How to Write a Handover Document

When a business undergoes rapid expansion or faces staff turnover, employee onboarding becomes vital. Having a slick, effective onboarding experience can reduce the disruption to daily operations and ensure an uninterrupted workflow.

In most cases, existing staff want to get new employees up-to-speed as quickly as possible – communicating responsibilities, critical information and topline training in a short space of time. A great way of achieving this is with effective handover documentation.

Here, we’ll explore what a handover document is, the importance it has during employee onboarding and how you can structure your own.

What is a handover document?

A handover document (or documentation) is a breakdown of the essential information that a person coming into a role needs to know.

The handover document may include a broad range of information but will typically include the scope, duties, timeline, budgets, challenges, targets and deadlines of a role or project.

Depending on the nature of the handover document, it may also provide insight into how to perform a certain task, how a team operates and key information such as related clients or stakeholders.

A handover document is generally used when an employee leaves – either temporarily or permanently – and someone has to cover or take on their role. Handover documentation may also be used when onboarding new employees onto a larger project, ensuring that everyone is brought up to speed quickly.

What are the different types of handover document?

Fundamentally, a handover document is just a transfer of information and has a number of potential applications. Some of the most common types of handover document are: 

Knowledge Handover: This is probably the most common type of handover document and is ideal for when you need to train a new employee on a particular task, a set of responsibilities or introduce them to a project. This handover document should be structured in a way that’s easy to understand and provides a well-rounded overview of the subject you’re trying to ‘teach’.

Project handover: Having a handover document is useful when you’re working on a larger project that goes through multiple teams. An example of this is a project that goes from a design team to a development team and then through to a marketing team. At each stage of handover, it’s vital that the incoming team understand the larger goals at play, as well as the work that has already been completed. 

Department handover: Functionally similar to a project handover, a department handover is used when one department shuts down and another takes on their work. The goal of the department handover is to ensure that no responsibilities or tasks are forgotten about during the transition.

Take a Look at Our Available Jobs

Ready to find a new job? Take a look at the vacancies that we have available across the Channel Islands.

How to create a handover document

You’ll want to start creating the handover document before you start the process itself. You can follow the steps below on how to create a handover document and we’ve included the things you need to do to make sure it’s effective and accessible.

1. Identify who the handover is for

Before you start writing anything, think about what the handover document will be used for. Is the employee switching roles within the company? Or will they be a new starter entering the business? Is it a simple project update between teams? All of these questions will dictate the structure of the handover, the language you use and how in-depth you need to be.

2. Gather all of the necessary data and decide on a format

Once you know the scope of the document, it’s time to gather all of the content you need to make it useful. This may be a simple text document that explains each individual element but you may need to include specific figures or data that your business commonly uses. In this instance, choosing the right format is vital. Commonly you’ll use a text document or a PDF, but you may use a spreadsheet to communicate important figures. Mix and match formats based on what tool is best for communicating your information.

3. Provide a clearly defined rundown of scope and responsibilities

 The handover should provide an overview of the responsibilities and scope of the position or project they’re taking over. This is the most important element to include if you’re creating a handover document for a successor but applies to other types also. This may include:

  • A list of tasks and descriptions
  • The skills or software needed to complete these tasks – with a walkthrough if necessary
  • Deliverable targets
  • How to report on these deliverables and in which format
  • Explanations around processes specific to the business or team
  • Possible challenges or previous experiences to avoid
  • A breakdown of hierarchy including line management


Essentially, think about all of the things that you wished you’d known when you started a role, or information that is vital to the day-to-day success of the position.

Once you have that list, write it down in a way that is easy-to-understand. Avoid jargon and terms that you might use on a daily basis but might not be immediately obvious to a newcomer.

4. Set up a handover meeting

Once you’ve created the handover document, you may want to go through it in a meeting. This isn’t always necessary (or possible) but can help reinforce what you’ve already written down. 

Each of the key stakeholders should be in the meeting so that everybody knows where they stand and nothing is miscommunicated. This is particularly important during project handovers, where critical details may get missed or explained incorrectly.