRM study found that 66 countries have paid paternal leave policies.

In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for reasons including caring for a child. But the Act doesn’t apply to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and even in companies where it does apply, many dads are too scared to take advantage of it. They’re worried they’ll get shunted onto the “mommy track,” or lose their jobs in a time when hanging on to employment is key.

For many dads, flexible work arrangements are the best way to help them adjust to life as a new father (and life as the children grow up). Allowing dads to work at home part of the time is a great benefit that many dads are likely to take advantage of. One reason this appeals to fathers is that, since many employees (not just parents) are likely to telecommute, doing so doesn’t call as much attention to them as taking paternity leave does.

Whatever option you choose for handling the fathers in your workplace, keep in mind that fathers increasingly have the same concerns as mothers do about balancing work and family. Where the dad of the past may have thrown himself into work with renewed fervor after the kids were born, today’s dads—especially those of the younger generations—are determined to make time for their children. Anything you can do that helps them accomplish that goal will pay off in greater loyalty and dedication to your business.

Image by Flickr user rtopalovich (Creative Commons)



Why Overqualified Job Candidates May Be Your Best Bet

October 27th, 2011 ::

By Karen Axelton

If you’re looking to hire employees right now, you’re probably finding a plethora of overqualified candidates in the job market. Before you throw away another resume, stop to consider the results of a new study that shows that overqualified candidates might actually be the best people for the job.

BusinessNewsDaily.com cites the study by Aleksandra Luksyte, a professor at the University of Western Australia, who found that giving overqualified job candidates challenging assignments can greatly benefit a business.

While past research has typically shown that overqualified workers are the most dissatisfied and are likely to seek other jobs as soon as they can, Luksyte found something different. She discovered that when employers gave overqualified employees assignments that allowed them to make their own decisions, coordinate projects, lead others, or be responsible for the outcome of their work, those employees were more likely to put increased effort into both their own performance and promoting the overall welfare of the business.
“When overqualified people are placed into challenging jobs, they seem to be motivated to utilize all their under-realized potential into becoming excellent employees,” Luksyte told BusinessNewsDaily. “Our results suggest that by placing overqualified employees in complex jobs, employers may be able to influence the most important work behaviors of their overqualified incumbents.”

When overqualified employees received challenging assignments, Luksyte found, they not only handled the jobs but also went above and beyond to assist co-workers with both work-related problems, such as helping with a heavy workload, and personal problems, such as making them feel better when they were discouraged.

Luksyte told BusinessNewsDaily that study suggests hiring overqualified people could actually give a business a competitive advantage. She suggests that overqualified workers could benefit from tasks such as mentoring other employees or leading teams. Any work given to them should allow for making decisions and taking responsibility for the outcomes of work.
Image by Flickr user bpfusf (Creative Commons)

10 Growth Cities Small Business Owners Should Know About

July 27th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What U.S. cities are poised to grow and prosper in the next decade? That’s the question the site NewGeography.com set out to answer when it partnered with the Praxis Strategy Group to come up with its ranking of the next “boom towns” in the U.S.

The study took the 52 largest metro areas in the country (that is, those with populations of more than 1 million) and ranked them based on data that indicate past, present and future vitality. Here are the factors the researchers assessed:

Job growth was the primary factor considered. In addition to looking at job growth in the past decade, the study focused in particular on growth within the past two years in order “to account for the possible long-term effects of the Great Recession.” Job growth was weighted for approximately one-third of the score. The other two-thirds of the score consisted of a variety of demographic factors that were all weighted equally. These included:

  •  rates of family formation (that is, the percentage growth in children aged 5 to 17)
  • growth in educated migration
  • population growth
  • attractiveness to immigrants

Why were these factors key? According to NewGeography’s Joel Kotkin, “College-educated migrants, new families and immigrants will be critical in shaping the future.” Kotkin explains that metro areas where few educated migrants move and that are losing young families are poised for decline, not growth.

Given the measures that were used, most of the cities on the Top 10 aren’t surprising, as they generally boast high population growth, lots of young families and other positive factors like temperate climates and access to major transportation hubs. Washington, DC, might seem a surprising choice, but its reliance on government-related jobs and contracting has made the area somewhat “recession-proof.” And while Phoenix, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida have both suffered big hits to their housing markets, they are benefiting from the continued influx of immigrants, children and families.

Here are the top 10 boom towns; to see the complete list of 51, visit the NewGeography website.

1 Austin, TX (shown above)

2 Raleigh, NC

3 Nashville, TN

4 San Antonio, TX

5 Houston, TX

6 Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV

7 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

8 Charlotte, NC-SC

9 Phoenix, AZ

10 Orlando, FL

Image by Flickr user Stuart Seeger (Creative Commons)

What’s the Best Way to Reward Your Employees?

July 12th, 2011 ::

By Karen Axelton

When it’s time to reward employees at your small business for service above and beyond the call of duty, how do you do it? Do you use cash, gifts or some other form of reward? Writing at Compensation Café, Derek Irvine recently took a look at the difference in effectiveness between cash and gifts as employee rewards.

Irvine comes down firmly on the side of gifts, arguing that a good employee gift is like a good wedding present—memorable and treasured long after the event takes place. Cash, on the other hand, gets “lumped” into the person’s paycheck envelope, gets spent on who-knows-what, and is quickly forgotten. In other words, Irvine says, cash is nothing special.

This article got me thinking about the difference between cash and gifts. When I was an employee, I received both kinds of rewards. For years, I worked at a small business where we would get cash bonuses each Christmas. The bonuses were small, but appreciated nonetheless. One thing that made them stand out is that they weren’t (as Irvine mentions) lumped in with our paychecks. They were given in actual cash and handed to each employee by the company owner. This made it a special occasion—and one that was memorable. Now, whether you chose to spend that cash on “who knows what” or on something special was up to you. I personally made a point of spending the money on special items that I still treasure and that remind me of when I got them (much like wedding gifts).

At a huge corporation I worked for, the experience was totally opposite. We were constantly encouraged to go above and beyond, and when we did, we’d earn points that could be redeemed for gifts out of a big catalog. The problem was, most of the gifts weren’t really anything anyone would want. I still have a saucepan and cake pan I earned at that company, and when I look at or use them, I do remember the job—but not in any pleasant way. I would much rather have received cash and bought something I really wanted.

What’s the lesson here? Whether you’re giving cash or gifts, the secret to making the reward truly rewarding is to get personal.

Personal presents: As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position because you and your key managers are close enough to your employees to know what they’d most like to receive. Maybe it’s baseball tickets for a raving fan, a nice bottle of wine for a gourmet or a gift card to a cosmetics store for your makeup-mad assistant.

Personal cash: Like my former employer did, don’t just add a reward onto the paycheck. Make it special by delivering it with an in-person thank-you.

Personal best: One good option that straddles the line between cash and gift? The gift card. It’s a nice way to give a reward a personal touch, while still giving employees the power to buy what they—not you—would like to receive.

Image by Flickr user susansimon (Creative Commons)