How to Make a Smooth Transition
Rebecca feels stressed. She recently started a new role, and she's having problems. She didn't have a handover with her predecessor, and she wasn't given any help finding out about the tasks and projects she is responsible for.
As a result, she has missed deadlines, and she's not sure who she needs to talk to about key projects. Meanwhile, her colleagues have fallen behind with their own work as they've tried to help her out. This has been frustrating for everyone.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can avoid this kind of situation by organizing an effective handover – for someone on your team, or for your own role.
What Is a Handover?
Every new person in an organization needs clear information on their tasks and responsibilities, and on how to handle them.
The person who previously did the job needs to have contributed to this before he or she leaves, so that the information reflects the role accurately. However, it's your responsibility as a manager to ensure that any information gaps are filled, and that your new team member is fully briefed when she joins.
The most successful handovers share both factual and subjective information – such as who to go to for particular types of help, the strengths of other team members, and the quirks of key clients (and what keeps them happy).
This kind of "inside information" helps a new team member quickly take ownership of her role and her responsibilities.
How to Organize a Handover
Follow the steps below to organize a handover for a new member of your team. You can modify these if you're the person leaving a role.
1. Update Job Descriptions
First, make sure that there's an accurate job description, and check with the previous job-holder – or with others doing the same job – to ensure that this fairly describes the role. It should include the main tasks, key performance indicators, and the purpose of the job.
Next, think about any organization-specific skills that your new team member will need, such as how to use in-house software. Add these to the job description, so that he can take responsibility for his own development, right from the start.
Your new team member will also need up-to-date job descriptions for the people that he will manage. This will help him put his role into context, and it'll also reassure you that key tasks are covered.
2. Prepare Job Information
Make sure that your new hire has detailed information about her role. Where possible, this should be compiled by her predecessor.
It should include:
- A list of essential deadlines that the new person will need to meet.
- Details of daily responsibilities. (You can adapt the DILO (Day in the Life Of) technique to help with this.)
- Information about every current project for which the new hire will be responsible. This should include project goals and expected outcomes, stakeholders, current progress, and anticipated completion dates. Also, provide background on the project, such as why it was commissioned, and what the expected benefits will be. (These may be shown in a project charter.)
- A list of key clients and client contacts, along with their detailed requirements, and their most important reasons for using your product or service.
- Contact details for essential colleagues, and a note of their responsibilities.
- Notes on any problems that are likely to come up, and how the current job-holder has solved them in the past.
- Details of deals, discounts, or contracts with suppliers, along with any special terms or understandings that your organization has with them.
- Additional information about people that the new hire will manage, such personal development plans, and strengths and weaknesses.
- A note of any specific processes, files, and logons that the new colleague will need.
You should also ensure that important documentation, such as contracts and correspondence, is correctly filed before the new hire starts. That way, she will be able to find background information quickly.
3. Plan His First Week Carefully
Make sure that your new hire has a proper induction. This will help him put his role into context in your organization. It also introduces him to basic information, such as company history, administration systems, and safety procedures.
Compile a pack of useful documents, such as the company handbook, his job description, and a list of colleagues' roles and contact details – all of this provides context for information supplied in the induction.
Finally, note down the topics that you want to review with your new team member, and set aside time to cover them all. Bear in mind that too much information can be overwhelming, so you may want to "drip feed" this information over several days.
Tell team members, customers, and stakeholders about the new hire in advance, and, where appropriate, set up opportunities for them to meet one another.
It's particularly important for new hires to get to know their colleagues, so organize a lunch or other informal get-together to give the opportunity for this. If you have team members who work remotely, schedule an online chat or IM session to introduce them.
4. Offer Shadowing
If possible, make time for your new hire to shadow her predecessor for several days. Encourage her to take on some tasks rather than just watch; this will help her put the new skills into context, which, in turn, will help her retain them.
Of course, there's not always the chance for a new recruit to shadow – for example, if she needs to serve out notice, or if her predecessor has already left the organization.
In this situation, you'll need to observe your new hire closely to ensure that she is succeeding in her role. Set aside regular times in your schedule for her to ask questions, and use the Ladder of Competence to think about what gaps she may have in her knowledge.
In the long term, it's sensible to ensure that your people are cross-trained, so that they can pick up additional roles and responsibilities if there's a sudden absence.
Cross-training creates a more flexible workforce, and helps people build new skills and more self-confidence.
5. Share Team Information
Your team members will have developed in-depth knowledge about their work, their clients, and their industry. Your new hire will need to access this information, so do what you can to help him learn it.
If there are gaps, aim to fill them before your new team member starts. Encourage existing team members to log "inside knowledge" in ways that are suitable for your organization, such as on wikis and team intranet pages, or in shared files.
As your new hire progresses, encourage him to contribute his own information, and find ways to ensure that it's shared and regularly updated.
A handover happens when a manager or a previous role-holder passes on detailed information about a role to a new employee. You'll need to organize an effective handover if someone in your team goes on long-term leave, or steps down from their role.
Ensure that you provide your new hire with basic organizational information and a detailed report on the role, including why it exists, what she will need to achieve, and how.
Advance preparation is essential. Work closely with the new hire's predecessor, and, in particular, make sure that the handover includes "inside information," such as details of important contacts and helpful suppliers, that the existing team member has built up.
This will give your new hire every chance of success in her new role.