Time-strapped managers wear several different hats over the course of a busy work day. With all of these responsibilities, it’s no wonder some tasks slide to the back burner.
But documentation is a task that has to be a priority every single day.
Truth is, in today’s lawsuit-happy world, most court cases are won — or lost — based on the thoroughness of documentation.
Here are seven common documentation mistakes — and the fixes:
- Not outlining company expectations. When documenting, supervisors should describe specific expectations so employees understand exactly what’s required of them. When the company’s expectations are recorded on paper, the employee knows exactly what was expected. And, if the company finds itself in court, good documentation provides evidence that backs up business decisions.
- Failing to state specific changes employees need to make. A solid paper trail outlines the conduct that needs to change. The best documentation focuses on the behavior rather than the person. Give detailed examples, so employees understand exactly what’s not working.
- Skipping the employee’s story. Of course, there are always two sides to a story. And good documentation records both the supervisor’s side as well as workers’ perspectives on the situation. First of all, including employees’ reactions may open up the lines of communication and solve a problem. And second, if you do end up in court, comprehensive documentation shows the judge that the manager made a good-faith effort to correct the problem.
- Not outlining the plan. Effective documentation is a blueprint, which maps out specific goals — and how employees are going to get there. For instance, if workers need to increase productivity, good documentation lists the specific steps employees should take to meet production goals.
- Forgetting to list possible consequences if improvements aren’t made. A solid paper trail lists the possible consequences if employees fail to make necessary improvements. For example, employees may be disciplined, demoted or terminated. One caveat: Don’t paint yourself into a corner by using absolute language — use “may” rather than “will” when listing consequences.
- Failing to establish a time frame. When creating a time line for improvement, managers should use a realistic time period. If the documentation lists an exact time frame — such as a 30-day performance improvement plan — then it must be followed.
- Not following up on documentation. Often overlooked, follow-up is a crucial part of documentation. Savvy managers use follow-up sessions to gauge progress, offer feedback and make further recommendations for continued improvement.