Why is My HR Rep Always Nagging Me about This?
I have a friend who has a photographic memory. If you ask her when something happened, she can tell you the exact day, the time, what she was wearing and what she ate for every meal of that very day. It is an amazing thing that she can do. If you are like my friend, that’s great! If you are like most of us however, our memory doesn’t work quite the same way. In either case, there are some very important reasons why taking a few minutes to jot down some notes, or have a document signed, can save you time and support your position in the future.
Three Great Reasons to Document, Document, Document
- It can help to reduce your potential liability should an employee ever try to sue you. We in the HR world always say, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen”. When it comes to employee issues and concerns, if you have it written down, it can serve as handy evidence to support your decisions and show that what you said happened, really happened. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat in an unemployment or Division of Human Rights hearing and heard a Hearing Officer ask “do you have that documentation?” If you think that won’t ever happen to you, I hope you are right. However, it can happen, and there is always a possibility that it will.
- It provides a recap of informal or formal discussions when an employee’s performance or conduct needs improvement. You may need to reflect back on what was said, when it was said and what the action items were that came out of the discussion. Having these documented and signed, will help everyone stay on the same page. And, you have documented support if you ever needed to show that the employee knew there were concerns, or knew that their job was in jeopardy.
- It can help you remind yourself when an employee has performed well. You can reflect back on your notes to make sure that you recognize them, show them you appreciate them, and refresh your memory when you get ready to do their performance evaluations.
Factual, not Judgmental
Documentation about employees can generally be both positive and negative. However, it should always be factual and not judgmental. When documenting, write about “who, what, when, where and how”.
A good rule to follow is to ask yourself these questions before presenting documentation to an employee to sign.
Finally, it is best to document as soon as possible after something has happened. This way it is fresh in your mind. It may take a few minutes to send yourself an email, or type up a “note to file”, but think of it as an investment. You will have spent your time well in the long-run, and it is a good habit to have.