Outgoing and incoming: manage the handover process
25 February 2010 8:26am
Whether a personal handover between an outgoing employee and their replacement will help or hinder a business comes down to the question of trust, says Right Management talent management practice leader Rosemarie Dentesano.
"An individual holds a certain amount of intellectual knowledge about the processes that they employ to do their job, about the systems that they use, about the ins and outs... So it makes absolute common sense for them to be able to do a handover and to be part of the onboarding process for the new person," she says.
However, this is not always practicable, and even when it is, there will be exceptions, she says.
If an employee is moving to a competitor, an organisation might "wrap up" the situation as rapidly as possible due to "paranoia" about intellectual property (even though most contracts clearly state obligations upon cessation), she says.
If a manager changes the way they relate to an employee "overnight", they might also become prematurely disengaged, Dentesano says. Others will want to "get out the door" regardless of how they are treated, and their lack of interest in the replacement process means their involvement should be minimal.
The same goes for an employee who has "a very negative mindset or negative point of view about the organisation," Dentesano says. "You probably don't want your inductee spending too much time with them... because the last thing you want is a new person getting the wrong messages."
Managers should consider "the mindset of the departure and the employee experience" and make decisions about their involvement in the interview and/or induction process on a case-by-case basis, she says. "As a manager, you've got to be conscious of this person and the responsibly you're giving them to actually transfer [their] knowledge."
When a trusted employee remains committed to the organisation, overlap with their successor can help transfer, renew and maintain their knowledge, she says.
"Typically if you have had a good working relationship then there would be no reason not to trust that that person will still perform the duties of their role [and] finish what they can in the role before moving on to a new job."
Further, a worker who is treated with continued respect, even to the point of being asked to aid in finding their replacement, will be "an advocate of your organisation" compared to an individual who is left with "a bitter taste in their mouth because of the way they were treated in the last four weeks of their employment", says Dentesano. An amicable departure also leaves the door open for the employee to become a future client, or a point of referral for future candidates, she says.
Particularly in senior roles, where workers have developed their role to a certain point, "they don't want to see their good work go to waste, they quite often want closure around the job, and they want to sign off that they've left it in good hands". In these cases, cooperation can "really help set up the next person for success", she says.
As for involving outgoing employees in the interview process, the question is not only one of trust, but whether they can "objectively evaluate the person's appropriateness for the role", says Dentesano.
It also depends on the role itself. Workers in more senior roles are more likely to have an opinion about who their likely successor should be, and to be involved in their development, she says. Particularly where a role involves a core technical skill that only they can evaluate, "you'd actually want them in the room to verify whether the person can or can't do the job".
Where overlap is utilised, the replacement employee should be informed of, and consulted about, the onboarding process before it commences. Dentesano suggests saying: "This is what we're planning for your onboarding, what else would you like, does this work for you, is there anything we've missed, that you might need?"
Managers should "check in" during the handover process, she says. They should also be aware of any "bad habits that the current person in the role has picked up" and take steps to ensure they are not transferred.
"[It's] about having a balanced onboarding experience so the person is able to learn from the incumbent, validate [the practice] with the manager... and talk about some opportunities for improvement."
The key is to strike a balance on a case-by-case basis, she says. "Personally, if I had the choice of a document versus a human being, I'd prefer the human being. But if I had to sit with someone for six months to learn their job, it would drive me insane."
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