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Explain program cuts to workers

November 17, 2008|Karen E. Klein

Dear Karen: I'm cutting costs and wondering whether cutting employee programs will cause resentment.

Answer: Employees today are concerned about keeping jobs, so if you explain that you're reducing expenses to avoid layoffs, they'll be understanding, said Adam Kling, a management consultant in RHR International's Los Angeles office.

You might be forgiven for scaling back on your annual off-site retreat this year, for instance.

"Most goals set at [annual] events are not strategic and rarely get met," Kling said. And if you cancel your expensive holiday party, "you may find that your employees care more about keeping the company strong than enjoying a few drinks in an awkward social environment."

Replace the evening party with a catered lunch at the office or consider opening your home for a holiday potluck. Rather than hosting one weekend retreat, schedule several local meetings.

"The key is to strike a balance between alienating your employees and losing money," Kling said.

Tailor benefits to fit employees

Dear Karen: Our small business offers standard benefits to 35 employees, but we don't have a human resources department. How can my office manager and I make good decisions on insurance enrollment this year?

Answer: Congratulations for continuing your benefits when the number of small companies offering benefits has dropped significantly. They will improve your retention rates and attract good employees.

You should tailor your benefits, said Ronald Leopold, national medical director and vice president of MetLife Inc. If most of your employees are older, you may forgo top-of-the-line maternity coverage in favor of long-term care insurance, for instance. If you can, join an industry association that enables you to obtain coverage more reasonably.

There are good resources online that you can link to your company website to help employees calculate their retirement needs and Social Security benefits.

"Making the whole benefits experience as easy, useful, friendly and enjoyable as possible can go a long way," Leopold said.

License may be needed for song

Dear Karen: I'm setting up a website for my consulting business and I'd like to use a photo from the early 1900s. I would also like to reprint some lines from a song and have that song playing in the background. Can I use this material without infringing on copyright laws?

Answer: Anything published in the United States before 1923 is in the public domain, said Mitchell Zimmerman, chairman of the copyright group at Fenwick & West in Mountain View, Calif. "If you've seen this photo and there's some indicator that it's from the early 20th century, that's all you'd need," he said.

If the song is contemporary, it is probably still under copyright and you'd need to license its use from the copyright holders. Talk to an intellectual-property attorney to make sure that your use of this material needs to be licensed.

You can search for copyright owners at the website of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, www.ascap.com.

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Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to ke.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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