An older and younger woman in a meeting room, with one handing a document to the other

The importance of handovers for exiting employees

Handovers are an essential process for any organisation. Here’s everything you need to know about handovers for exiting employees.
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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2017-11-29

When you resign from a job, the last thing you probably want to think about is handing over the reins to a new person. Most likely, your focus is already on your next exciting career move. However, creating insightful handover notes can make a massive difference for the incoming employee, your teammates, your manager, and the business overall.

Many of us have probably experienced a job where we were thrown into the deep end from day one and left to fend for ourselves with no handover notes and no direction. Or, worse, a few days in you discover there are a million questions you wish you’d had an opportunity to ask your predecessor. To put it mildly, it's not much fun. That’s why thorough, detailed handover notes are crucial.

Handovers are an essential process for any organisation. While organisations usually place a lot of focus on onboarding, offboarding exiting employees and completing a formal handover process is just as vital.

When an employee leaves a position — regardless of the circumstances — they should always carry out a proper handover process to ensure a smooth transition. Having exiting employees hand over their workload will help the new hire hit the ground running and know exactly what’s expected of them.

If you’re an employer or manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure incoming employees receive a detailed handover — whether they’re joining the team long-term or just covering the position for a maternity or long-service leave stint.

Pull quote with the text: 71% of organisations say they have no formal handover process in place

Unfortunately, many organisations neglect this handover process, with a study by Aberdeen Research finding that 71% of organisations say they have no formal handover process in place. We think it’s about time that changed.

So, here’s everything you need to know about handovers for exiting employees. We'll start by asking why you need to prepare a good handover, before looking at what to include in your handover notes and asking what managers can do to help with the handover process.

Why do you need to prepare a good handover?

A good handover (sometimes known as offboarding) will help new team members settle into their position more quickly and feel comfortable and confident with their new job.

A detailed handover can also benefit other staff and the broader business, as you’ll find much less disruption to team workflows and productivity rates.

As RWA Insights explains, "[handovers] are particularly important if a role is being taken over by a new member of staff, who will be unfamiliar with the organisation in general. Clear, detailed notes that fully outline any processes and procedures will help the incoming member of staff settle in and get to grips with the job more quickly."

Additionally, when long-term team members leave an organisation, there’s always a risk of accrued knowledge and experience departing with them. In fact, research by Digital Skynet finds that 27% of all Intellectual Property (IP) loss is down to human error such as this. Handovers reduce the risk of IP loss by helping to transition knowledge between the exiting team member and the new hire.

Offboarding insights

Despite this, HR leaders dedicate 8x more time to creating, implementing, and administering onboarding programs than offboarding (or handover) programs. What’s more, only 29% of organisations say they have a formal program to transition employees out of a company. Yet, research shows that organisations with a formal handover process are 14% more likely to improve retention and 11% more likely to improve engagement. 

Pull quote with the text: Organisations with a formal handover process are 14% more likely to improve retention and 11% more likely to improve engagement

Additionally, a recent report found that 76% of IT Leaders believe a lack of offboarding processes represents a significant security threat. Further research suggests that lax offboarding processes lead to $300 million in lost revenue and $8.3 million in cyber security breaches per year! In light of the great resignation, where companies are dealing with employee resignations and offboarding more than ever before, these statistics should be alarming.

Naturally, the detail and length of a handover will vary depending on the complexity or seniority of a job, as well as how long the position is being covered. However, a standardised handover strategy is essential for all high-impact teams.

Pull quote with hte text: A standardised handover strategy is essential for all high-impact teams

According to Emily Das, an independent adviser at HR Consultants Ltd, incoming employees should spend at least a couple of hours with the outgoing staff member. 

"It's absolutely critical that there is at least a basic handover, because in a small firm, jobs often cover more than the employee was originally recruited for," says Das.

For a long-term handover, there should always be both a face-to-face conversation and a written document.

