Whether an employee is leaving the company, changing departments or transferring a project, handover documentation is the secret to a smooth transition.
In fact, studies show that companies with a formal handover process improve retention by 14 percent and are 11 percent more likely to see improved engagement.
For handovers to be effective, we need focused planning, clear guidelines and a thorough review.
Check out our 7-step process for creating handover documents, and find the tools and templates that help you make handover documents fast.
TL;DR: Handover documents
- Handover documents are crucial for smooth transitions in a company, improving retention and engagement.
- There are different types of handover documents, including project handover, employee offboarding, change management, and knowledge transfer SOP.
- Handover documents maintain organizational knowledge, prevent data losses or mistakes, and increase regulatory compliance.
- To create a handover document, develop an action plan, define project goals and expectations, identify key stakeholders, document deliverables and timelines, consider potential risks, compile training resources, and transfer ownership of resources and knowledge.
What are handover documents?
Handover documents are written reports created by an employee leaving a company or temporarily or permanently changing their role.
They're a form of visual communication that documents the employee's:
- Role, responsibilities and expectations.
- Project workflows.
- Status and progress.
- Important milestones and deadlines.
- Points of contact and key stakeholders.
Creating a transition plan ensures that whoever takes over has all of the information they need to continue ongoing projects, understand various processes and keep the business moving forward.
Types of handover documents (+ Templates)
There are handover documents for all different methods of change in a company.
Here are the most common types of handover documents we run into in business, with handover document templates to help you get started!
- Project handover document.
- Employee offboarding handover document.
- Change management handover document.
- Knowledge transfer SOP.
1. Project handover document
A project handover (or handoff) document is for a shift in project ownership. This could mean that a new department is taking over the effort or a different employee was assigned to take over.
This can minimize the risk of miscommunication, missed deadlines and lost information during the project's lifespan.
A project handover document typically outlines:
- Project goals.
- Potential risks.
- Hypothesis and success indicators.
- Project roles and responsibilities.
- Process breakdowns and guides.
- Training materials.
2. Employee offboarding handover document
The purpose of an employee offboarding handover is twofold:
- To help the departing employee with final paperwork and transitional materials.
- To prepare the team or replacement to take over ongoing projects and responsibilities.
This standardized guide supports leave management for when employees retire, resign or take extended leave.
The handover document will break down the company policies and procedures that the offboarding employee will need to follow, with a lists of tasks they need to accomplish. This includes:
- Information on final paychecks and benefits.
- Return of company property.
- Confidentiality agreements.
- Exit interviews.
- Project and task handovers.
💡 Scribe tip: Create an employee offboarding checklist to manage employee departure consistently and securely.
3. Change management handover document
A change management handover document helps teams with change management activity, including:
- Assessing and planning changes.
- Acquiring the necessary approvals.
- Implementing the changes department or company-wide.
- Conducting post-implementation reviews.
In this plan, you'll find:
- Change request information.
- An impact assessment.
- A change plan.
- Change approvals.
- Change implementation processes.
- Post-implementation reviews.
✨ Check out our list of the top free change management software to guarantee easy transitions for your entire organization.
4. Knowledge transfer SOP
A knowledge transfer SOP outlines the steps and procedures involved in transferring knowledge or skills from one person or team to another within an organization. Essentially, it's the plan that helps you execute all other forms of handover documentation.
The standard operating procedure formally dictates the handover processes and requirements. It includes:
- The purpose and scope.
- Transfer procedures and tasks.
- A list of references.
- The revision history.
The importance of handover documentation
Handover documentation isn't just useful. In a lot of cases, it can be the difference between success and a costly mistake.
Here are three reasons why you should create handover documents.
1. Maintains organizational knowledge
Handover documentation helps new hires pick up loose ends to understand what tasks are ongoing and how to start managing new processes. Documentation along with solid knowledge management strategies can help you save explicit knowledge as well as tribal knowledge — the unspoken wisdom of how your company runs.
This cuts costs and can even positively impact revenue. Businesses that implement a handover process see a 50% rise in sales and a significant reduction in training costs.
In short: handover documents ensure that your company's knowledge doesn't walk out the door with former employees.
2. Prevents possible data losses or mistakes
By documenting everything needed in the handover, you can confirm that your departing employee won't keep access to vital logins or information.
This reduces the chance of a potential data breach (which cost companies a whopping $4.35 million in 2022).
✨ Scribe tip: Use a knowledge-base Chrome extension to cut the time you need to build your knowledge base.
3. Increases regulatory compliance
Some teams have seen that having the right handover documents in place not only maintains compliance — it can make it even stronger.
Coronis Health, a healthcare Revenue Cycle Management company, saw an increase from 80-90 percent in participation and compliance after implementing stronger SOPs.
To create effective documentation quickly and efficiently for their 10,000+ employees, Coronis Health uses Scribe, an AI-powered process documentation tool, to create, update and share their guides in half the time.
"We’ve already been able to transfer 50-60 hours of labor using Scribe alone." — Coronis team member
How to create a handover document
Although the exact format of your handover document depends upon whether your employee is leaving a role or transferring a project, here’s a step-by-step guide for building your own handoff reports from scratch.
1. Create a handover action plan
Before creating handover documents, develop an action plan so you don't miss out on any critical details. Talk to your manager about the ongoing projects and devise a communication plan.
You don’t want to leave any loose ends and ensure every task is delegated. Use these question prompts to make a foolproof action plan at the start:
- What’s this transition about?
- What are the key responsibility areas (KRAs) in this transition?
- Who will be involved in creating the handover plan?
- Are there any guidelines to follow for this plan?
📌 Check out our free transition plan template
2. Define project goals, expectations & metrics
While creating a detailed plan, clearly define the project's end goals in terms of the deadlines, measuring units and risks involved. Also, mention what you expect from the stakeholders regarding the tasks to be completed within a deadline.
Involve all key stakeholders in a meeting to discuss these crucial elements of the handover. This will help keep everyone on the same page when the handoff occurs.
3. Identify key stakeholders involved in the project
Identify key stakeholders for every task to ensure you don't miss out on handing over the duties to all the personnel responsible. List the people currently handling a particular role and the ones who'll be handling it once the project is transferred.
4. Document the deliverables, milestones & timelines
Handover documents should have specific timelines and important milestones, like due dates, meetings and other forms of communication.
This is important for ensuring that nothing goes off course and the project moves forward as it would have.
5. Consider potential risks & roadblocks beforehand
Make sure that you add additional context and concerns in your handover document. This can include any potential roadblocks like:
- Lacking in a certain skillset or area of expertise.
- Trouble bringing stakeholders together.
- Necessary approvals.
Add your inputs in the comments section and suggestions on how employees can handle the situation.
6. Compile training resources and guides
Now that you've documented what to do and when, it's time to show how.
Create how-to guides for any process the employee goes through. This should include:
- A task overview.
- A step-by-step breakdown.
- Annotated screenshots or illustrations for each step.
- A list of needed resources.
7. Transfer ownership of all resources & knowledge
Once you have prepared all the handover documents, manuals and SOPs, it’s time to transfer the ownership of these resources.
Send a list of accounts and credentials for login. You can also transfer the accessibility for app accounts, guides and documentation via Google Drive and Jira.
Make project transitions more seamless with handover documentation
Handover documentation is the best way to maintain company knowledge, ramp up team members and prevent major errors during any transition.
This vital business documentation requires collaboration, effort and a well-executed plan. Follow our seven easy steps to build handover documents that keep your team pushing forward. Want to work even faster? Take advantage of our free handover document templates and tools!