Have you heard the old adages “if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist” and “out of sight, out of mind?” There is a reason why they repeatedly crop up; they are painfully valid. Lack of documentation makes it difficult to avoid liability. Written records are valuable if legal issues arise from OSHA and other investigations, claims of unfair treatment, and claims from workers compensation, unemployment compensation, harassment, and discrimination.
Documentation is not reserved for human resource personnel and managers, everyone can benefit from keeping records. Workplace accidents, vehicular accidents, criminal offenses, or neighborhood drama are cases where you may have to “document an incident you observed.” Here are some workplace tips for proper documentation that are effective off-site too:
Date of incident and date of documentation
Employee’s name, job title, department
Summary of events, violations or infractions – be specific
Statement of policy or procedure the violation involved
Description of any disciplinary action taken
Statement of corrective action plan
Establishment of follow-up meeting to review employee’s progress
Statement that failure to comply with the corrective action plan will result in further disciplinary action
Statement that “Elements” have been discussed (and are accurate) with the employee/involved parties
Signature of employee/involved parties that he/she has received the document.
Do’s & Don’ts
Do focus on the job duties, job description and performance appraisal categories
Don’t stray away from the facts – be accurate and concise
Don’t add emotions and opinions
Do include copies of key documents such as time cards, work orders, invoices
Don’t delay – record documentation promptly
Documentation should always occur during performance evaluations, incident reports, written warnings and notes of meetings with employees about performance issues. Ask Human Resources if you have any questions or doubts.
Before a documentation situation arises, know the basic legal requirements concerning the employer/employee relationship and know the personnel policies and rules of the company. Tell employees what the rules are and what is expected of them. Don’t assume they’ve read the company handbook just because they signed the form. Give employees regular feedback on their performance and listen to their concerns.
Written by Susan Fix, The Applied Companies Community Liaison Partner. Fix has worked 15 years in staffing services performing outside sales, recruiting, permanent and temporary placement coordination, career counseling, customer service and social media/business.