Centerpiece

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Summer is still a long way off, but you can be certain employees are already eyeing the July calendar in hopes of grabbing the prime weeks to block off for their summer vacations. You’ll probably be stuck refereeing who gets which days. Here’s some help from HR pros:

Do not take employee discretion for granted. Since trade secrets and other proprietary information can make or break the success of your company, you shouldn’t leave their protection to chance. Instead, establish clear policies on confidentiality, nondisclosure and noncompetitive use.
The EEOC received a record 99,947 charges in 2011. Given this sharp increase in charge activity, now's a good time to review your personnel policies. Consider two EEOC enforcement trends: scrutiny of background checks and inflexible leave policies.
When productivity dips, it seems logical to blame employees for not engaging in the job. But that might not be what’s going on. The problem: Identifying what that “something” is that’s sapping productivity—and getting rid of it. Six factors to examine:

Many leaders today are fearful and anxious, says Meg Wheatley, an expert on innovative leadership. Their fear and uncertainty deprives them of the energy and enthusiasm they need to keep going. Yet perseverance is precisely what they need. That, and wilderness survival skills.

You’re on your way to a meeting or you’re in the middle of a project that requires your focus, when someone tells you something im­­portant. “Got it!” you say. Later, though, you realize you weren’t fully tuned in. Consider what sort of listener you are, and then heed these tips:

Employees can be reimbursed for their travel and entertainment expenses (T&E) on a tax-free basis. However, if a T&E policy does not meet the IRS standards, or employees do not adequately substantiate their business expenses, their reimbursements are fully taxable.
A quick scan of the world’s 156 million blogs reveals plenty of employees discussing their work. Sometimes that spells legal trouble for employers. By implementing an effective company blogging policy, you may avoid many of the pitfalls.

If you generate specialty items using Microsoft Word, familiarize yourself with two of the tool groups: Page Backgrounds and Quick Parts. From certificates and diplomas to announcements and posters, it’s easy to give your documents a creative and polished look.

Allowing wage-and-hour problems to fester can land you in hot water, which puts a premium on performing a self-audit of your company’s pay policies. But be aware that you may have to provide this so-called self-critical analysis to employees’ attorneys, should they sue you. Take these steps to minimize this possibility:

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