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Human resources, that much maligned department at most companies, is one of many fields that has been profoundly affected by the World Wide Web. "The Web has created the ability for instant information, instant recruiting and instant networking," said Mike Frost, director of online services for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. "It has changed the way in which human resources executives interact with each other as well as with employees."
Unfortunately, if you type in "human resources" on an Internet search engine you could be deluged with hundreds of irrelevant links. Many of the sites are just online brochures for small consultants or software companies with products for the human resources market.
But there is useful information to be had. A good place to begin is the Society for Human Resource Management's site, SHRM Online. It offers excellent information for the human resource professional as well as for employees. It features updates of human resources news and a comprehensive links section.
Workforce Online has advice for executives culled from Workforce magazine and a section called "winning ideas." Another thorough site is Infoseek's human resources.
The Labor Department site offers abundant information on government workplace regulations, dealing with topics from the minimum wage to the Family and Medical Leave Act. The pension search feature is a valuable tool for those who believe they are owed a pension by a former employer.
A site available off the Labor Department's Web page is that of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It has the latest changes in the law, links to safety and health sites, and an interactive "asbestos adviser."
For a more academic approach, visit the site of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, which offers studies, journals and data resources.
As with most professions, human resource executives have plenty of associations that they use for networking and exchanging ideas. An alphabet soup of these groups can be found at the site of the Associations for Human Resource Management.
The Dallas-based law firm of Collier & Associates offers free information on its site about such topics as "Firing without Fear" and "Raiding the Competition (Without Getting Sued)." Another smaller player, Winning Associates, an employee relations consulting firm in Walnut Creek, Calif., has a site that includes such articles as "The Trouble with Salary Surveys" and "Legal and Illegal Questions in Interviewing."
With ever-more-complicated health care benefits options available, the Web offers a number of approaches to clear up some of the confusion. The MedAccess Corp.'s Health Fair On-Line is an interactive service that lets employees in enrolled companies evaluate and select options online.
And the Web offers valuable information on sexual harassment. The Altos Education Network has a primer on the topic, with an interactive quiz.
The human resources department of Arthur D. Little, the management consulting firm, uses the Web in the hiring process for its technology and product development group. Along with job listings, its site has an interactive online job application.
Retirement planning can be a complicated and murky field for most employees as well as human resources departments. Fidelity Investments has a site that provides plenty of information, with online work sheets and investment primers.
The Positive Employee Relations Council has a site that includes a number of unusual items. Among them: "Leadership Challenge Simulation," an interactive game to test management skills, a workaholics test and even a serialized Web novel entitled "Goldstreet" (a mystery involving a human resources manager caught up in "murder, drugs, extortion and mayhem.")
Despite its sober reputation, the subject has a lighter side. Hardwork examines the perils and pains of the modern workplace. So does the Dilbert Zone, which is inhabited by idiotic bosses and an evil human resources director named Catbert.
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Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company