4 Employee Documentation Mistakes

George T. Taft

We’ve all been there. An issue with an employee comes up. It looks like its time to either do some corrective action or maybe even termination. What is the first question asked? “Did you document?” Documentation is much easier said than done. We all have good intentions but when time is short and responsibilities are great, documentation is often something that gets lost in the shuffle.

The whole point of documentation is to have the pertinent information available to justify disciplinary action. It is important to focus on making notes on every employee conversation that involves performance or compliance with company policy.

4 Employee Documentation Mistakes

1. Unclear Expectations

Employees need to know what is expected of them. This starts with a written job description and annual goals that the employee and manager discuss together to ensure a clear understanding. This should be done at least on an annual basis and incorporated into the management process.

2. Not Having a Documentation Process

One mistake managers make is not creating an employee documentation process. This process does not need to be complex but does need to be consistent. This can be as simple as a handwritten log for each employee or using an electronic document to note conversations, issues and employee corrections. It is difficult to justify corrective actions without a clear employee history to support it.

3. Vague Information

Documented information does not need to be a dissertation but it does need to have enough information to base an action on. For example, “Customer service issue with Steve today” is pretty vague, where as, “There was an issue with Steve today being rude to a customer. Steve left Mr. Wilson on hold for 6 minutes without offering Mr. Wilson an explanation or response to his issue.” Remember to include enough information to tell the story of the incident if needed months down the road.

4. Opinion Not Fact

As human beings we have the tendency to bring biases to the workplace. Oftentimes these biases are subtle and we may not even be aware of them. For this reason it is important to think about that when documenting and making sure that documentation is based on fact and not opinion. For example, “Mike submitted his proposal after it was due”, but the fact is, “Mike submitted his proposal 30 minutes after it was due in my office due to an issue with his printer.” The difference in wording can paint a very different picture of the incident. Yes Mike was late but when reviewing performance will 30 minutes be critical considering he had printer issues?

Managers wear many hats and juggle lots of different responsibilities making it challenging to be consistent with employee documentation. Creating a documentation process that is consistent and based on factual clear information is the best approach to maintaining useful employee file information. Good employee documentation allows for unbiased evaluations and provides critical information when employee corrective actions are necessary.

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