February 19, 2013

Employee Documentation: Too Important to “Wing It”

After all this time, I finally get it!  You worked hard for a long time to get to a leadership role.  Since you do such a great job of hiring good people, you don’t have to worry about documentation.  After all, you have so much faith in your organization’s “family environment.”  No employee would ever knowingly do the wrong thing.  If they make an honest mistake, documenting it would only communicate mistrust, ruining the family environment.  Did I get it right for your workplace?

OK; now to reality.  Employee documentation is a key component of eveEmployee Documentationry high performance organization, particularly the ones with a family environment.  Documentation is not about mistrust; it is about clarity for the employee (the ultimate in respect) and protection for the Company and the manager. 

By popular demand from our readers, we humbly offer more tips on employee documentation.  If you follow our guidance on this topic, you will (within the next year) write back to thank us for helping you to save your business, your career or your reputation. 

Check for tone.  If you are personally involved in a workplace incident, you probably have some emotion about it, and/or the persons involved.  Please keep your emotion out of the documentation.  Ideally, it should read as if you were not personally impacted at all.  “Positive” feelings expressed about employees who are the subject of workplace documentation can look like favoritism.  Of course, anger can look like cold, hard disdain, which can nullify the credibility of your documentation.  Work with passion and vigor every day; show it by documenting faithfully, and without emotion. 

Document as close to the incident as possible.  Over the course of a busy day, you will forget important details.  The longer you wait to document, the more you risk the accuracy and credibility of your record.  Procrastination will not make your record better, so just get it done and move on.

Remember the 5th W.  In our January 8, 2013 blog, we mentioned who, what, where, when and how as points to cover.  (See the January 8th blog for the “W” that you must leave out of your documentation.)  The 5th W is for witnesses.  If someone saw something relevant, have them document what they saw.  Having another supervisor document their observations to support yours is a great practice.

Record the take-away.  If the documentation relates to a warning (verbal or written), there should be a take-away – an action plan, expectations or something the employee should execute or adhere to.  The take-away may even include a time frame for you to follow up.  Write down the take-away near the end of your documentation.   

What you write down today may save your … vitals… tomorrow. 


Need more help?  Click here for a free employee documentation template.

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