The HR Forum

Three Months Notice Period - Too Long?

conversation on Twitter caught my eye this morning from one of our DPG community friends Dan Hewitt. Morning Dan (*waves)

Some great questions here....

I've some experience of working a three-month notice and also working with people going through the same process. It's a very different experience from both sides to the traditional one-month notice.

What's the reason for them {3 month notice periods}?

I'm no expert on this, but from what I've seen three month notice periods seem to be common for 'key players' in organisations .  They're likely to have knolwedge and information that simply can't be handed over in just a few weeks. They could also be useful playing a role in finding, selecting and recruiting their replacement. There's also the support that they can provide during the induction period of that replacement. That's sometimes possible given three months notice, but In a situation where this person is just contracted to work a one-month notice period it's highly unlikely that their replacement will be starting until well after they've left.

I also think that three-month notice periods aren't always related to seniority. Yes there are probably plenty of 'Heads of' and 'Directors' who are on three-month notice periods but there are also other individuals that have skills that are challenging to re-recruit where additional time to recruit in a three-month notice period would be advantageous.

Does this mean you have a checked out person with you?

I'd be interested to hear the views of others on this, but in my experience, no.

Observing a few people working a three-month notice period I've seen quite the opposite. I've seen people being highly motivated to support the organisation and those around them with their handover. I remember in my previous role working a three-month notice, I wanted to do my very best to close off and complete on projects that I could, handover information and knowledge I had and be as helpful as possible in providing support and assistance to those joining the team.

I agree with David, the effort people put into their handover period is more likely to be related to other dynamics. Engagement. Feeling valued. Mutual respect. Culture. These are words that come into mind.

In my experience the support I gave in my notice period was mirrored by my employer. They allowed me to be flexible and engage in some activity with my new employer to pave the way for my future role. This longer notice period was useful to me to allow some of this transitional stuff to happen to.  The support from my employer to help some of that happen further fuelled my desire to give them my very best throughout my notice period?

Should it take that long?

How long is a piece of string? :-)

I believe that every single employee has an amount of knowledge in their heads that isn't documented or known by others. Experience that has built up over time. The longer we have with exitting employees the longer we have to capture that stuff. The more engaged, respected, valued (etc) that they feel, the more likely they are to want to share. I guess how long that takes varies significantly dependant on how well an organisation is at capturing knowledge and how much there is to handover and share. Perhaps in some cases it really shouldn't take that long, Having said that, if that time is available it's worth using wisely. But there is a warning within that.

USE IT WISELY!

It's very easy (for both employee and employer) to fall into a mind-set that at three-month notice period is a long time and time can be taken. Howver, it sounds much longer than it is. It flys by! 

What I've seen in the few examples I can think of, is a three-month notice period tends to pan out like this....

4-6 weeks - Nothing much really changes. The individual continues in their role 'business as usual' continuing with existing work, working towards handing over if necessary and avoiding taking on new projects or activities. It's a period of time where recruitment activity for a replacement can commence.

6-9 weeks - Handover starts. Sometimes people hand things over in writing. Sometimes it's about meeting with teams/individuals to hand things over in face to face meetings. I've seen people make use of remote technology like webinars, Skype etc for this, I've seen people do screen-cast videos to handover too for example showing someone how to use a particular piece of software, a spreadsheet or a tour of where files are located. This 'library' of useful resources is useful for people taking the batton to dip into.

9-12 weeks - During this period, ideally, the individual should be stepping back to allow acitivites to be carried out either by the replacement who may have joined by now or others in the team who will be keeping things moving until the replacement joins. They adapt a mentor type role. They're on the sidelines in case anyone needs support.

So yep, it's quite a long period of time. However, it can work really well and be a nice transition for both the individual and the organisation too. Definitely not something for every contract, but a worthwhile consideration for some. 

I'm interested to hear other thoughts on three month notice periods....

- Have you experience of them?

- What is the reasons you think they're used?

- Should it take that long and do they mean you're left with a 'checked out' person?

