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How to Protect Company Info When An Employee Leaves

Worker leaving the company

The unfortunate reality for any company is employees will leave. Employee turnover is costly both to the bottom line and your staff’s time. Not only that, goodbyes can be awkward, so many employers neglect to cover all their bases for employees that have been fired or are resigning.

Maybe the biggest overlooked problem when it comes to soon-to-be ex-employees is protecting sensitive company information. According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, nearly 60 percent of employees steal company info when they leave their employer. Even worse, only 15 percent of respondents said their employers performed any review of what information they had upon their exit. To help your company keep your most important info in-house, here are key steps to can take before your next exit interview.

1.Have an amicable breakup.

The same study found that 61 percent of respondents who felt negatively about their former employer stole company data, while only 26 percent of those who felt favorably about their employer stole.

This is why it’s essential your staff act as friendly and professionally as possible during the exit process. Keep interactions between the employee and their direct supervisor to a minimum in the case of a firing. To prevent hard feelings, be as supportive as possible with severance and recommendations for future employment opportunities.

2. Immediately remove access to company information.

The downside of living in the age of information is it’s hard to keep proprietary information under wraps. Too often former employees still have access to company software months after they’ve left because their access was simply never terminated.

Whether you choose to delete their accounts or change their passwords, you must cut off all access to your company info upon an employee’s exit. If they have company issued devices, be sure to retrieve them. If your company has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, terminate any accounts they have on your company’s software. You can also go the extra step of requiring your employees to give you their device so you can wipe any sensitive company info from it before returning it.

3. Reiterate confidentiality policies and obligations.

Before the exit interview, go over any non-disclosure agreements with the employee. Make sure they understand their confidentiality obligations with sensitive company information.

On the front end, when considering your non-disclosure policies, ask yourself: “What is the most valuable information in our organization?” This will guide you in developing a confidentiality policy that reduces the risk of sensitive information being stolen, while still allowing for open, transparent internal communication.

Interactions with departing employees can be fraught with tension and awkward at times. But a few difficult conversations is nothing compared to the nightmare scenario of a disgruntled employee taking your proprietary information to a competitor. By creating ironclad confidentiality agreements and terminating employee access to your digital information upon exit, you can dramatically reduce your risk of a breach. Proactively taking these steps not only helps keep your information safe but also reduces the chances of dramatic employee exits from your company.

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