The Alcott Group   Good for Your Business ~ Good for Your People
    •  Becoming an Employer of Choice
    •  What's New at Alcott?
    •  Did You Know?
    •  Alcott in the News
    •  On the Regulatory Front
    •  Subscribe

Welcome to the Fall 2008 edition of the Alcott Advisor. Do you know what the term "Employer of Choice" means? What would it mean to you if you could have your pick of the very best employees and not have to worry as much about employee turnover? Our feature article will help you understand more about what it takes to become an Employer of Choice and what you will gain for your efforts.

If you would like to author an article for The Alcott Advisor or you have a subject you would like us to research and write about in a future issue, please contact me at 631-420-0100 extension 313 or via e-mail at

All the best,  Al Anastasi

Becoming an Employer of Choice

  You probably have heard or read the expression "Employer of Choice" somewhere recently. It has become the mantra for businesses across diverse industries and sizes.

As the words suggest, businesses striving to become employers of choice develop various initiatives which foster a more employee-centered culture. They are intended to increase worker loyalty, production, and retention, while boosting recruitment efforts and an organization’s overall brand and corporate image. What is required is a significant commitment on the part of management across various areas, including: career advancement opportunities, education and training programs, compensation and benefits, work-life-family balance, working environment and well-being. For an Employer of Choice program to be effective, there must be sincere buy-in at the highest level of the company along with a strong, motivated team to continually drive its various components. The first step toward becoming an Employer of Choice is to perform a thorough self-examination.

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Did You Know?

Small Business Confidence in the Economy is Down
The confidence of small businesses (those identified as having five or fewer employees) in the U.S. economy has hit an all time low. According to the SmallBizResource Blog, the monthly publication, Discover Small Business Watch has been tracking the attitudes of 1,000 small businesses for the past two years. Its finding is that this sector is really down on the U.S. economy.

The survey found that:
  • 79% think the economy is worsening
  • 53% say economic conditions for their own business are also getting worse
  • 45% say they will spend less on business development activities such as advertising, inventories and capital expenditures over the next six month (30% say their spending will remain the same)
  • 42% say they have experienced cash flow issues from May-July 2008
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Federal Government Awarded $10 Million for Energy-
Related Job Training
The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, announced that the U.S. government will be providing $10 million in grants to train workers for 11 designated energy-related projects.The funding came under the “President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative.”

The energy industry currently generates 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product and employs over one million workers nationwide. The spotlight on the energy industry and the growing pressure to develop alternative energy sources and energy-efficient technologies has also uncovered a serious shortage in skilled workers. In particular, there is a need for trade and construction workers who can build new infrastructures, install and repair equipment, and operate and maintain facilities. Over 171 energy projects from across the country applied for the grants. Ultimately, the monies were awarded to projects in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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On the Regulatory Front

Second Installment in Minimum Wage Increase Now in Effect
Effective July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour. Employees covered under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must now be paid a wage of at least $6.55 per hour. This latest increase is one of the three called for under the “Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.” On July 24, 2007, the first increase to $5.85 per hour was enacted. On July 24, 2009, the third increase to a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour will become law.

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DOL and SEC Team Up To Help Protect Retirement Assets
The U.S. Department of Labor is teaming up with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in an initiative to help protect the retirement assets and investments of American workers, retirees and their families. They’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will formalize and strengthen their cooperation in sharing information relating to these monies, as well as to provide investors, benefit plan participants and administrators with better access to more easily understood information to guide their more informed investment decisions.

According to a statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, “this further boosts the Department’s record-setting enforcement program that has won $11 billion in monetary results and more than 800 criminal indictments since 2001 on behalf of protecting workers’ retirement savings.” The official release also noted that 117 million Americans depend on their private sector retirement plans.

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Two New Programs Help Veterans and Disabled Gain Employment
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced two new programs designed to help promote the hiring of veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Coming under the heading of the “Good Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment (G-FIVE)" and developed by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the initiative is designed to help veterans gain employment. It recognizes federal contractors who employ returning veterans. It is also regarded as a tool to ensure compliance with the “Vietnam Era Readjustment Assistance Act” and provide an incentive for federal contractors to hire veterans.

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What's New at Alcott?

Alcott Announces Promotions and New Professional Designations
Several of Alcott's key associates were recognized with promotions for their strong contributions to the company's consistent delivery of high quality Human Resources services. They are: Jeanne Anderson, promoted from Senior Human Resources Representative to Operations Manager; Cara Calvin, promoted from Benefits Administrator to Benefits Supervisor; and Holly Nowak, promoted from Human Resources Specialist Team Leader to Human Resources Manager, Western New York Division.

Alcott in the News

  • Newsday tapped the expertise of Alcott's Director of Employee Relations and Internal Counsel Dawn Davidson Drantch for an article on lawful hiring practices. The article, "Avoid questionable interview questions," quoted Ms. Drantch as saying, "There are ways of getting to the point you want to get to most of the time, but you have to do it the right way." Among the advice she gave was how "you can't ask applicants whether they are U.S. Citizens, but you can ask whether they are legally eligible to work in the United States," and how you "also can't ask whether they have any disabilities, but you can describe the essential job functions and then ask applicants whether they can perform those job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation."

  • An article titled "Pain At The Pump Gets More Acute" in a recent issue of the national publication Employee Benefit News highlighted how Alcott was helping its employees cope with rising gasoline prices. In the article, Alcott President Louis Basso noted he regretted he can't take away "the whole pain" of rising prices for his employees, but he's trying to do all he can. The article reported on how Alcott responded when gas prices hit $3 a gallon in the second half of 2006. The company gave each employee $100.

  • Alcott's Operations Manager Jeanne Anderson shared her expertise on 40l(K)s in a recent article titled, "Interest grows in retirement savings," published by the Long Island Business News. Ms. Anderson was quoted on the benefits of automatic enrollment saying, "Automatic enrollment is a great help to those people who want to participate but don't get around to it." She also conveyed how Alcott promotes participation by offering more options. "We now offer a self-directed brokerage account option for the savvy investor." This is "in addition to the five to 20 standard investment options that the plan offers . . . "


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