"If it's a key role, it might even be worthwhile bringing the new employee in early for work shadowing," suggests Das. This process would see both employees — old and new — working together for up to a week, so the new team member can carry out tasks under the guidance of the experienced employee and ask any questions that may arise. 

To see some of these tips in action, start your free trial with Go1 today to access a dedicated course on Successful handovers — How to make a smooth transition

What to include in your handover notes

Your handover notes should include all the information the new employee will need to ensure a smooth transition. When preparing handover notes, mentally go through a typical week in your role, noting all the significant tasks, processes, and people that a new hire will need to know.

"The handover should be structured, take at least half a day and include all the employee's day-to-day tasks," says Das. "There should also be a written note, with specific instructions about systems or projects, and useful contact numbers.”

Handover checklist

Here are some things you might want to include in your handover notes:

  • A description of all your daily tasks and processes
  • A list of key day-to-day activities
  • Access to all relevant spreadsheets, documents, and files (ensure you share copies of these with existing team members so they aren't deleted or lost when your account is removed)
  • Ongoing project deadlines and status updates
  • Information about any regular/recurring meetings
  • A list of key contacts – customers, clients, stakeholders, managers, team members etc.
  • Any ongoing issues affecting projects
  • Details of all logins and passwords, and information on who to contact for tech support
  • Housekeeping – location of keys, stationery, tools etc.
  • Any other miscellaneous information that may be useful to help the new hire settle in

Think about everything you would need to know if you were starting the job afresh. You can also include questions you had when you first started the job. You might even find that preparing your handover notes can be a nice little boost, as you reflect on all the tasks and projects you’ve completed!

What can managers do to help with the handover process?

While it’s up to exiting employees to develop thorough handover notes, managers are responsible for ensuring this process happens in the first place. 

As mentioned, it’s not uncommon for an exiting employee to feel checked out or unmotivated to create detailed handover notes. Therefore, managers should emphasise the importance of this process. Have the exiting employee start preparing for a handover as soon as they hand in their resignation. Make it clear that this is their top priority before they leave.

Give exiting employees time to prepare handover notes

You might also want to collaborate with employees on their handover notes to provide direction and cover specific things you’d like them to pass on before they go.

At the same time, don’t add to their existing workload by giving them too many new projects or deadlines. Depending on the job, it may be necessary to reduce their workload to ensure they have ample time to prepare detailed handover notes.

If you’ve made it clear that the exiting employee should focus on preparing handover notes, it's your responsibility as a manager to give them time and space to complete this task.

Exiting employees — do the right thing

If you’re an employee leaving a position, do your best to give a detailed handover to the new person. Depending on the circumstances of your departure, you may be feeling disengaged, checked out, burnt out, or just plain excited about moving on! But leaving your job on good terms and ensuring a smooth transition for the next person will show your true professionalism.

Handovers & boomeranging  

Not only is preparing detailed handover notes a sign of your professionalism, but it is rarely a good idea to burn bridges in these scenarios. There's always a chance you might rely on your former employer for a reference in the future. However, more importantly, research shows that 15% of employees ‘boomerang’ and return to work for a former employer. Plus, a massive 40% of employees say they would consider ‘boomeranging’ back to work for a former employer. If you burn bridges by preparing poor handover notes, this option might be off the table.

Pull quote with the text:  A massive 40% of employees say they would consider boomeranging back to work for a former employer. If you burn bridged by preparing poor handover notes, this option might be off the table

Finally, preparing a thorough handover means being respectful to your teammates who are staying. These teammates will carry the extra workload while the new employee settles in, so, a smooth handover will be particularly beneficial for them. By taking the time to carry out a proper handover, you’ll be closing off this phase of your career with a clear mind, ready to start the next exciting chapter of your professional life.

For more insights on offboarding, subscribe to the Go1 newsletter to stay on top of all the latest L&D trends. Or, you can book a demo today to find out how Go1 can help with your team’s learning needs.

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