Why is a Good Handover Important?

Handovers are an important business process that should not be overlooked. Even the smallest of organisations will experience a handover at some point – whether this is due to retirement, maternity cover, or long-term absence. Regardless of the reason, ensuring a smooth handover process means that business operations can continue with minimum disruption.

Although it is the exiting employee who will write up their handover notes, it is ultimately a manager’s responsibility to oversee the handover process and ensure that the role is covered sufficiently. The manager should make it clear that handover should be dealt with as soon as possible – and not left until the last minute. Any notes should allow whoever is taking over the role to ‘hit the ground running’.

This is particularly important if a role is being taken over by a new member of staff, who will be unfamiliar with the organisation in general. Clear, detailed notes that fully outline any processes and procedures will help the incoming member of staff settle in and get to grips with the job more quickly.

The complexity of the handover process will, of course, depend on the role being covered – e.g. is it a senior role? The length the role is being covered for is another consideration, as it could be for a very short period or a much longer one.

What should handover notes include?

Good handover notes should be as complete and detailed as possible. They will include things such as:

  • a description of the individual’s day-to-day to tasks
  • any relevant login details and passwords
  • a list of key contacts
  • location of office keys, stationery etc
  • details of ongoing projects and deadlines

Don’t forget to think about any less frequent or ad hoc tasks that the outgoing member of staff deals with – it’s surprising what can be overlooked and not considered until a crisis occurs.

The exiting employee should take the time to step back and consider: what would I need to know if I was new to this job? You cannot assume that the person covering the role will simply join the dots or ‘figure things out’. It’s best to go right back to basics and ensure everything is covered off.

Why is handover important in financial services?

Handover is particularly important in financial services. The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), introduced in December 2019, “aims to reduce harm to consumers and strengthen market integrity by creating a system that enables firms and regulators to hold people to account.” A key part of this is making sure firms and staff clearly understand and can show who does what within an organisation.

Where handovers take place in an organisation, knowing who is personally accountable for what is vital. Clients could face harm where there are gaps in a firm’s knowledge and competencies.

The 12-week rule under the Senior Managers Regime allows someone to cover for a Senior Manager without being approved, where the absence is temporary or reasonably unforeseen, and the appointment is for less than 12 consecutive weeks.

Enhanced SM&CR firms are required to take all reasonable steps to make sure that a person taking a Senior Manager role has all the information and materials they could reasonably expect to have to do their job effectively. More information on handover procedures can be found in SYSC 25.9.

Ensuring a smooth handover process also helps firms demonstrate their operational resilience. The FCA is currently consulting on new requirements on firms to help strengthen operational resilience.

By having clarity on who does what and ensuring that this is communicated and passed on where employees leave, a firm is better placed to deal with operational disruptions, such as cyber-attacks, changes to systems, technology failures and, of course, pandemics. As the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, unexpected disruption can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on a business. Operational disruption, as we have seen, can be completely outside of a firm’s control, so preparation is best.

Where the handover process is badly done, there is the risk that employees will leave without passing on vital knowledge and experience so it’s something that organisations need to get right.

About the author

Lisa joined RWA in 2014 as an e-Learning Assistant, designing training material for the Aviva Development Zone e-learning platform.

Her role as Head of Content and Communications involves the editorship of RWA Insight. It also includes reviewing e-learning content as well as providing proofreading, copywriting and standards support across the business.

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