How Should HR Teams Be Documenting Employee Performance?


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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Thorough employee performance documentation is a crucial part of HR. Here are some tips on how best to go about it.

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How Should HR Teams Be Documenting Employee Performance?
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Keeping a record of how employees are performing within an organization is essential for any HR team, yet the way in which this is done can often be disorganized and even slapdash. Managers may find themselves hurrying to gather information ahead of performance reviews or disciplinaries, which isn’t conducive to a positive outcome.

Ensuring you stay on top of employee performance documentation does require some serious effort, but it can pay dividends in the long term.

So, what developments, performance issues and employee behavior should be recorded? The short answer to that is 'everything'.

Why document employee performance?

Looking at the positives first, maintaining a performance record for every individual allows them to receive the feedback they need to make improvements in their work and could motivate them to do more.

It also makes life easier for HR managers, because it can streamline the preparation for performance appraisals since documentation will track the good and the bad. Essentially, a full record will act as a visual representation of the steps managers have taken to help their people be successful.

This can be useful when explaining to management why a particular worker is eligible for a raise or promotion over the other potential candidates.

At the opposite end of the scale, documentation can also step in where there have been examples of performance concerns and even negative employee behavior, potentially protecting organizations from things as extreme as litigation.

There will be black and white evidence that issues were discussed with the person in question and a detailed history of either their improvement or their failure to act on the points raised. Importantly, the record will also show that any terminations took place in a legal manner and weren’t in any way discriminatory.

Keeping a thorough record can allow HR managers to recognize and reward employees, but also make it easier to discipline or terminate their contracts should things start to go wrong.

How to properly document employee performance issues

The key to adequately documenting employee performance is to record everything, but what precisely does this mean - and what is the best course of action to begin doing so?

1. Keep entries consistent

It's a good idea to follow a consistent pattern when you’re documenting employee performance, so having a basic template to follow on screen or on paper could be a great place to start. Record who’s creating the feedback, the date and the time, as well as whether or not it was logged as part of a meeting.

If this is the case, also record the meeting's other attendees, discussion points raised, action items and signatures of all involved. This will make it easier to go through the document in future.

2. Record entries immediately

If there’s been a conversation with an employee because of a performance issue, it's vital to document it straight away to avoid the problem of memories fading. Failing to do so could raise questions about the accuracy of statements later on.

3. Ensure documents are professional and organized

All performance documentation should be professional enough to be consulted by a third party at some point in the future. It should therefore not be written on a scrap of paper and shouldn’t contain subjective opinions.

For instance, instead of 'Mary doesn’t dress professionally', write 'Mary came to work on X date wearing jeans, which was against company regulations of Y. This meant she couldn’t meet with a client as planned'.

Keep entries subjective, factual and specific enough to record particular instances of employee behavior, rather than your opinion of it.

4. Give employees a chance to explain

Documenting employee behavior should also provide an opportunity for the member of staff to have their say on why they acted the way they did, as this proves the manager attempted to address the problem immediately.

It could also nip any misunderstandings in the bud, for example, situations where employees have been repeatedly late but later reveal they’ve been caring for a sick relative or training someone in another department.

Recording extenuating circumstances will show the person in question had a blemish on their record, but that there was a reason for it that shouldn’t affect their future prospects.

Learn more: What to Do If an Employee Disagrees With Their Performance Review

5. Show a clear plan

Once entries have been logged, a detailed action plan with discussion points and action items should be added to give the employee a chance to improve their performance. This should be specific and under a deadline so everyone understands the implications of failing to act.

Management, HR and the employee should all sign the document to prove later if necessary that the content has been understood.

6. Keep performance documentation safe

All performance-related records should be kept confidential to the parties involved only. If they’re on paper they should be in locked storage, while electronic records must be retained on a secure server with restricted access.

This should prevent unauthorized viewing and ensure the records are ready to be sent to the employee's new manager in future without a lengthy search.

When it comes to promoting, disciplining or even terminating employees based on their behavior and performance, it's really important to cover all the necessary bases. With thorough performance documentation, you should be able to ensure you've done just that.

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