The best way to handle ex-employees email accounts
For most employees emails are the main form of communication outside and inside your business. Each employees email account is a valuable store of information, contacts and relationships, so when employees leave your business it’s crucially important to manage their email accounts.
When an employee leaves your business they no longer need, or should have access to the sensitive commercial information contained in their email account. Whether the ex-employee left abruptly or worked out their notice, changing the access rights to their email account should happen the day they leave your company.
Treat controlling email access as importantly as you would in getting employees to hand back company phones, laptops and security passes.
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Decide whether you want to keep or discard the email address
As most email accounts are associated with, and named after the individual employee, it can seem weird to keep using, or re-use the email account. However you may want to consider it if the email account was associated with a more general role or team – for example: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, If you do decide to do this, it’s wise to make sure to other employees, and where relevant external contacts that a new person is now running this account to avoid confusion.
Equally if you decide to discard the email address, make sure that you can access the historic messages associated with this account, and that external contacts know who to get in touch with now your colleague has left. This is particularly important if your ex-colleague worked in a role such as sales, where personal relationships and communication with clients were especially important.
To bounce or not to bounce
When someone sends an email to your ex-colleague, what message do they get in response?
Make sure that emails are not being sent to a defunct address with the sender expecting them to be read and actioned upon (and then getting annoyed when they are not). Having a clear message that responds to senders informing them that the employee has left and who to contact in their place will avoid this happening.
Automated replies should have a time limit – otherwise after time your company could end up inadvertently looking like a ghost town full of ex-employees. After a month or so stop the messages and just have a simple ‘bounce-back’ saying the email address does not exist.
Careful handover management should ensure that genuine contacts, especially external ones understand that your employee has left or is leaving.
One thing to be aware of is automated replies can be used by potential fraudsters to harvest email addresses – as the reply will often give another genuine email address to contact in place of the former employee. As always, be careful around ‘spear phishing’ type emails targeting your company.
Email accounts are at the heart of many employee’s work life and should be managed with care. When an employee leaves your business it’s important to manage this handover as efficiently as possible, ensuring there is no disruption to working relationships.