Gone are the days when departing employees would have to steal mountains of files in order to also steal their former employer’s clients. There’s no need for hard-copy lists of names and addresses thanks to LinkedIn, cloud-based email, and USB sticks crammed full of sensitive data such as client contact details, order histories, subscription renewal information, and much, much more.
So it’s hardly surprising then that the Workforce Guardian team regularly hears from frustrated employers – particularly accountants and business advisors – who have discovered a recently departed employee is now busy contacting their clients and trying to steal their business.
So just what can you do to stop – or at the very least reduce the chances of – this happening to you?
First and foremost, it’s important to ensure each of your employees has been issued with a contract which expressly prohibits them from contacting your clients once they leave your business. At the very least, this places them on notice that such behaviour will be taken seriously and won’t be tolerated. You can even include terms outlining the ‘compensation’ payable to the firm if business is lost as a result of the ex-employee’s approaches, though these terms are often notoriously difficult to enforce.
Next, you can also update contracts and workplace policies to ensure that client lists and other sensitive data is expressly included within the definition of ‘confidential information’ that must not be removed from the business or improperly stored by an employee at any time. This will certainly make it easier to take disciplinary action against a current employee if you find they are secretly hoarding confidential data for their own future, personal benefit.
It’s also worthwhile imposing post-employment obligations upon your workers. For example, your contracts could expressly advise employees that they must not directly compete with your business for a set period of time within a set geographical area following the conclusion of their employment. Remember though that these ‘restraint’-type clauses must be carefully drafted and will only be enforceable if they are deemed reasonable.
Lastly, ensure you take prompt action if you do become aware of an ex-employee behaving badly. Not only is time of the essence in these cases, swift action also reminds your current employees that you won’t walk away from a fight. After all, you’ve worked hard to build up a loyal client base and you have every right to protect your firm’s long-term viability.
Written by David Bates, Managing Director – Workforce Guardian www.workforceguardian.com.au
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