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Community Contribution

Tips on Navigating Staff Transition

Oct 17, 2017
Learning Lab

During the CLA Community of Practice's June virtual dialogue, panelists and community members shared experiences and  good practices for managing staff transitions. Below is a list of key recommendations that emerged, as well as a list of resources the panelists recommended. It incudes tips for staff members coming in, those departing, and anyone working to build systems that improve handovers and knowledge capture across the mission or team.


  • Chelsea Jaccard Kaufman - PPL/LER; FSO
  • Grace Musoke - USAID/Uganda; FSN, Knowledge Management Specialist
  • Leah Denise Wyatt - USAID/Uganda; Learning Fellow
  • Miriam Choy - USAID/Peru; FSN, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Top Tips for...

Anyone trying to improve staff transition across a Mission or Office:

  • Create ownership of the staff transition process--and incentives for departing staff to put time into it--by developing clear procedures, identifying the people responsible, and having leadership message the importance of following through.
  • The transition system as a whole needs ownership and continuity--it should live with one person who takes overall ownership/stewardship over the system.
  • Creating sponsors for different content areas helps to provide greater orientation and also to share the responsibility (e.g. both DRC Education team and USAID/Uganda have not just a social sponsor but an office sponsor and a cultural sponsor, who is an FSN)
  • When possible, work in collaboration with EXO or other offices within the mission that work closely with the roles in transition to ensure that there are POCs for onboarding or offboarding processes.
  • Elevate the role of FSNs as carriers of institutional knowledge--including as "sponsors" for incoming staff and/or as stewards of the overall system.
  • Surface knowledge and lessons of the outgoing staff member with an exit interview. Ask departing staff member to reflect on experience throughout their time at the mission -- not just the final months. Capture the interview on video, or with a handover note.
  • Consider carrying out a CDCS (or other strategy) refresher exercise to remind existing staff and orient new staff on the broader purpose of the organization..
  • If you have a mission or team charter, or other document articulating how you work together, share it and explain the context.

Incoming Staff:

  • If possible, reach out to  the departing staff member before your arrival to get his/her informal perspectives and ask questions about the context.
  • When you arrive, expect to be--and signal clearly that you are--in learning mode. Regardless of your expertise, there will be important contextual factors that will take time to understand. Seek to understand how things are currently done, and why, before making changes.
  • Get to know others on your team, what they work on, what they are good at, and what they care about. The way to get up to speed quickly is not to know everything yourself--it's to know who knows.

Departing Staff:

  • Be intentional in your planning for handovers, and expect it to take some time - putting in the time and effort is the best way to preserve the legacy of your work.
  • Provide detailed handover notes for your replacement. Include contextual knowledge as well as a description of how activities or the position being filled relates to the CDCS.
  • Think about the relationships (both inside and outside the Mission) that are necessary for the activity to continue. If there will be no physical overlap between you and your replacement, prepare some who overlaps with you both to "mind the gap," i.e. to pass on those introductions and the contextual knowledge about those relationships.
  • Reach out to the person who will be replacing you to talk on the phone and provide more informal information and context.

Helpful Resources on Staff Transitions: