On handover plans

August 1, 2021
Level Up

When moving teams or leaving the company, creating a clear handover plan should be #1 on your list of things to do. All plans will look different but the outcome should be the same: a smooth transition for the team, a solid basis from which the new joiner can grow, and a graceful exit for you.

Photo by Brittany Neale on Unsplash

Show respect for the new person taking over your role... and the company you're leaving

There is nothing worse than starting in a new role and feeling as if you've failed at the first hurdle. The best thing you can do to support the new joiner is remove the guesswork and give them space to settle in and learn. This not only demonstrates an understanding that starting a new job is hard, you set the new joiner up for success and show to the company that you still have their best interests at heart. The world is small and your actions and empathy will have a huge impact upon your reputation.

In the past I've had two different onboarding experiences:

  1. a fantastic handover pack but an incumbent who didn't want to let go so I could only watch, not learn,
  2. no handover or onboarding pack, plus reticence to share important information. It was an uphill battle as I tried to onboard myself.

Both left me feeling dissatisfied and intensified my already-present imposter syndrome.

So how do you avoid these common pitfalls and create a safe-space handover? If you have a transition period you could:

  1. Give the new joiner half a morning to go through the pack before spending time with them answering questions. Remind them that the pack won't make a huge amount of sense during the first read, but it will be much clearer come the end of the week.
  2. Ask them to shadow you as you attend meetings (1:1s, team standups etc) so they have a concrete idea of the role they will play. Encourage them to ask questions either during the meeting or privately at the end.
  3. Loop them into slack and email threads so the team knows to go to them, not you, and you can jump in if needed. This also helps them understand how to deal with a particular situation, answer a question, or redirect the request.
  4. Set up intro calls with the people you support and their teams. This takes away the guesswork and any uncertainty about who they should speak to. Make time at the end of the first week to go over the calls, working out with them who would be helpful to spend more time with or giving further context where needed.

If you don't have a transition period, nailing your pack become even more important. Be prescriptive, create lists of people they should speak to. Give the pack to your exec so they have it on hand when the new joiner starts. Trust me, they will appreciate it.

Find head space

Most EAs end up carrying whole processes and indescribably important nuggets of information in their heads. It could be as simple as knowing how to get the printer working again when it goes on strike or knowing the best person to speak to when you need last-minute support. Getting all of this out of your brain and onto paper not only allows you to parse what you do or don't need to share, it creates a natural order of discussion when you're handing over.

Writing down all the different processes and key pieces of information can be daunting (when I left my previous job my handover pack was close to 30 pages long) so start with a basic list: keep an open notepad on your desk so that every time you think of something, you can write it down. The longer the list becomes, the more you'll notice groupings:

  1. who is who - profiles on the people you support and list of people you interact with the most and their roles
  2. process - how to get expenses paid, book travel, raise a PO for hardware (and who to speak to when you need all of this expedited)
  3. important meetings and cadences - monthly and quarterly reviews, non-negotiable discussions
  4. key tools and what they're for - crash courses on HR systems, PM tools, calendars if needed, templates
  5. misc - the extra info you've gathered that makes all the difference: restaurants and event locations (who they were booked for and why), glossaries (especially important if the company you work for uses a lot of acronyms)

As you begin to create the docs, chances are your to do list will continue to grow, no matter how many items you cross out. This is totally normal, remember: you're trying to take all the knowledge you have about your role and synthesise it. That's not an easy thing to do but it will pay dividends on your last day.

Get some closure

No matter the circumstances, handing over the reins is always difficult: there is an emotional attachment to the people you work with, likely a bit of your self-worth tied in there somewhere and, frankly, letting go of something you've been working on is never easy. These feelings can be compounded if you're taking a leap in your new role - stretch roles are daunting, especially if in an industry you don't yet know very well.

Spending the time on a solid transition plan and pack allows you to step away, leaving no loose ends. If you have done your handover correctly, the new joiner will feel empowered to fully step into the role, leaving you empowered to step away.

A final note on handover packs

Don't underestimate their value in your new role. Maybe you've streamlined a particular process that you want to bring with you or you realise that the intro calls you're setting up would also make perfect sense for you to do. Having these key pieces to hand will mean you can hit the ground running from day one, whether or not an onboarding plan has been laid out for you.

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