I'm interested to hear your views. Please do comment below....

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Replies

  • Morning all
    Thanks Ady an interesting discussion!
    Another reason for lengthy notice periods are strategic and commercial reasons.

    If there are post termination restrictions within the contract then an employer may choose (if the contract allows for this) to place the employee on garden leave. This means that in theory they could restrict the employee from either going to work for a competitor straight away or contacting any clients/customers or employees during the garden leave period for the length of the notice period. This is advantageous for the employer as it allows them to get their house in order with the departing employee's clients and contacts and therefore the longer the notice period the more 'blue water' between the employee leaving and commencing their new role.

    Many organisations to protect their confidential information and/or intellectual property also choose to place employees on garden leave,

    It is not uncommon for senior level roles to have 12 months’ notice, and I have certainly seen some individuals placed on GL for 12 months.

    Of course there are always pros and cons, and again if the employer would like to part company with an employee sooner rather than later once the employee has chosen to resign and because they have 'checked out' then the employer could also choose to pay in lieu of notice. (If the contract of employment allows for this).
    This is potentially a downside for the employer where the notice period is lengthy as the employer has to pay this. Likewise in a redundancy scenario lengthy notice periods can soon ramp up the severance costs.

    So as opposed to some of the practical reasons why lengthy notice periods may be used, there are also strategic and commercial reasons why a company may choose to utilise these.

    Hope this is of use

    Sarah

  • Hi Ady.

    That's an interesting piece and yes, a 3 month notice period (if not just a little more or less) is something I have seen over the years.

    In my experience, I have seen employees on executive levels  such as VPs, serve a 3 month notice period. Having said that I would like to think roles that require 'skills that are challenging to re-recruit', as you pointed out, would benefit from having a 3 month notice period in place.

    Irrespective of the length of the notice period, one crucial factor for an employer to get the most out the notice period is employee engagement and I do agree with you.

    I have come across individuals who submit just a one page with a list of tasks as 'handover' and I have see other produce detailed handovers - thorough enough for their replacement to follow without the exiting employee being around. A great help to the line manager and the team they leave behind, if you ask me!

    I have also had conversations with leaving employees who moan about handovers. Most of the time it is because they don't feel they owe anything to their manager or team who failed to support, respect and/or guide them during their tenure. So yes, employee engagement is ever so important and it plays a major role right up to the end; it plays a role in determining how an employee performs during the notice period.

    - What is the reasons you think they're used?

    A longer notice period is a time frame during which an exiting employee and the line manager should maximize on and use to thoroughly transfer knowledge and of course, it is a great 'training' period for a new recruit - My thoughts!

    In my industry (Real Estate/Property Management), all employees in the Owners Association department, for instance, have a 60 day notice period versus a Sales Agent who has the standard 30 day notice period.

    The decision to enforce such a notice period, is because of our organisations' requirement to honour client expectations. Certain building instructions mandate that there is an employee on site at all times. Hence, the 60 day notice period allows the Department Head to arrange for cover and simultaneously work with HR to recruit the replacement.

    - Should it take that long....?

    For executive and perhaps highly specialised roles, yes.

    Roles that are crucial to maintaining client expectations would benefit from a notice period, longer than the standard.

    -and do they mean you're left with a 'checked out' person?

    I guess that is a gamble, particularly when the organization works on employee engagement.

    I look forward to any thoughts/feeback. Great post Ady.

    • HI Onareen,

      Sorry it's been a while since I looked at this. I think the point you make around Employee Engagement being ever so important right up to the end! Yet another benefit of being good humans when it comes to look after other humans!

      Thanks for replying. I really appreciate that.

  • Hi Ady, This is an interesting one and it will be good to see all the different experiences of 12 weeks notice.

    I have experience of a 3 month notice period. The reason the 12 week notice was in place was that it was seen as a 'critical' role to the business and although they hadn't recruited my replacement by the time I exited - it allowed time to complete any critical actions and prepare a handover. I definitely didn't check out early in terms of productivity but I can understand that may happen in some cases.

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