A recent survey from Manpower releases a startling statistic: 84 percent of employees plan to look for a new job in 2011.

Now, I'm as skeptical of statistics (especially from a job placement firm) as anyone, but either way, this is a stark contrast to the rate of 60 percent given by the same source for 2010. And sure, looking isn't the same as leaving, but it is a wake up call for today's corporate environment and the discontentment of staff.

However, the focus of this article is not to advise managers how to better reward, respect, and retain said employees. Such resources are numerous on business and HR-related sites. No, my question is of a greater IT concern: Are you prepared for employee turnover in general, or does your current plan (if one exists) need a revamp? Here are a few things (both technical and not) to think about.

Dealing with Dead Email Accounts

When jbrown@bigcorporate takes his leave, that account never makes another appearance unless his twin sister comes in to fill his shoes. Meaning, you have a few options of what to do with that account:

  1. First, you need to determine which email account will receive all future emails sent to jbrown@bigcorporate.
  2. Next, you can either leave that account in Exchange, or retire that account and force staff to go through IT to recover an old email. Also, there are a number of different archiving tools you can use to make it easier to look through the data. (See this Exchange Archiving Buyer's Guide for a few examples.)

I've also just heard about Oasys' Mail Manager, a product that works a little differently. Basically, Mail Manager lets you categorize and file your emails into a file management system that carries as much (and more, really) search capability as Outlook. The emails in the system are also accessible to anyone, which is a great help for employees that want quick access to past emails but don't want to wait on IT. (And I'm sure IT wouldn't mind the break, either.) 

Realistically, a solution such as Mail Manager probably makes the most sense for organizations that deal with litigation, heavy eDiscovery rules (medical, financial, construction, legal), or similar concerns on a fairly regular basis. For your typical office, it might not be worth getting a third-party solution involved.

One last point on the email side: make sure that if you're keeping the email accounts of ex-employees live (which causes strain on your email server), that you at least change the password so they can't get on the account via web access.

Resetting Passwords

If an employee has been with your company for any period of time, they have acquired a massive bank of passwords. Perhaps it's not realistic to go changing passwords anytime there is a staff change, but think about this: Is it worth the convenience of not worrying about changing passwords to offer ex-employees free reign on any company websites that don't require network access? For example, at our company we have many content sites, web analytics sites, etc. These sites often use general passwords that everyone has access to, including ex-employees. We've never had any problems, but this might be something to pay special attention to after firings or layoffs that could leave some upset individuals. (Note that I don't think our IT team even knows about many of these sites/passwords, so it might be something where it's worth talking to your company's managers to determine what all access current staff have and what you should have a plan around.)

When it comes to IT specifically, administrator passwords are not something to mess around with. Unwelcome access to a site or two could be harmful, but one rogue ex-employee on the IT side could do untold damage, and there are horror stories to prove it. (Read Capitals, Symbols, Numerals, and Whimsy for more on the importance of taking passwords seriously.)

Other Thoughts/Concerns

There are a few assorted other tips/ideas that can be said about the whole turnover process:

Have a plan for the employee's equipment. Every employee acquires a small hoard of equipment items that are owned by the company, including computers; accessories (computer stands, docking stations, computer bag, mouse, keyboard, etc.); potentially a company-sponsored cell phone; and so on. I'm not sure how many IT departments do this well, but I would recommend keeping both an inventory list and a wish list — invite employees to request various accessories (such as an ergonomic keyboard, a company laptop, or a nice stand for the computer monitor), so that when an employee leaves his/her "goodies" can go to the faithful and patient employees. They will remember that you remembered.

Meet the new staff. Take the time to meet the new employees if you will be working with them in any capacity, even if you only see them face to face once a year. At that point you can set expectations in terms of your availability, best way to get a hold of you, etc., and you will establish far more contacts who can praise your performance or join your LinkedIn connections or whatever else. It's worth the time, assuming it's realistic in your company.

There's more that could be said, but the point is to be aware that staff changes will probably be a concern in 2011, and it's good to be prepared as they roll in.

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