How to write a handover

Not sure how to handle a handover? We’ve got you…

Whether it’s that you’ve been offered a new role elsewhere, you’re taking a leave of absence, or you’re heading for a promotion or a career change, leaving your current job behind isn’t always as easy as closing the door.

To ensure you’re not burning any bridges, and to help your successor walk in your shoes without falling over – leaving a detailed handover is vital.

We’ve already covered how to resign and provided you with a variety of resignation letter templates – but here’s everything you need to know about a handover, and our advice on how to write one:


What is a handover?

A handover is a document written by an employee who is leaving their role (either permanently, or temporarily). It’s designed to help whoever is taking on their day-to-day tasks get-to-grips with them, and understand their duties.

Essentially, it’s a ‘how to guide’ for the job and the organisation, written by someone with first-hand experience in it.


Who prepares a handover?

Anyone who is leaving a job permanently or taking a leave of absence is usually required to prepare a handover, which will then be given to their replacement and/or other colleagues.

They could be:

  • Leaving the company
  • Taking a sabbatical
  • Taking maternity leave
  • Absent due to sickness

The person who is leaving the role is also likely to get assistance and input from other members of their team that they worked closely with, along with their manager.

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Why do I need a handover?

A good handover is essential for most roles, in order to help keep a business running smoothly.

And it isn’t just useful to the new employee picking up the tasks – it’s also useful to their manager, the wider team, and the company as a whole.

Not only does it help them to understand their day-to-day responsibilities, it also allows them to pick up any loose ends – whether it’s projects that were unfinished, conversations that are still ongoing, or any other kind of work that their predecessor would have dealt with.

Ultimately – a good handover means less disruption, higher productivity, and fewer mistakes.


What should a handover include?

The exact contents/length of your handover will depend on the nature of your role and your responsibilities, as well as whether you’re leaving the company for good, or just taking a break.

However, a handover should generally include:

  • The employee’s day-to-day tasks and responsibilities
  • A guide on how to use certain software
  • Information on key processes and systems
  • Log in details and passwords
  • Access to important documents/instructions on where to find them
  • Useful contact numbers and emails – including customers, clients, colleagues, and managers
  • Details of any ongoing projects – including status updates, deadlines, and any issues encountered
  • General housekeeping

If you’re wondering what to include in your handover, put yourself into the shoes of your successor/manager. What would they need to know? What information could ensure a smooth transition?

Your guidance won’t just help the business run smoothly, it’ll also ensure all the work you’ve carried out isn’t pushed to the sidelines or forgotten about once you’ve left the office.

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When should I start preparing a handover?

It’s important to spend as much time as you can putting your handover together.

To make sure you’re covering everything, aim to start (even if it’s just setting up meetings or writing notes) two to four weeks before you depart/go on leave. Most companies will require you to work at least a four week notice period, which provides the perfect opportunity to get your handover together.

Starting early also allows you to get your manager and/or colleagues to check over it, and ensure there’s nothing you’ve missed.


Tips for writing a handover

  • Tie up loose ends. If you’re leaving the business permanently, it can be useful to put in the extra effort to get any outstanding tasks done before your departure. This reduces how much you have to include in your handover.
  • Make a plan. A handover isn’t just a document. It’s a conversation. Before you can write anything down, it’s vital to work together with your manager to create a plan. This will not only help you to ascertain what to include, it’ll also make your manager aware of any areas of work that may be left unmanned once you’re gone.
  • Talk to the right people. If you know certain aspects of your work are going to be passed on to other members of the team (or your successor works at your organisation already), put some time in to discuss it with them individually. This will allow them to ask questions, ensure they know what they’re responsible for, and gather all the information they need to get things done.
  • Keep it clear. A handover should be a clear and concise document, that’s free of jargon or unnecessary acronyms. To avoid confusion, ensure you’re not using terms that only long-standing colleagues (and/or only you) will understand. If your role is particularly acronym heavy, it might be a good idea to include a glossary of common terms and their meanings.
  • Let go of the reigns. OK, we get it. You’ve developed a real attachment to that spreadsheet. You spent weeks on it – and if anyone else touches it, they’ll only ruin it completely. But unfortunately the time has come to pass the torch. As tempting as it might be to keep hold of your pride and joy, relinquishing control and giving it to someone else is the best thing you can do for everyone.

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