If you have employees, you are going to have performance issues. While it is true that you can mitigate rampant performance problems with careful and strategic attention to hiring, training, and management, employee performance issues will still arise in every workplace setting.

So if this is something you encounter from time to time, congratulations; you’re in business. But if you want to save yourself from frustration and protect your company from legal headaches and unnecessary expenses, it is important to carefully document performance issues.

Remember: If it isn’t documented it didn’t happen!

At least that’s the view companies need to adopt. Because even the most honorable and fair employers face claims or charges of wrongful termination. Sometimes employees have difficulty understanding what they have done wrong and sometimes they are simply seeking undue unemployment benefits or a settlement. To operate in everyone’s best interest, human resources professionals and managers must ensure we have the documentation required to tell our story and protect the company.

Here are 5 pro tips that you and your management team can use starting today to improve your documentation process:

  1. Always Be Consistent: If you document an issue regarding one employee, be sure to do it for others when the same or a similar incident occurs.

    For example: If you document that Jane is late 12 minutes, document when Mike is late 12 minutes as well. Late is late. Employers tend to run into trouble when they make exceptions for one employee that they are not making for others.
  2. Don’t Wait! Document Immediately: We all lead busy lives and juggle many responsibilities. However, business priorities can change by the moment and our memories can fade surprisingly quickly. All documentation should be completed within 72 hours of an incident–preferably within 24 hours.

    Whenever possible, date stamp documentation or record in an electronic system that allows you to determine when the note was created. You can also consider emailing yourself documentation as a back-up.
  3. Get Input and Back Up: Ask for Written Statements by Other Managers/Employees When Applicable: For more complex issues, or issues in which one employee alleges wrongdoing by another, ask the employee to document their issue, concern, observation, etc. immediately.
  4. Keep it Simple: Use a simple incident log for most items (like attendance, missing deadlines, not making it to required meetings or trainings, etc.). When the issue is a bit more complex, remain objective. Stick to the facts. Document who was involved, what happened, when and where. Do include a brief history of the issue, when applicable. Also consider including your own take on “why” the incident occured.
  5. Create a Secure Filing System: Employee relations documentation is very sensitive and is confidential to the extent that you are sharing with your superiors, HR consultant or legal counsel. Keep it under lock and key, or password-protected at all times.

Implementing an effective documentation policy is a crucial to to any good employee relations plan. When you provide fair and consistent treatment to all employees, not only will it help your business stay out of trouble, your employees will be more committed to their jobs, more loyal to the company, and less likely to have performance issues overall.

Does your company need support with developing a customized documentation process? Contact us for one of the following solutions:

Schedule a 1-Hour Employee Relations Workshop (Available In-person or Online): “Documentation: If it isn’t documented it didn’t happen”

Hire us for employee relations consulting.