If some of your tasks have been reassigned to a colleague, how do you ensure a smooth handover?

Assigning and coordinating work is an important challenge companies face in trying to maximise effectiveness and efficiency, says industrial psychologist Brandon Koh.

“Therefore, there are many good reasons for reassigning job tasks, and it does not necessarily mean that the person whose tasks were removed had been underperforming in them,” said Dr Koh, a lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

For instance, employees may get their tasks reassigned to another to free them for other tasks when organisations restructure.

“This may be because processes are better streamlined in other departments, and resources elsewhere are not fully utilised.”

Task reassignments may also be a form of job rotation, he added.

This helps employees learn how different parts of the organisation operate together, increases their skill diversity and reduces monotony.

Employees who are worried their tasks were reassigned due to a lack of competence can ask their employer or colleague why this happened, said Assistant Professor Jared Nai from Singapore Management University.

Otherwise, they can observe how the colleague compares in competence, whether the colleague requested the tasks, and if they received new tasks in place of the reassigned ones.

Being assigned new tasks suggests that the employee was reallocated tasks they would likely perform better in, as assessed by their employer, said Prof Nai, an organisational behaviour and human resources researcher.

Fewer job responsibilities after the reassignment may indicate a performance issue, or even signal possible redundancy.

Regardless of the reason for the handover, the employee needs to ensure the colleague taking over their tasks is set up for success.

For a start, the person handing over his tasks should review information about how he performed those tasks, said Dr Koh.

“This can come in the form of reviewing and updating workflow charts, standard operating procedures, decision trees, and any useful templates they rely on.”

The employee should be present as much as possible during the handover process, ensure there is sufficient time to conduct the handover on top of his colleague’s existing duties, and make himself available to answer questions even after the official handover process, said Prof Nai.

Bosses and employers also have a role to play in ensuring a conducive environment for smooth handovers.

“In my experience, many problems with handovers tend to breed well before the handover itself is due,” said Dr Koh.

“Bosses facilitating handovers should have a clear idea of how work processes should flow ideally.

“This is not always the case when tasks, particularly administrative ones, get delegated without being reviewed or when the designed processes are not well followed in the first place.”

Dr Koh said that problems that are difficult to troubleshoot and have been swept under the rug for a long time may resurface during or after handovers.

“This tends to happen when employees are fearful of speaking up about problems because they do not believe they will receive adequate help, or even get punished for them.

“Managers can avoid this by cultivating a culture that is willing to listen to employees’ problems and troubleshoot problems alongside employees on the ground when they appear.”

Text: Tay Hong Yi/The Straits Times