It is common knowledge that the efficacy with which a hand-over process is undertaken, when an employee leaves an organisation, or takes a temporary leave, determines the ease of transition of the new recruit into the job. But as any managers will attest to, the knowledge, experience and tools to execute this seemingly simple process are scanty. What is it about the handing-over process that makes it such a tough nut to crack? Why does hand-over often end in an underwhelming experience for the people involved? To sum up in a single word: Priorities.
The employee, who is exiting, on good or bad terms, is almost always in a frenzy to join their new job, and makes the colossal mistake of considering the duration of the notice period a mere formality. Sure, they make it to office physically, for the mandatory 4 or 6 weeks, but they have already dissociated with the organisation mentally, and this disconnect comes in the way of them discharging the last, and arguably, one of their most important responsibilities. Additionally, even if the person exiting is willing to transfer the knowledge and resources to the person stepping in their shoes, a streamlined approach, which holistically covers every aspect of the hand-over, is usually absent. This situation may arise because the system in place doesn’t take into account the several roles a person might have undertaken, above and beyond the job description mentioned at the time of joining, and the age-old checklist might not fully accommodate these different roles. Alternatively, since the process of handing over your responsibilities is an intricate one, it needs constant guidance and support from seniors and managers, which might not be available constantly. First-timers will most certainly need hand-holding through the process, but if they are provided with a piece of paper and asked to tick things off from it, the process will falter sooner or later. In both these scenarios, handing over responsibilities is not the priority of the person who is exiting, and the employer, respectively.
By out innate nature, it is tough to let go, or relinquish a position of influence, no matter how small, and the thought that things will continue to work as usual, even in our absence, might not be taken well. This forms an unconscious hindrance to the competence of the hand-over process, and the person exiting ends up withholding information, maybe without even realising that they are doing so. The need to be recognised for their work, their results, and the fact that they were indispensable to the organisation, might provoke them to subconsciously sabotage the chances of a new person doing better than them – by giving them incomplete or misinformation. The chances of such a situation arise multiply, if the person exiting holds a grudge, and this subconscious attempt becomes a conscious one. Non-compliance, subconscious or conscious, on the part of the person who is leaving is the biggest deterrent to the process.
The benefits of a smooth hand-over are explicit for the employer. If the new recruit is up to speed with the already existing practices and processes, and knows how to utilise the resources available, they will turn into an asset sooner, and the period wherein a transition can hamper the productivity of the position will be reduced. The lack of a proper handover increases the risk of tasks taking longer than usual, or completely rendering the new person clueless as to what is expected of them. But a successful hand-over process is beneficial to the person leaving the organisation as well, although not in absolute or immediate terms, like that of the employer. Your image and reputation will precede you in the corporate world, and building cordial professional relationships is bound to give a return in the long run. Furthermore, executing a hand-over well reflects on your actions, and shows that you are a responsible and accountable person. It’s one thing to be in the good books of your previous employers, but it is equally important to part ways with ex-colleagues on a positive note – and not as a recluse who chose to kept information to themselves. Also, it will do you good to put a definitive end-point to a learning chapter in your career, and close the learning loop by transferring the knowledge and learning during your stint.
But what can be done to ensure a smooth hand-over from both the ends? Here are a few things you need to consider, before you begin the process in your organisation:
As a person exiting the organisation, the biggest resource you can offer is your cooperation in adhering to the policy. Before you begin the process, have a conversation with your manager as to how you plan to go about it, and what all information are you expected to transfer. Revisit your job profile, and redraft the set of roles and responsibilities you undertook during the course of your work. Make as much effort as possible to write and record things – over email, documents, reports etc. which can serve a go-to resource for the new person when you have exited. Have a timeline-based set of actions, and facilitate as many meetings as possible with the new person. A few organisations allow the new person to ‘shadow’ the employee who is exiting to fully understand the nature of the work. Clearly communicate the pending things, and the history and status of the ongoing projects. Acquaint them to the people they are likely to work, and take as much time as needed to make them feel confident and comfortable in their new position. Last but not the least, provide your contact details for them to contact you, even after you have formally exited the organisation, and leave on a positive note.
The biggest responsibility you have is to structure the entire process, according to the culture and systems in your organisation. There can be elements which apply to everyone in the organisation, and others which are customised according to job role. Make exhaustive attempts to document the following: basic job responsibilities – broken down on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, resources available and how to access them, contact information of relevant people, technological information like log in details and passwords etc. Remember, even if people leave the position, there must be a vast and stable source of information – in a written format – which will work as an informal handbook to anyone new who joins. Depending on the complexity of the job at hand, time the entire cycle. Some hand-overs might need half a day and some might need weeks, so make sure the time you select encompasses the learning capability of the new recruit as well. Set clear expectations – both to the person who is exiting and joining – as to what is expected of them during the time of the hand-over. This clarity of roles and expectations can only be achieved if a well-defined hand-over policy is in place and is executed systematically.
Thus, a hand-over process, if done correctly, can work to the advantage of both the employer and the employee, and significantly help the new recruit. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to begin the process – by preparing for it – even before an employee exits the organisation. These steps begin by recording the roles and responsibilities of the employees, even if they are ever changing and evolving, and creating processes and methodologies to transfer the information, knowledge, insights, and resources with minimal loss. The employer needs to ensure that sufficient help is at hand to facilitate and smoothen the process for both the individuals involved, and the only way to do so, is to have central, well-prepared and easy systems in place, and not jump into action only when an employee exits.