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Employee HandbookAs 2014 winds down, it’s time to start thinking about updating your employee handbook for next year. Employee handbooks are not meant to be static documents. Changes in your company structure, the laws governing employment (both on federal and state levels), and growing trends in the workplace all contribute to the need for your employee handbook or policy manual to be a living document that’s updated on a regular basis.

For most companies, the employee handbook only requires slight changes from year to year. However, there are a few major trends taking hold, and as you look at what needs to be updated for 2015, keep these points in mind.

You Need a Social Media Policy

One of the biggest trends across all industries is the need for a comprehensive social media policy. Not only should such a policy govern the use of social media during working hours and/or on company devices, it should also outline acceptable use. The National Labor Relations Board has issued strict guidance for employers regarding social media policies, given that overly restrictive policies can be construed as a violation of freedom of speech, so evaluate your policy in terms of the law, and make any necessary adjustments.

If you do not yet have a social media policy already in place, it’s important to develop one, and include it in the employee handbook.

Outline BYOD Policies

Bring your own device, or BYOD, is one of the fastest growing trends in business today, with more than three quarters of all companies allowing employees to use their own mobile devices for work purposes. While BYOD undoubtedly helps improve productivity and employee satisfaction, it also creates potential security issues, which should be addressed by a comprehensive policy outlined in the employee handbook.

Employees do not always take the same precautions with their personal devices as they do with company-issued phones, computers, and tablets; for example, few people actually properly lock and secure their devices when not in use. Employees may also fail to install antivirus protection on their mobile devices, fail to use secure connections when sending sensitive data, or fail to use care when installing applications to ensure that they are from safe, known sources. For this reason, if your company is a BYOD environment, it’s important to have a clear and comprehensive policy that governs which devices may be used, security rules, and acceptable use. This policy must be included in the employee handbook, and updated as needed.

Address Workplace Bullying and Violence

In the wake of several high profile cases of workplace violence, companies can no longer afford to ignore the potential for such episodes. While statistically speaking, the likelihood of a deadly incident is slim, HR still needs to implement training, policies, and procedures for identifying and containing potentially violent employees.

Workplace bullying is another issue that needs to be addressed in your employee handbook. Given that nearly 96 percent of workers have experienced workplace bullying in some form, as either a victim or a witness, your staff needs to be educated on what constitutes workplace bullying, how to address the issue, procedures for mitigating bullying, and the consequences for violating company policy related to treatment of co-workers. If your handbook does not cover bullying and violence, it needs to be updated.

In fact, some states, including California, have enacted anti-workplace bullying laws that require additional training for managers and employees; be sure that your employee handbook reflects the most up-to-date regulations.

Changing the Employee HandbookUse Your Handbook as a Recruiting Tool

How does your employee handbook read? Is it an endless list of rules and regulations, or page after page of “policy speak” that few people even read, never mind completely understand? Or does it accurately reflect your corporate culture, showing employees and prospective employees what it’s really like to work at your company? There’s a growing trend toward making the employee handbook more of a recruitment tool and “company story,” and less of a didactic, legalistic document.

For example, personal finance website Motley Fool has created an interactive employee handbook that includes video as well as text to give employees, and prospective employees, a glimpse at the company culture. Have you thought about what your employee handbook says about your company? It might be time to revise it, and have it more accurately reflect who you are and what you stand for.

Take It Online

Printed employee handbooks appear to be going the way of the dinosaur. Many companies, cognizant of the costs of printing such huge documents every year, are taking their handbooks online instead. An electronic document, stored on the company intranet or dedicated site, is easier to update regularly, can be accessed on demand, and saves valuable resources. In addition, online handbooks allow for easier training and record keeping; employees can conduct required training as they review the handbook, and digitally acknowledge that they have completed the requirements.

Employee handbooks are an important part of managing policies, procedures, and setting expectations for performance and behavior. Make sure that yours isn’t out-of-date or incomplete, and make the necessary changes to stay in step with current trends.

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