We are going to talk for just a couple minutes about the magic formula for documentation. Why are we talking about documentation at all? Well, one of the most common questions we get is, “Can I terminate this employee?” The first thing we say in response is, “Do you have documentation of the poor performance or the behavioral issue?” Sometimes the answer is “yes,” often the answer is “no.”
It is really important that employers have documentation to back up their employment decisions. That documentation should have a few elements. So, let’s talk about those.
This is the very simple magic formula for documentation. It should be written, timely, it should be something the employee is aware of, and it gets put in their file. Now let’s talk about each of those individually.
Documentation should be written.
This could be written on a piece of paper with pen. It could be in the form of an email you send to the employee. Or it could be a system you are using internally for payroll and performance and other kinds of tracking. But the most important thing is that we have the words written down somewhere.
Documentation should be timely.
It is crucial for a few reasons that your documentation is timely. An example would be to not wait three weeks to write up the employee. Don’t wait until their performance review nine months down the road to tell them they did something wrong. If something is bad enough that you will want that documentation in the future to support a decision to demote, or perhaps terminate that person, it should be timely.
The employee should know about it, and it should be in his or file.
Documentation should not be a surprise. We want to make sure they have seen it before, should it come up again in a termination or a serious corrective action meeting. We want this documentation to be housed in some sort of central file for that employee.
If, for instance, that person’s manager is sending off some sort of corrective action via email but not tracking it in file that HR can access, it is going to be a lot harder to find in the future. It is easier in the long run to just put that document in the file the first time around.
Thank you for joining us, and please be sure to check out our other materials in our blog and video libraries.