From the February 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Spy Games

Investigating employees just got easier: An amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that took effect last spring lets employers conduct third-party investigations of employees without having to inform them or get their written consent. Business groups believe the changes will make life easier for employers facing workplace misconduct allegations. "The threat of liability is the driving force," says Gregory Davis, a Chicago attorney with Seyfarth Shaw who co-chairs the firm's task force on the FCRA. He also worked with the Society for Human Resource Management to amend the FCRA's rules on employee investigations.But employees still have privacy rights, and companies must handle investigatory information on a "need to know" basis. Also, if an investigation persuades the employer to discipline or terminate an employee, the employee is entitled to an "adverse action" summary that discloses the nature of the complaint.Interview investigators to make sure they know the rules before hiring them, suggests Tom Shumaker, a senior associate with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellot in Pittsburgh. It would be wise to consult a labor and employment attorney before making any moves, too.

Going, Going, Gone!

For decades, entrepreneurs have used relatively unchanging methods of finding employees: word-of-mouth, family connections and, more recently, online job boards. But now, entrepreneurs can find employees the same way they would find an old Sinatra record on eBay: by auction.

Over the past two years, talented employees with specialized skills have started auctioning their services online. Websites like www.elanceonline.com have sprung up to sponsor online talent auctions. In these auctions, different employers bid for employees' services; alternatively, employers put projects online and take the lowest bids from contractors all over the globe.

At first, the auctions were largely restricted to the IT field. But now, the practice is moving outside IT. In New York, for example, nurses have started auctioning their services online to hospitals. And Elance Online founder and vice president of marketing Beerud Sheth says not only technology workers, but also graphic designers and copywriters are increasingly using his site to peddle their services. He says, "We've seen huge growth in these areas; especially in people doing writing and publishing for entrepreneurs."

77%
of employees consider performance reviews valuable.
Statistic Source: OfficeTeam

70%
of American workers believe their co-workers are more stressed today than a year ago.
Statistic Source: "2004 Attitudes in the American Workplace," Harris Interactive