Creating an Employee Transition Plan (With Template)

There’s nothing more detrimental to a business than a good employee in the wrong position or vice versa. This is why it’s in the interest of the organization to minimize the mismatch and manage the process smoothly with a comprehensive employee transition plan. Having a plan in place is about more than just the bottom line. It’s about assessing and managing relationships on all sides. In an environment where 20% of employees are in the wrong positions, the impact can be felt throughout the organization and beyond, requiring a smarter way to move.


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What is an employee transition plan?

An employee transition is the same as a horizontal reassignment within the company that doesn’t require more advanced skills or warrant a pay increase. It can also mean someone is taking a leave of absence or leaving the company altogether. When looking at the transition as a lateral move, there are quite a few reasons why someone may slip into a similar position within a company:

  • Reallocation: There may be a time when employees with similar duties need to be shuffled as a way of breathing new life into a position and effecting positive changes.
  • Exchange: Much like a student exchange program, two organizations can swap employees of similar levels for training and gaining different experiences.
  • RIF: Reduction in force (RIF) means the workforce is smaller, and that means certain employees are transitioned to critical jobs or reassigned with additional duties to compensate.

While the terms may be used interchangeably, an employee transition is not the same as a transfer. An employee transfer is a way for employees to gain more experience within a business — an opportunity to help the employee develop a career path and may come with a raise and a new title.


Why businesses need an employee transition plan

The process of replacing an employee needs to be planned. This is a strategy that’s similar to forward filling because it maintains a more proactive approach versus the typical reactive response. It’s not enough to just grab someone and put them in the position until you figure things out. A transition plan requires consideration and assessment because it:

  • Addresses uncertainty: One of the reasons this process is complex is the uncertainty. There are questions about how certain operational duties are going to be handled and how expectations of certain roles are going to be defined or redefined. Businesses need an employee business plan because it minimizes uncertainty and promotes transparency. It’s a form of communication that reduces concerns and fears among peers and management.
  • Recognizes that third parties may depend on the employee: In some cases, the employee does specific tasks that tie them to other departments or customers. This adds to the challenge of the transition. Employers need to understand what the role’s place is in the hierarchy and plan for that adjustment.
  • Alleviates potential risks: Without the plan, the department and the business itself are at risk. For example, if a position plays a key role in handling customers or vendors, not having a proper plan in place puts those relationships in jeopardy, resulting in a possible failure to achieve regular business goals.

Gathering the full scope of the employee’s role is critical so training can start quickly and be as thorough as possible.


Strategies for a more successful employee transition

For a business to make the most of any transition, its strategy needs to include speaking to employees and asking them how they want to develop. This kind of engagement helps you understand the skills and talents they may not be using to the fullest in their current position. This type of research goes beyond simple questions that ask what the employee would rather be doing; you need to find ways to draw the employee out and develop them so they can put forth their best for the company.


Even if the employee is not new to the company, they are new to the department or unit and need to be trained and onboarded appropriately. This means engaging in mentorship or some other system to support their transition process. In the case of moving misplaced talent, companies need to keep a better eye on morale by letting them know that the goal is to explore their full potential and provide easy access to open internal positions. Letting them know that their employer wants them to stay with the company affects not just their productivity but that of those around them.

Different approaches to the transition process


To make the best of the transition process, organizations can take a few approaches to customizing their employee transition plan:

  • The Complexity Theory fully integrates the employee into the process and looks at the company culture and how it influences any changes that happen.
  • Changes Model is a five-step approach that looks at how conflict plays a role in the employee transition and finds ways to minimize it to bring success. It’s singularly focused, so it’s not suitable for every situation.
  • Model of Planned Change links individual behavior to the change and how it impacts transition outcomes.
  • BSFOR, Brief Solution-Focused Organizational Redesign, uses a consultancy approach. Because it looks at the transition from a client/consultant point of view, which doesn’t fit all examples, it incorporates the complexity theory and embraces the dynamic nature of the organization.
  • Managing Organizational Redesign incorporates the Pyramid of Organizational Development and the organizational life cycle to ascertain the tasks that will set the company up for success. HR’s role in managing employee needs is a focus, but the process takes a look at the growth and pain factors involved.
  • Stream Organizational Model links individual success and organizational effectiveness. It ties the employee’s contribution to the organization’s performance and speaks to the responsibility the organization has to the employee, especially when it comes to participating in the transition process.

What your employee transition plan template should look like

Just as with many things, timing is crucial. You need to roll out your plan the minute you know the employee is about to leave or has departed—in many cases, the quicker the better. The plan should have at least four parts:

  1. Core duties and responsibilities: These are the duties and responsibilities that have a direct impact on the company’s processes—the company would be left in the lurch if they were incomplete. In some cases, existing employees can handle some of these tasks, but you need a dedicated person to juggle them all.
  2. Project statuses: This includes a detailed list of all projects that are in progress, their status, how to access associated files and the next steps needed to bring them to fruition. In many cases, the major projects may require separate documents and details.
  3. Standalone outstanding deadlines: These are projects that may not be associated with a deadline and can include regular tasks such as responding to a particular vendor or customer.
  4. Key contacts: To make things flow more smoothly, the new person needs to know who to contact, when and why. This is the list that makes certain parts of the job easier to maneuver.

Ideally, the employee and employer or supervisor work together to create a checklist with basic transition plan details, such as the necessary knowledge base, transition plan agreement and resources. With this plan, employees get to see just how their work impacts the company, creating a sense of professional pride.


Transition plan template

Companies that are prepared for the unexpected will have several contingency plans in place. They know how to communicate with their teams clearly and concisely and create an understandable plan. Here is an example of what the template looks like:


Dear [supervisor name],


Here is the transition plan for my current position [title] that lays out my core responsibilities, project statuses, stand-alone projects and key contacts. All related documents are located in [file path]. As discussed, my last day is [date], so if there are any questions, please let me know.


All the best,


[employee name]


Core duties and responsibilities






Project outstanding

Project name:



Team roster:

Relevant deadlines/milestones:

Project files:

Upcoming deadlines




Key contacts:





Description of collaboration:


Employee transition plan FAQs


How do you handle transitions in the workplace?

The best way to handle transitions in the workplace is by giving them time. The idea of a new situation can be overwhelming, but with a proper plan in place, it becomes more manageable and likely to succeed.


What is a project transition plan?

A project transition plan is a layout of the entire project as it stands. This ensures a successful transition to another team so there’s no delay. It shows the status of the project, the tasks that need to be performed, milestones, team members and the location of all relevant documents.


What is the purpose of a transition plan?

The purpose of the transition plan is to ensure continuity. It lists all tasks, duties and responsibilities that need to be done for the success of the unit, the business and its employees.

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