How to hand over a job with the least pain for all
February 2, 2012 1:49 PM   Subscribe

I am going on maternity leave in three weeks and may not have overlap with my replacement, so I won't get to train them. How do I prepare my team for this change? How do I prepare my replacement from afar? What are best practices in job handover? What do you wish your predecessor had left you?

I work in a small regional branch of a large not-for profit. My job is primarily to coordinate one large and two small programs and manage a team of 40+ volunteers. We have a HUGE corporate computer network with files sometimes 15-20 deep, and a spread-out admin/finance/HR structure, so it can be difficult to find resources or even the right person to ask questions of. With that said, it's an incredibly supportive organization, and so there is always someone to help.

I use Raiser's Edge and several other specialized programs as part of my job, in addition to a google calendar, signup schedule, doodle polls, text messaging, and other technological tools. I am the only one in my office (although not the only one in the org) who knows how to use many of these, so the newb won't easily be able to get help.

What I need to know is how best to handle the job handover. What sort of notes or files do I need to leave for them? Is it helpful to have detailed instructions for each of the tools I use? Is it helpful to have a description of what I make sure is done on Monday, Tues, every other week, by the 20th of the month, quarterly, in August - or is that micromanaging?

When you started your job, what did your predecessor do to make sure the change was smooth and you had the information and resources you needed? Or what do you wish they had done?
posted by arcticwoman to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The problem is that everyone learns in different ways. If your replacement is tech-savvy, you could tell them the bare minimum about where to find things. Or your replacement could be a relative newb at computers, and really enjoy a detailed step-by-step diagram of how to get things done.

If your replacement has been chosen before you leave, sit down with them and figure out how they'll best work. If you won't, try for some middle-ground between detailed and listing the results only. Figure out what help they can easily get, and provide a structure for everything else.

You could also identify who would know how to do which part of the job, so they know who to go for in-house support.

Of course, you could start documenting everything you do, first providing a general summary, then going into detail, as a manual for your job. It might not get used now, but could also work if a co-worker had to fill in for you or your replacement if there was some unplanned extended leave necessary.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2012

I'm currently a volunteer coordinator at a small hospice. I use raiser's edge but not to track volunteers (I just do donations) so adjust this accordingly. I'd go into this assuming(hoping) they have semi-good computer skills. Knowledge of microsoft office, etc.
The list I would leave:
-Where to find the most relevant stuff on the computer - contact info, any databases you regularly use and/or update, if they'll have a separate email - pre-load it with any contacts they may need - including hr/payroll, not just the day-day people you're in touch with. As well as any logins they'll need. Server, email, RE, etc. Or directions on where to go to sign up.
-Basic RE instructions - how to open, what info they'll need to input, what fields/tabs they need to update. If you run reports then add basic query/export directions.
-If they'll be recruiting/training volunteers then a copy of all training materials, and all the information they need to obtain from volunteers before starting them.
-I belong to a couple volunteer email lists, as well as the vol. coordinators group on linked in & the nat. hospice organization, if you have similar groups then leave them websites/sign them up for emails, when I have questions usually someone in the group can help.
-Deadlines for reports, projects, anything they need to deliver to someone else in a timely manner while you're away.

If you have volunteers who are very involved (filing, data entry, training, etc) work with them so that they can show the new person how to do main things when you're gone. They'll be able to help them from falling behind.

This is what I came up with on the fly, I'm sure there's a lot more they'll want to know. If I think of more I'll post again :)
posted by abitha! at 6:02 PM on February 2, 2012

I started a job with no cross-over between me and my predecessor. She had created an EXTREMELY detailed handbook for the job with screenshots, notes about the quirks of particular programs, and so on, which I still refer to eight months later. She left post-its on all the file cabinet drawers detailing their contents and making recommendations about how long to keep them for. She labeled empty inboxes, dividers, and 3-ring binders left on the desk as to what she used them for and why. She kept a detailed list of usernames and passwords, as well as a map of the office and a directory of everyone who worked there and what they did. I found it all invaluable, not micromanaging.

If you've got the time to put something like this together, I think it would be an awesome thing to pass on. If you can do it in such a way that the person taking over will not feel like things MUST be done in a certain way, so much the better. Yes, each person learns and works differently, but there's no sense in reinventing the wheel - you've found a lot of these things by trial and error, no doubt, so why wouldn't you pass that information on?

I've tweaked the procedures handed down to me by my predecessor, and I've changed the job a little with my own skill set. But it's AWESOME to know, if I go on vacation or am out sick, that anyone could step in and do a good-enough job because all the information is available to them. I plan to maintain this handbook and eventually pass it down to my successor. An in-person handoff is probably ideal, but I think this is the next-best option (and actually, I'd say my first best option would be a handoff WITH a handbook).
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:07 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had to leave work abruptly and handover a lot of work to colleagues and volunteers. Because I went on medical leave but could still work, then maternity leave but could still in theory work (the baby was in hospital, I was home and mobile), and now am in theory back at work with a baby that is the equivalent of a newborn, I have had the most horrible handover time.

So this is what you Should Not Do:

Do not keep all the stuff on your computer. Load everything work-related onto the office server or at least onto some kind of cloud sharing. Ditto for paperwork. Keep copies, sure, but make certain that all the files are accessible without you or your computer.

Write a list of all the accounts you use, and your login and password. Switch them over to a job-related account, not anything that overlaps personally. Make it so with a single work email account, the new person can access all the programs and accounts needed for work. Mailing lists too, if you use them for work.

Block off time for handover calls/emails/meetings. I am now going into the office every Monday for a meeting, and trying to set a fixed time in the afternoon when I'm accessible. Otherwise, you will get random emails and calls during office hours, which with a baby ends up keeping you on edge throughout the day (or foolishly thinking, oh once she naps, I'll get that answered. HAH.) Find a time when someone else can watch the baby and tell your replacement and the office that they can call you/chat/email during those two hours each Wednesday and Friday for example. If they don't need to, consider that time to sleep/paint your toenails/take a bath. That way, there's no guilt in delaying work requests until that time scheduled.

Write a list of all the upcoming deadlines. Write notes about what is a priority. Remember that these notes will be read likely by multiple people, so be positive and kind (e.g. "Person X prefers face to face meetings over email, and can be tough to schedule. Remember to ask after their family" rather than "Person X is a diva and needs tons of flattery".

Figure out for yourself what is the most difficult/important and only-you-can-do-it part of your job, e.g. annual newsletter, and get a head start on it in case your replacement is either useless or just take a long time to get to grips, because if they mess up, you'll be returning to fix that mess, and it's easier knowing you've prevented the worst damage.

Peanut_mcgillicuty's predecessor sounds like an absolute gem. If you can do that, awesome. The things above were what hit me the worst.

Oh - screencasts are really helpful and much faster to generate than written instructions for computer programs (if you have to write detailed step-by-steps rather than for a savvy replacement). You can just video yourself doing a day's work with voice-overs explaining what you're doing, and they can refer to them as needed.

And nominate a trusted colleague to help her navigate the bureaucracy outside of your job scope.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:51 PM on February 2, 2012

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