Over the years as I have left various positions and started new ones, I have always felt the best training tool was a turn-over book, a how-to-do-your-job training guide. Some might say, it is the perfect training tool. It is and it isn’t. Depends. Sometimes.
The alternative to a turn-over guide book is to be able to meet your predecessor and find out first hand, understanding that his or her perceptions may be colored by their personal negative experiences. Of course, if everything is wonderful, look out!
Only once was I fortunate to have the person I was replacing still on the job for me to shadow. The result was less than satisfying, but I did learn something valuable. Her contacts became my contacts, but the relationships I established were totally different. There were people on her list who had varying degrees of value in my position as a community relations managers and as such, contacts and the relationships you establish are everything.
She had provided me, not so much a turn-over book, but a contact list with notes–notes I discovered I needed to be somewhat skeptical of in her characterization of the contact’s value and find out for myself. Many of her negative contacts became my positive contacts. Call it chemistry or new blood, but we attracted different people who wanted to work with us. She was successful in her way and I in mine. But as I said, this experience is an exception in most cases–at least for me.
Usually, you just get the “book,” and a chance to talk with the other employees, and again personality plays a role in determining the perspective. But the guide can have its uses. It can provide all the contacts and tell you where to go for this or that. It can lay out in practical terms how to perform your job. Still, schedule a meeting to talk to the managers you will be working with–especially your predecessor’s supervisor about what they perceive the job to entail. The book could have it wrong; it can always be improved. If management wasn’t satisfied with the job your predecessor was doing, and that is why you were hired in the first place, you may not have to schedule a meeting; one will be scheduled for you. In addition, all the water cooler information from others to take into account will come at you more like a waterfall.
Transitions are tough. Total newcomers to the organization haven’t a clue about how things work, politically or otherwise–water cooler stuff that you can’t put in writing–unless you want to make a lot of enemies and be blackballed for life. A little exaggeration, perhaps, but your reputation will certainly suffer. “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts” go into a turn-over book. Sometimes the guides are best kept private for a variety of reasons such as secrets of the trade, confidential sources, or special perks that you may not want public. However, it should go without saying that everything should be legal and on the up-and-up.
As training goes, the impact of a turn-over book can be tremendous in giving you a heads-up, or disastrous if you don’t use common sense in using it. It can contain valuable resource information that would take a lot of time gathering yourself. In many ways, this resource tool is more important than the more formal training that is bound to follow; this might even be a training supplement to the information you receive formally. The book enables you to start immediately doing the job.
Be careful. Pitfalls are everywhere in the personalities you encounter, the facts you need to verify, the organization’s culture, as well as the boss’ perception and vision for you that is not written in that turn-over book. Don’t turn over your career to it. Determine it’s value and go your own way as professional as possible.
For more resources about training, see the Training library.
For a look at the human side of training from my Cave Man perspective, please check out my book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development. Happy training.