Get it in writing: Documentation important

S. Lorrie Ray
S. Lorrie Ray

Human resource professionals know documentation not only lowers legal risks for businesses, but also helps owners and managers make better decisions about employee performance.

In discussing this topic, it’s wise to start with the process. Essentially, documenting employee behavior and performance keeps us on track.  It allows us to gather information about employees into a format that’s most helpful when making important decisions about the value of an employee. If we don’t have a helpful process, this documentation won’t provide the guidance managers and supervisors need. The process must be both effective and efficient.

Of course, the process must surround those topics that require documentation. Most often documentation occurs when something out of the ordinary takes place and someone is unnecessarily affected by an event or behavior, but don’t stop there. Remember to document when a customer or fellow employee received something above and beyond that was expected. Failing to thank people for a job well done and explaining the specifics of the praise given can mean employees you value might not feel appreciated if there aren’t specific examples of how they benefit the organization. Unappreciated employees leave, and of course, the least amount of our time is spent praising truly beneficial employees.

The better we can paint our picture of the effects of the incident, the more likely the employee is to improve or keep doing the right thing. We also want documentation that creates an accurate view of an employee over a period of time. It’s helpful to know where an employee excels and where improvements might be made. Gathering a wide variety of information is always helpful.

The potential sources for information are endless, so long as we stick to documenting behavior and its effects. We want to include all that helps us in this quest and exclude anything that doesn’t — such as our personal opinions. Even if we don’t want it to, personal opinions can creep into documentation when you least expect it. To make sure yours don’t, get some help. Having a neutral person you can trust to tell the truth is helpful in reviewing documents. It’s also helpful to document one thing at a time whenever possible. Don’t save up complaints. Behavior that’s corrected close in time to the event is much more likely to improve.

For the sake of the high-performing employees as well as those creating problems in the workplace, document performance through excellent documentation processes.