Sunday, 30 November 2014

Does a long notice period hold back your organisation?

My last role had a long notice period of three months.  Although long notice periods are intended to protect an organisation, I think they can act as a detriment.

I remember being concerned when I took on the role that a three month notice period could make job hunting tricky as and when I wanted to move on.  I could easily imagine this being a deciding factor for a team that wanted someone to start as soon as possible, no matter how suitable I was.

"Don't worry, you can negotiate it down when you want to leave" ... I was told.  This didn't really console me as broaching this subject would reveal my intentions of leaving before the new role was agreed.  In any event, I signed the contract and agreed to the notice period.

When it was time for me to move on (after four great years at said company) I decided to hand in my notice before getting my new role agreed.  I also elected to work my notice period in full and did not ask to leave early.

I thought I could make the long notice period work in my favour and also gain more of a sense of control by setting my last day as opposed to it being up for debate.  Any extra feeling of control to help with the jump into the unknown of a new job felt good.  It was also good not having to sneak out for interviews, and being able to talk openly with colleagues about my job hunt.  The other contributing factor was that my new role was to be freelance which typically involves getting work at much shorter notice.  To some extent my hands were tied here

After completing my notice period and handing over my responsibilities, I've come to a few conclusions.

If the handover takes a long time - something is wrong that can't be fixed with a long notice period.

If it takes you more than a month to handover your responsibilities to other members of the team, it suggest to me that you might be a key man dependency.  This should be addressed with continuous knowledge sharing and proper collaboration... not long handovers.  Don't rely on the long notice period to fix this important issue.

Short notice period

Looking back, I'd argue for a short (one month) notice period for the following reasons:
  • It forces you to address the issue of key man dependencies because you can't fall back on the "get out of jail free card" of long multi-month handover sessions.  
  • A team member who wants to leave will never be as committed as someone who wants to stay.  Why keep them longer than absolutely necessary.
  • It might stop potential candidates from joining your organisation.
Discuss...