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It may sound like you are duplicating the work of your Human Resources department – if you have one – but in fact, you are not. Of course any major policy or procedural violations would need to be documented especially if you are working in a unionized environment.
So why keep HR files on your team?
Perhaps one individual is constantly having trouble with a few aspects of the job. What better way to identify this that by retaining this type of information in their own file and then coaching them. They may make an error once or twice – but unless you’ve got a superb memory and can remember what your entire team does right (or wrong) you will not remember everything they have done right or wrong. Documenting issues for coaching ensures that you remember the issue as it existed, not what you recollect days or weeks later.
As a manager it is difficult to remember everything people on your team do – whether it’s right, or wrong. But I guarantee you will remember what they’ve done in the last few months so potentially 9-months of successes could get wiped out by one or two negative incidents.
Every manager that I’ve worked under has always remembered what’s happened in the last few months and normally all the negative.
By documenting what they are doing you build a profile of your employee, you are also showing your team that you do care about what happens in the department that you have a vested interest.
If you look at it from the point of view of your team, they will realize that you are watching — which limits the risk of negative behaviour. You don’t want to be a cop (or mom/dad at work) but in some cases you will be.
How To Maintain Files
This isn’t rocket science. It is easy.
Plain folder. The employees name on it. Done.
When you witness good/bad behavior – document it.
You sit down with someone for coaching, or one-on-one in your office the next step should be to document the conversation and e-mail the individual and put a copy in YOUR employee file.
Someone comes in late? Document that.
Too long in the washroom… well, use your judgement. In some industries, particularly very busy call centers EVERYTHING is documented and yes – they will even document how long you are away from your phone (so not necessarily how long your bio-break has been).
HR Employee Files
The files that HR keep are different from yours, they will be tracking information related to employment and legal issues. For instance significant performance issues, salary and wage increases (or decreases), medical notes etc., The HR employee file may have some of the same information as you maintain but for the most part they will be different.
Now that said just because your file doesn’t contain the same information don’t keep it laying around or consider it not important. If you’ve documented sufficient information related to performance for example and use that to terminate someone KEEP THE INFORMATION! If that employee decides to sue or file a grievance with the union or any other number of reasons that file might be the only information you have to back-up your actions. IT IS IMPORTANT!
Do you have a different way you’re approaching this? I would love to get more insight as I’m sure others would as well.
This post originally written on August 2, 2009