Passing the baton: how to ensure a successful handover
Occasionally the opportunity comes along to move laterally within an organization. This allows the flexing of skills and talents, provides a better fit within the organization, and is an opportunity for growth and change. While it’s exciting, there’s bound to be some nerves as well. And what about the new person that fills the role left behind? There are positives to having someone still at the organization, but it can also be difficult to navigate. In the fall of 2021, we began this process together. Jessica shifted to Senior Manager of Convenings and Olivia joined the organization as Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships. We learned a lot through this process and wanted to share our experiences.
The first steps for both of us didn’t look that different from preparing for any new role – we reviewed the job description, met with our manager to discuss the roles, and hoped we would do our best. One of the benefits of staying within the organization was that I (Jessica) could prioritize preparing the most important processes or summaries for the new person and knew that there wasn’t a hard deadline for the work to end so it wasn’t rushed.
Even with preparation, this kind of transition brings along some challenges. Below we outline a few we faced.
Jessica: It was hard to know someone new was taking over my responsibilities and would be judging my processes, successes, and failures. Even knowing that my manager and the organization trusted me enough to give me a new role, I worried a lot that things wouldn’t pass muster once Olivia had a good look at them. I also prepared myself for feeling a bit possessive. Even though I was excited to move into my new role, some of the projects I was passing on to Olivia were ones I had started and seen grow, so it was hard to let them go.
Olivia: It was nerve-racking coming in with new ideas knowing the person who nurtured these clients being passed over to me and was so invested in the success of the role previously was still with the organization and working closely with me. I wanted to make sure I was being respectful of the work that came before me and understanding why certain processes were in place before making any swift adjustments. In the same respect, I also felt the need to prove myself a bit by bringing new ideas to the table that would positively impact the organization. Lastly, I came from a totally different industry and was concerned about catching on quickly enough for someone who’d been in the sector for years prior.
Transitioning projects and contacts
Olivia: Jessica was instrumental in my success thus far in my new role. The knowledge she was able to pass on to me up front saved me a ton of time in research! I felt like I was able to really jump right in when I got to Humentum. I still have questions for her when I’m diving into new projects, or when something industry related comes up (as I’m still gathering this knowledge), but she’s always willing to help and I couldn’t be more grateful for that!
Jessica: We spent about two months working together and introducing Olivia to external contacts and that made it easier to let things go. Plus, my new projects needed attention, so it became easier and easier to focus on those and stop feeling like old projects were still “mine.” It also helped that Olivia is amazing to work with – she was probably tired of hearing me say “I don’t want to overstep, let me know if I’m butting in too much.”
Jessica: I am generally an over-communicator (I think!), so I tried to be very clear at the beginning how excited I was to have Olivia on board and that I was happy to give things up to her as quickly as she wanted. We met frequently in the beginning and were both very honest about being excited and nervous while trying very hard not to impose or assume anything about how the transition would work. I know this process honed some of my communication skills while reminding me to let people ask for help instead of pushing it on them.
Olivia: Jessica made it very clear from the start that she was here to help me get up and running. That definitely made me feel comfortable going to her with questions. I also still look to her for background knowledge when I’m evaluating new ideas which is especially helpful to have an internal resource like this! I typically prefer to try to work things out myself as much as possible before bringing anyone a bunch of questions, and I knew Jessica was already busy in her new role, so I tried my best not to overburden her. For the first month or so, we also connected weekly for a quick chat so I could batch some of my questions and bring them to her all at once – an awesome time saver and great way to have “face-to-face” engagement and get to know each other better.
This process also had a lot of positives – for both of us as well as Humentum.
Jessica: A lateral move means that the institutional knowledge that an employee has stays with the organization a bit longer. Even with rigorous notes and record keeping, not all of our relationship management details are captured, and I’m glad I’ve been on hand to answer questions as they come up rather than Olivia having to figure things out or start from scratch.
Olivia: I couldn’t agree more! There’s been a couple times where I was digging for previous client conversations for some time and was able to get an answer from Jessica with additional background context within minutes.
Continuity in external relationships
Olivia: Jessica made this part of my onboarding particularly easy. The clients I took over knew I was coming and were excited to connect. I started off each of the relationships I now manage with a super high-level introductory call to get me up to speed and gave them a way to provide me with their insights and feedback on our existing partnership and offerings. Jessica, again, was wonderful in making sure I knew who to talk to from each organization and rerouting things my way when needed.
Jessica: Since Olivia’s position involves a lot of external relationship building, I made sure contacts knew a transition was coming before we knew who would be taking over the role. Then, each contact received an introductory email, so they knew Olivia had started and was now their primary contact. There’s been a few gentle reminders, frequent copying in on emails, and lots of “let me get Olivia, she’s leading this now,” but I think our contacts appreciated having both of us available so they were getting answers quickly instead of having to chase through the chain of auto-response emails to find the right person.
Jessica: This move has been a great opportunity in more than one way. I was excited to shift my focus into something new and to develop skills I’d only marginally been using. Staying with Humentum also means I get to see how Olivia (and Humentum) grows projects and makes things better over time – something you only get at a distance if you leave an organization. And, maybe the best part, I already have established connections with my colleagues, so I get to keep those valuable working relationships and collaborate in new ways.
Olivia: I was so excited to join the Humentum team and was certainly not disappointed when I got here! I was looking for a way to apply my skills to a new venture, and this was the perfect opportunity for me. The open forum communication outlets Humentum provides are invaluable, and everyone has been so welcoming and willing to jump in to provide insights. Having the built-in support system also gave me more confidence to try new things and push my ideas further. It’s hard to feel unsuccessful in a role when your team is so supportive and encouraging.
While taking on a new job can be exciting, it is also nerve-wracking. Knowing someone in the organization will be there to help can minimize some of the nerves but brings a new set of challenges. It’s been fun for us to work through those challenges and see the benefits.