Employee turnover is one of the unfortunate aspects of owning a business. No matter what you do, employees will leave. According to, 59% of ex-employees admitted to stealing company data on their way out, with 67% using their former company’s confidential information to leverage a new job. This can be pretty staggering, particularly if you’re an organization suffering high turnover. According to the same survey, e-mail-related information and hardcopy files were the most popular types of documents that employees walked away with. Unfortunately, as an employer it can be difficult to anticipate when an employee will be leaving and keep all of your data safe. In order to avoid your employees deleting files, or stealing additional information on their way out the door, there are a lot of proactive measures you can take with the right technology and policies. Here are just a few employee off-boarding best practices you’ll want to take into account to keep your data safe during employee turnover.

Have a process in place.
If you’re a small business and haven’t dealt with much employee turnover in the past, a employee leaving suddenly can take you by surprise. Rather than allowing your surprise to get the best of you, have a process in place that you can begin implementing immediately. You should have a comprehensive process in place, planned out with the help of your IT partner that can lay out the steps that need to be taken when an employee leaves the company.

Shut down all user accounts.
Workstation user and network access should be disabled, phone system access passwords should be changed, line of business application access should be eliminated in addition to cloud storage access. You’ll want to change passwords or disable accounts until you’re ready to reassign them.

Shut down e-mail – everywhere.
Companies should make it clear that all data on device is the property of the organization. We ran through some of the specifics behind remote wipe features in this blog, but as a refresher here’s more insight: Employees should have signed a policy disclosing that when e-mail is configured on a personal smartphone, tablet or computer, that if they leave without notice and take their devices, that the company will remote-wipe the device. This means that the employee will not only lose the e-mails on that device, but also all of their personal data on that device. You should encourage employees to be forthcoming about leaving your organization to avoid this issue and present personal devices to be wiped by your IT department without losing their personal data. Remote wipe is a service built-in to Office 365 and other exchange servers.

Adjust workflow accordingly.
Depending on the situation, the role the ex-employee vacated will likely be replaced or absorbed by an existing employee. There should be a clear plan in place for where to direct the e-mail for the vacated role. The company or IT partner should also audit licensing for line of business applications, project software and any cloud services to ensure that they are not paying for the additional license if they do not need it.

Regardless of whether your organization experiences high employee turnover or has very little turnover, it’s your responsibility to protect company and client data. Make sure that you have a plan in place when each employee leaves, shut down user accounts and carefully handle e-mail access and future workflow. Having a systemized approach for how you handle this situation will help ensure that you’re continually protecting your organization and clients.