Put A Lid On It

Protect It

But relying on your employees' common sense is risky business. According to experts, to protect your company's private information, you should create a written policy that outlines what you're protecting and describes what you expect from employees when it comes to communication. Here are some other tips:

Educate and communicate. It all comes down to employee training. Explain to employees the boundaries on conversations in public spaces. If they use laptops, let them know what types of documents shouldn't be accessed outside the office. Communicate regularly with employees about the importance of protecting company information, and, more important, let them know what exactly needs to be kept confidential. Make it a part of day-to-day business. If you're in a sensitive meeting, let the people in the room know that the information shouldn't leave the room.

Do some role-playing. Pair employees up and present them with various situations, such as sitting in an airplane or a restaurant, and ask them to have a work-related conversation about a project, meeting or client while you listen in. This will give you an idea of what they're saying out in the field and will help clue them in to how easy it is to leak information.

Know how to direct callers. Employees should know how to handle callers requesting any type of proprietary information. Develop a strategy. Teaching an employee to say something as simple as "I'll have to have him get back to you about that" might just save your company from a devastating loss.

www.fuld.com: From Cambridge, Massachusetts-based competitive intelligence firm Fuld & Co. Inc., this site offers strategies and tools for protecting data, links to other competitive intelligence Web sites, a "Rate Your Own Security" test and more.

www.scip.org: The Web site of The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization dedicated to corporate competitive intelligence, offers articles, security tips, conferences, and a database of experts and local chapters.

Contact Sources

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the December 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Put A Lid On It.

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