HR professionals understand that proper documentation of employee files is key to human resources management. Whether or not disciplinary action or litigation ever come into play, effective and professional maintenance of files is essential to a well-run HR program. Here are three tips to help:
Set up systems
Put effort into the structure of your documentation and include specific guidelines as to what is included in each file and when documentation is to be completed.
Create Forms: Developing forms that include essential components such as date and signature lines, plus areas to record details of conversations and outlines of any recommendations can help keep your documentation consistent. In instances of disciplinary discussions, have employees sign and date any discussion agendas and policy reviews at the time of discussion. It’s also important to complete reporting as soon as possible following all discussions.
File Management: Be consistent with how and where files are kept. Digital files should not be kept on a shared drive, and paper copies should be kept private and away from common access. Create a policy of what files belong in the official personnel file and which belong in a manager’s file. Documentation regarding issues related to privacy laws, such as medical issues, should be kept separately.
Keep it professional
Just the facts: Be consistent, be fair, be concise and clear. Avoid personal opinions, unsupported conclusions, and editorialization. Be specific and detailed with facts, i.e. Employee missed a deadline for XYZ on such and such date, or Employee was slurring words following a 3-hour lunch on such and such date vs. Employee never turns in work on time or Employee comes to work drunk. Avoid sarcasm and speculation. Use clear, grammatically correct language and keep reports neat. Avoid promises and inaccurate explanations in discussions with employees.
Document action plans
Set the agenda in your reports: Document all necessary follow-up and create a system to ensure it is revisited and completed. Include copies of policies and procedures where necessary. Clearly outline expectations in conversation and in documentation. If a list of expectations is outlined to the employee, have him/her sign and date an outline of the discussion.