How to write a handover document

The art of a successful handover for smooth transitions in the workplace

First published on Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024

Last updated on Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024

Welcome to a workplace where efficiency reigns supreme, and seamless transitions become the norm. As an employer, you hold the key to unlocking benefits that can elevate your business' productivity and ensure a smooth operational flow.

When it comes to running a business, one key aspect that often gets overlooked is the handover process. But in the fast-paced world of business, the significance of well-organised handover documentation can't be overstated.

Say you've got someone leaving your team, taking over a project, or maybe you've hired a new employee. It's up to you to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. How? Well, that's where a handover document comes in handy.

Let's delve into the world of handover documents—exploring their key components, how to write handover documentation, and how they benefit your business and contribute to a seamless handover.

What is a handover document?

Handover documents serve as a record of a project's key details, including its objectives, deliverables, timelines, and stakeholders.

They play a vital role in ensuring the successful transition of a project phase from one person to the next person, all the way through to project completion. It also helps when transferring the responsibility of a project from a departing employee to a new employee.

Additionally, they help in facilitating effective communication and a smooth transfer of knowledge between project teams and the parties involved.

The term "handover" typically refers to the final deliverable or closure stage of a project. But a handover can occur in other situations as well.

Handovers may take place when an employee leaves your company, goes on holiday, takes over as a new project manager, or when organising a project handover to a client.

Let's take a closer look at the different types of handover documents.

2 people handing over documents

Project handover documentation

As you prepare to transition a project to another team or department, a project handover document is your secret weapon. This document captures the project's essence, its objectives, current status, outstanding and ongoing tasks, and vital contacts.

Make sure to include comprehensive documentation like the project scope, project details, project timelines, and progress reports—empowering the receiving team to seamlessly pick up where the previous person, project manager, or team left off.

Job handover documentation

When an employee is moving to a new role or bidding farewell to their current position, a job handover document serves as their legacy.

It’s important to detail day-to-day tasks, ongoing projects, essential contacts, team roles and key responsibilities, and even sensitive information like passwords. This thoughtful document empowers their successor to step into their shoes with confidence, maintaining workflow continuity.

Asset handover documentation

Managing the transfer of physical assets within your company? The asset handover document is your guide.

Outline crucial asset details, conditions, maintenance records, and the transfer date. This ensures a seamless transition and provides the new custodian with all the information necessary for responsible asset management.

Knowledge transfer documentation

As you pass on your expertise to a new employee or successor, a knowledge transfer document becomes your best solution. Share procedural insights, best practices, troubleshooting guides, and key lessons learned. Your careful documentation facilitates a smooth transfer of essential knowledge, allowing others to succeed in their roles.

Client handover documentation

Transitioning client accounts or projects? The client handover document becomes your communication bridge.

Provide detailed client information, an ongoing project progress report, a communication plan and history, and service level agreements. This document ensures a seamless client transition, maintaining positive relationships and service standards.

Handover over a client within the business

Step-by-step guide to creating a handover document

To create a good handover document, you should think about these essential elements, detailed in the steps below:

Step 1 - Start by identifying the purpose and scope of the handover document

Ask yourself:

  • What information needs to be transferred?

  • Who will be receiving the document?

  • What are your project goals?

Also, think about finish dates, and set key performance indicators (KPI). By doing this, you can make sure that the information is relevant and targeted to the right audience.

Step 2 - Consider the format and organisation of the document

Will it be a written report or a presentation? Should it be broken down into sections or organised chronologically?

By considering the format and structure of your handover document, you can make sure that the document is easy to read and navigate.

The structure of your handover document plays a crucial role in its effectiveness. Consider dividing the document into logical sections such as:

  • Introduction

  • Project summary or overview

  • Task breakdown

  • Resource list

  • Contact information

Use clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance readability and accessibility.

Step 3- Create a list of tasks or responsibilities in the handover document

This might include:

  • A summary of ongoing projects

  • Key contacts

  • The team members involved

  • Any outstanding tasks or issues that need to be completed or addressed

By creating a comprehensive list of tasks and responsibilities, you can make sure that nothing is overlooked or forgotten.

Step 4 - Gather all relevant documents and information

These may include project plans, which will provide you with an overview of the project's scope, objectives, and timelines.

Meeting notes can also be useful, as they can highlight key points made by participants in meetings related to the document's topic.

Contact lists can help you identify individuals who can provide additional information or review the document. Plus, upcoming deadlines should be considered to make sure the document is completed on time.

By gathering all this information, you can create a comprehensive document that meets the necessary requirements and provides valuable insights.

Step 5 - Write the handover document

It's important to use clear and concise language that is easy to understand.

Including any necessary context or background information will make the document effective and easy to follow.

Step 6 - Review the document for accuracy and completeness

Check to make sure that all essential information and key areas have been included, and that there are no errors or omissions.

Take the time to carefully read through the document, paying close attention to each section and paragraph, to ensure that it is reliable and trustworthy. By giving the document a thorough review, you can be confident that it is accurate, complete, and serves its purpose.

Step 7 - Share the document

Be sure to provide any necessary context or a brief overview to make sure the person receiving your handover understands the content. By sharing the document, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands their responsibilities.

Provide a list of key contacts both within and outside the company. This includes team members, clients, or anyone crucial to the workflow. Making it easy for everyone involved to connect and collaborate.

Step 8 - Follow up with the stakeholders

By following up with key stakeholders, you can make sure that the handover process is successful and effective and that there are no loose ends.

This will help to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities and minimise any disruption to ongoing projects or tasks.

