How to help leavers handle the handover process
There’s an exciting opportunity ahead of one of your employees, and they have decided to give it a go. Whether it’s a new job, going back to education or a well-deserved career break, they have told you they are leaving.
Decide whether you are going to let them go or make an offer to entice them to stay. Weigh in the pros and cons of both, such as costs of recruitment and training, possible stagnation and the impact it would have on your current team members.
They are definitely going? That’s not always a bad thing – fresh talent in your business will give it the chance to grow.
Before you get to the goodbyes though, you have to lead them to muster the drive to finish one final task – the handover process.
Does every employee need to prepare for a handover?
Whether or not handing over the knowledge and contacts for the role is critical to the business depends entirely on the role.
If the leaver holds the post of an administration assistant, for example, which only requires an hour of induction for any new starter, then you can let them go confidently after asking them to note down anything they feel they would have wanted to know in the beginning.
If the leaver deals with one or more key processes and stakeholders, then it is essential to take the time and go through the whole handover process.
As a manager it is your responsibility to ensure the fluid change between personnel and as you have to do it anyway, make sure you do it right.
Get feedback – it helps you improve retention
We’ve said this before – one of the best ways to improve retention is to find out why your people are leaving. To do this, make sure you hold an exit interview.
Exit interviews are designed to gather feedback from leavers, with a view to providing insight that can be used to make future employees less likely to leave the company.
Although you are potentially facing a difficult (but productive) conversation, learning what can be improved is valuable.
Update the job description
It is likely that the job description requires editing, especially if there have been changes in the sector or within the company.
Make note of the feedback from the exit interview and re-evaluate current business needs. Address any comments from the leaver by creating a more balanced job.
Pay particular attention to the peaks and troughs in your industry and how the former employee was coping with those to maximise future staff output and limit work-related stress.
Start the handover process early
You have fleshed out the job role and are ready to start looking for new talent. And this will be the next step, but make sure you are utilising the time you have left with your leaving employee first.
Notice periods vary from a couple of weeks to a few months and in an ideal scenario your leaver will meet their replacement and handover the job themselves effortlessly. Yet the recruitment process can, and often will, take longer than that so the whole transition might not be as smooth as you wish.
Allow as much time as possible for the outgoing employee to create the content of the handover. This should be in written form with notes setting out key day-to-day activities and current issues.
What good handover content looks like
An outline of the key points, such as expectations of the role, are a good place to start. By clearly defining the tasks, the new person will be able to absorb the details of the role quickly and correctly.
It can be helpful to include other staff in the process as they might be able to contribute ideas.
The handover information should contain any unique knowledge or best practice information, deadlines, important contacts and any ongoing issues.
Log-in details or where keys are kept should also be covered. A situation where the leaver is the only person who knows the password for one of your systems is bad but fully avoidable.
Other things you can suggest the employee to include are:
- a guide and timetable of day-to-day actions
- a report of ongoing issues to be addressed
- a calendar of events and deadlines
- a list of key contacts
If the leaving employee was undertaking a key high-responsibility job within the company, make sure they prepare formal reports and contact lists for each strand of their duties.
Recruit new talent and oversee the handover process
Advertise the job in an attractive way and select the new postholder fairly, making sure the candidate’s skills and career aspirations address any issues arising from the exit interview.
Try to give as much time as possible for the leaver to communicate all information from the handover documents to the new job holder. The more time they have together to talk about the current workload, the better.
If a meeting between the two is not possible, make sure you go over all prepared documents with the leaver, assessing the quality of the instructions and whether any important information has been left out.
Ideally, the leaving employee should share the relevant documentation and files with the new postholder at least a week or more before leaving. This allows the person taking over to read and understand the information and follow up with any questions.
A potentially beneficial experience for the new hire might be shadowing how your leaving employee undertakes the duties connected to the role which would allow insight into the particulars of the job and an opportunity to ask questions.
If it’s appropriate, ask the outgoing staff if they are willing to stay in contact for a period of time after they have left the role to provide information.
Step in if necessary
Sometimes it’s not possible for the leaver and the newcomer to meet.
This is your cue to step in as a manager and complete the handover process in the stead of the outgoing employee.
After you’ve made sure the documents are in order and you understand the role and all it entails, you should wish your staff member all the best and let them go.
This is one time when it is vitally important to insist of them to be available to contact in case any issues arise as the new member of staff wouldn’t have had an opportunity to ask questions.
Explain that you will do your best not to bother them after their time with you is over, but emphasize on the fact that the better their handover notes, the less questions there are likely to be.
When the new person arrives, meet with them and go through all of the documentation as part of their induction to the company. Make them feel welcome and answer any questions they have to the best of your ability.
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