A Warm Turnover

Reading the title of this post, your thoughts may have gone to a delicious pastry of some type. While we can all agree that may be a more delectable topic to cover, the type of turnover I am here to talk about is the turning over of a position (aka starting a new job). There are countless posts on job hunts, interviews, and acceptance criteria (negotiations, etc.) but we tend to ignore what happens on the first day.

So you’ve been through 2-3 interviews and feel fairly comfortable. You know the requirements and expectations of the new position you are stepping into, but when you arrive on that first day, you realize you have no idea “how things really work here”.

You understand what your tasks technically are, but you have no idea about the answers to the “really” questions:

  • Who is “really” in charge here?
  • Who should I “really” go to with any questions?
  • What is/are the main task/tasks that are “really” the most important to my job?
  • Who are the people I can “really” count on for quality work?

This is the type of info you want to get in a turnover and what I will be discussing in this post.

Before we get into exactly what a “Warm Turnover” is and how to masterfully create one, it may help to define the other two types of turnovers we have all experienced when we start a new position.

Cold Turnover: These are (depressingly) the most common way to start a new position. You walk in on Monday only knowing that “Brett from HR” will meet you in the lobby at 8am. Brett will have you sign a bunch of paperwork and probably show you where you sit and where the bathroom is. If you are lucky, Brett might even show you where the coffee is. You can, however, forget about any of the turnover gold I described in the bullet points above. Brett has no idea about the politics of the office you are working in and probably doesn’t really understand what your office even does.

Hot Turnover: These are awesome on the rare occasion they actually happen. This normally takes place when you are able to start your new position while the person you are replacing is still working full-time in their/your position. (Disclaimer: we are assuming that this person is leaving voluntarily/happily for greener pastures.) You have the most wonderful of terms here: “overlap”. This is a dream because you have someone who literally has been doing your job AND they are able to spend 100% of their time getting you up to speed. If you have ever had one of these, you know how helpful they can be in setting you up for success.

This brings us to the often ignored middle child, the Warm Turnover. What is a warm turnover you ask? At its most basic, it simply means that the person you are taking over for still “exists” in some way that you can reach out for occasional and quick guidance. This usually means that this person has taken on a new role somewhere else in the company. That means they still have to be a “team player” and help get the new guy up to speed. While this person may or may not want to spend time getting the new guy up to speed, one thing is for certain: The quality of their advice will go down as the amount of their time taken to give it goes up. What does this mean you may ask? Simply, you will get much better data on the first question than you will on the fortieth question.

First off, I highly recommend you take your predecessor out to lunch or coffee (on you) for this session. You are much more likely to have a fruitful conversation in person than via email. Please note that I am making the questions as straight-forward as possible for this post, but I highly recommend you put all of these through a full “professional filter”, especially if it is with someone you are not familiar with. With that said, what questions should you ask the “old you”?

  1. What did you find the most important aspect of this job to be?
  2. This sounds insanely simplistic, but it is very helpful to be able to discern the thirty things that were in your job description from the one to three things that really matter and will be the sink/swim factors in your job.
  • Is there anything you can tell me about the office or people I will be working with?
  • Keep this as open ended as possible because his question is pure fishing on your part.
  • Best-case scenario, they will freely share their thoughts and you will get some huge insight on how the office really works. Maybe even an idea on who to go for things and who to avoid at all costs. If they are willing to share, your best course of action is to keep them talking for a long as possible. If you are lucky, the answers to this question will take the majority of your one-on-one time with them.
  • Worst-case scenario, they are about as forthcoming as a rock. They only took the meeting with you because it is the bare minimum of what it takes to be considered a “team player” and because they wanted a free coffee/lunch. The other possibility here is that they give you the most plain and generic answers that offer no true insight. If this happens, you end up with no useful info and out a few dollars for the coffee or lunch, but at least you tried.
  • Done!
  • That’s it! Save all your future questions (and their time) for future situations where their answers on process or technical situations will truly prove invaluable. Remember what I said earlier, “The quality of their advice will go down as the amount of their time taken to give it goes up”. Save some of that goodwill for later. This is definitely a situation where you do not want to go to the well too often.

I truly hope this post has helped with defining the turnover process and my thoughts on how to navigate the process. Please stay tuned as I hope to post more here in the future.