Reviewing process documents before handover

Best practices for a smooth and successful handover

In addition to creating comprehensive handover documents, there are several best practices that you should follow to ensure a successful handover. These include:

Planning ahead

When it comes to planning for a handover period, it's important to start preparing well in advance to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

This means taking stock of all the necessary documentation and making sure they’re up-to-date and easily accessible. You'll want to double-check that all important information is accounted for, it may be helpful to create a detailed checklist of tasks and deadlines to ensure that everything is completed on time, and nothing is overlooked.

With careful planning and preparation, you can help make sure that the handover process is as seamless and stress-free as possible.

Encouraging collaboration and communication

For a successful project handover, job handover, or any type of handover, effective communication and collaboration are crucial.

Start by creating clear lines of communication with the project team and ensure that all relevant stakeholders are involved throughout the different stages of ongoing projects. Conduct a handover meeting and provide regular status updates to build trust.

And remember, a handover document should not be one-sided. Encourage collaboration and open communication by providing space on the document for the recipient to ask questions, seek clarifications, and offer suggestions.

Building a supportive and inclusive environment through effective communication channels, promotes a smoother transition and empowers the recipient to take ownership of their new responsibilities.

Transferring knowledge

To ensure a successful handover, it's important to transfer knowledge to the receiving team or person taking over. This can be achieved through training or knowledge-sharing sessions that aim to provide a full understanding of the project's goals, objectives, and details.

The training sessions should cover all relevant information, including the project's timeline, scope, budget, and resources, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each team member.

Additionally, hands-on training, such as simulations or practice exercises, can be useful to help team members gain practical experience and develop the necessary skills to accomplish their tasks effectively.

It's equally important to provide ongoing support to the team, including access to relevant resources and documentation, to make sure they can overcome any challenges that may arise.

Addressing challenges

When preparing for a handover process, it's vital to take into account any potential challenges or risks that may arise. These could be related to technical issues, resource constraints, or even communication barriers.

To ensure a smooth and successful handover, it's important to be honest about these challenges and discuss them openly with all parties involved. This will allow for proactive problem-solving and minimise disruptions.

It's recommended to provide practical solutions or workarounds to address these challenges, and to maintain transparency throughout the process. By doing so, you can build trust and confidence among all stakeholders and ensure a successful handover.

Creating a project handover template

To streamline the handover process, you can develop a standardised project handover template that captures all the necessary information in a consistent and organised manner.

By customising the project handover template to suit the specific requirements of each project, project managers can enhance the efficiency of the handover process and reduce the risk of errors.

This will allow project managers to communicate information clearly and consistently to stakeholders, reducing confusion and misunderstandings. It also promotes transparency by providing a clear record of project activities, decisions, and outcomes.

2 people handing over a bag of work a process documents

What are the benefits of handover documentation?

Handover documentation not only helps with a smooth transition but also provides a valuable resource for future reference. In fact, there are several advantages of implementing comprehensive handover documentation in your company, including:

Continuity and consistency

Picture this: a team member is about to embark on a well-deserved holiday. Without proper handover notes and documentation, their absence could lead to confusion and disruptions.

By providing comprehensive handover documents, you can make sure that the workflow continues seamlessly in their absence. This not only maintains continuity but also upholds a consistent standard of work.

Time and resource efficiency

Handover documents act as a roadmap for the incoming team members, guiding them through daily tasks, responsibilities, and sharing essential information.

This means less time spent deciphering the nuances of a role and more time devoted to productive work. The efficiency gained from a well-documented handover translates into optimal resource usage and increased productivity.

Risk reduction and decision-making support

Handover documents serve as a valuable source of information, reducing the risk of significant knowledge loss due to employee turnover. They provide a central reference point for decision-making, helping new team members adapt quickly and make informed choices.

This knowledge continuity minimises the impact of employee changes on project timelines and outcomes.

Boosted employee morale

When employees feel supported and equipped to handle their responsibilities, morale soars. Handover documentation can empower your team by promoting a sense of self-sufficiency and confidence.

Knowing that they have access to all the documentation they need makes employees feel valued, contributing to a positive and motivated work environment.

Improved transparency

Transparent communication is the cornerstone of any successful workplace. Handover documents help create effective communication by making sure information is readily available and easily accessible.

This transparency promotes collaboration among team members, breaking down barriers and fostering a culture of shared knowledge.

Training and development opportunities

Handover documents can serve as valuable training materials for new employees, or employees transitioning to different roles within your company.

By maintaining detailed records of processes and procedures, you can streamline the onboarding and offboarding process, allowing employees to get up to speed quickly and efficiently.

Using Handover documentation to train new employees

Compliance and accountability

In industries where compliance is of utmost importance, handover documents play a crucial role in ensuring that tasks are executed according to established protocols.

These documents are essential in establishing a framework for accountability by using key performance indicators that clearly outline responsibilities, which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of errors or oversights.

The handover documents provide the receiving party with a detailed understanding of the project's history, objectives, and scope, enabling them to make informed decisions and manage the project effectively going forward.

From handover document creation to execution, you’ve got this!

Mastering the art of creating a successful handover document is a valuable skill for business owners, employers, and project managers alike. By understanding the document’s purpose, identifying essential elements, structuring the document effectively, providing clear instructions, and encouraging collaboration, you can ensure a seamless transition and empower your team members to succeed.

With BrightHR, you can keep all your handover documentation in one secure location. You get unlimited cloud-based document storage, which means you can upload, view, and download them from anywhere, at any time.

You can also assign documents to everyone involved in the handover and set read receipts to confirm that they have seen the documentation. Plus, you will receive notifications about important dates and deadlines, so you can take the necessary actions at the right time.

How could this look for your business?

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Leaving you to embrace the power of well-crafted handover documentation and watch as your company thrives in the face of change.

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