How To Manage Your Personal Assistant’s Departure

Published on May 23, 2018

The right transition plan between employees ensures a smooth transition. Click To TweetYour Personal Assistant handing in their notice can feel life shattering.  You have a great working relationship and your PA makes your life run smoothly, now is the time to jump into action.

Whether you already have a plan or not, there are still things you can do to ease the transition and there are some relatively simple things you can do to which we will look at in more detail.  Remember you have been given notice so it is up to you to use that time wisely.

So what is the best approach to dealing with a departing employee?

Be Proactive

Once you have an idea of how you can cover the position temporarily or permanently you really need to be proactive in gathering all the information for your new PA or those covering the role will need in the future. Your existing PA should want to help with this. A note of caution – it can be tempting to continue to add to your PA’s work load by asking them to document lots of things for the future, or complete projects before they leave. You want them to leave on a high note so try to find a solution which gives everyone the information they need without causing ill feeling or resentment.

The last few weeks are your golden opportunity to manage the change for all involved and this includes the rest of the team working alongside your PA. Change can be difficult and stressful for the whole team and managing it correctly is crucial.

Re-organisation

Is there someone already on your own staff who could step up and take over from your PA? Is there an obvious person? Perhaps someone who covers for your PA when they are on holiday. They will likely know a lot of the tasks your PA does for you and will already have some experience to develop quickly into the role. Perhaps your PA has there own assistant? Whilst you may not feel they are ready for the full job, could they hold the fort whilst you recruit a new member of staff, either on their own or with support from someone else? Another option is to look at your PA’s duties and tasks. Are they tasks other people could do, permanently or temporarily with a little re-organisation? Your PA may be responsible for greeting guests and ensuring they are comfortable, or taking telephone messages for you. Could your reception, house manager or switch board staff perhaps take on these roles?

Shadowing

Having thought about who might take over your PA’s responsibilities, it is a good idea to assign the person stepping up to shadow your PA so that they can identify and pick up the undocumented things your PA does. There are likely to be quite a few as a PA’s role is often reactive and proactive, with speed being of the essence and the objective to make your life run smoothly. Their actual job role may have expanded somewhat with time and experience. These are the important titbits of information you want to gather. This process is equally important if you intend to split the role among other employees so that everyone knows what is expected of them and nothing is overlooked. In this case it is important to nominate a single person to shadow your PA and then centralise all the information gathered so that everyone who needs it has easy access to it. Your nominated person will also be able to act as a central point, they may not be able to deal with the issue personally but point people in the direction of the person who can.

Let Your Staff Know the Plan

A colleague leaving can be a moral hit for a team, so a carefully managed plan of change is important to ensure that remaining staff have the confidence they can cope after your PA leaves. Being clear on how things will change and what plans are being put in place for the future are very important. Let them know you will listen to their concerns and ensure you respond quickly to them. Being transparent will ensure any issues are highlighted and dealt with whilst you have your PA with you to help. Outline clearly any lines of report changes and role changes so everyone is clear. To ensure you help maintain morale, compliment your remaining team on their loyalty and ability to work together as a team. Let them know you have trust in them and will listen to them. Arrange and hold lots of meetings with the remaining and leaving staff; these meetings should be an opportunity for information to be transferred and any new tasks practiced whilst your PA is still there to help and guide. All of which will help your remaining staff to develop confidence in the plans for the future and be clear on them going forward. Answering questions at this point will really help.

Ask for Help

The last two weeks can be stressful but it is important your PA continues to help, rather than mentally checking out. Your PA should be happy to help support the plan you have put in place, supporting those taking over, so that they are able to cope once left on their own. It is vital to collect all the information you can from your PA before they leave. Every situation is different, the person shadowing should pick up a lot of information for you. But there will be lots of things that your PA does less regularly that might be missed. So ask them to help you understand their role, this will also enable you to be sure you have all your bases covered, should you be splitting responsibilities temporarily or permanently throughout your staff.

  1. A list of your PA’s regular contacts is very useful so that you can let them know about the change in staff. Knowing who your PA talks to, to get things done quickly will make a big difference to the speed at which things happen after they leave. Speaking to the right people can make a huge difference, so this is crucial.
  2. Ask your PA where they saw the projects going. Guidance on the next steps, should they have stayed with you, will make it a little easier for the person taking over to move the project forward in the right direction for you.
  3. Are there any important key items or issues you should know about or be looking to address in any work in progress? This should highlight anything which needs attention quickly or may require a little more thought or input from you personally.
  4. Ask them what they see are the top three projects they are involved in at the moment that could not be sidelined temporarily and need urgent attention.
  5. Ask them for the key contacts, files and information necessary so that whomever takes on these projects is completely up to speed before your PA leaves. Knowing exactly who the key players are and who the gatekeepers are will make things move much smoother for the person taking over.
  6. How has your job evolved since you started? This is crucial to understand fully, it is likely that as they have grown and developed they have taken on more tasks for you. Understanding exactly what your PA does in the background will enable you to ensure their successor has all the skills they need. Asking them to write a basic job description covering all their current duties is a good way to condense all the information.
  7. Ask your PA to outline their daily task and routine in easy-to-understand steps.

Centralise Information

Make sure you centralise all the information your PA provides you with and the information collected when shadowed. Ensure that anyone who needs the files etc can easily find and access the information they need.

Recognise Your PA’s Contribution

Whilst it may be stressful and frustrating that your PA is leaving, it is important to remain professional. Try to maintain balance. It can be tempting to try to ensure you get all the information you need by increasing their workload. Don’t overload them with work. Everyone should be on good terms. Plan something nice to recognise their contribution and show your appreciation. Including the rest of the team helps to maintain morale and transparency in your plans.

Prepare for Next Time and Learn.

Use the experience to learn and plan for the next time to minimise any negative impacts. It is a great opportunity to move things forward, find a new member of staff for the future, adapt and improve. Is there an area where as a team you would benefit from a little more skill or knowledge? This might be the perfect opportunity to bring in house that skill or knowledge. Use it as the impetus to adapt, become more efficient and move forward.
Life and the world around us it not static, things will always change. People’s lives change for so many reasons so being prepared to manage that change when a person moves on is critical to the health of your team and business.
Create a way of working which allows responsibility and information to be shared and promotes collaboration. That way should someone leave or be off sick, others can help and pick up where they left off temporarily or permanently or until the right person is found to take over.

Be Proactive Rather than Reactive

Developing and maintaining an inventory of skills and weaknesses your staff have will help you to easily identify where you can redistribute duties and where your team might benefit from a boost in the future when recruiting a new member of staff.  Create a list of names of people and agencies you can contact to get a quick replacement. Polo & Tweed is able to guide you through the recruitment process and can make the process more time efficient for you. A good recruitment agency will have vetted and reference checked candidates ready for you to interview. They will select the best CVs against your criteria so you don’t have to wade through hundreds of CVs, streamlining the process and saving you valuable time.

If your PA has handed in their notice and you would like further support to recruit a new member of staff, Polo & Tweed would love to help.  You can get in touch with us.

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