Have you heard this before?

Mary Scala, VP/Human Resources Director


By Mary Scala, Vice President, Human Resources Director, Scott Valley Bank

I'm not the gambling type, but I would bet that sometime during your career you’ve discussed sub-par performance of an employee with your Human Resources Department and they’ve replied: "Have you documented that?" And, I'd bet double or nothing that you’ve said, at least once: “No, but they know they're making too many mistakes”. Then came “document, document, document”, and in today's litigious world, it’s more important than ever.

Documenting an employee's file isn’t just for performance or behavior problems. It's the best way to keep track of all performance issues, the good, the bad and the ugly. Documentation provides a history of events that will help make the annual performance review more accurate and meaningful.

Your goal should be to effect positive change in the employee that will ultimately enable them to have a successful career with your company. Documentation is an excellent record of your attempts to bring performance and behavior problems to the attention of the employee, enabling them to make corrections or seek additional training.

Documentation isn't just your written observations of performance deficiencies. It needs to be a record of your communication with your employee regarding your concerns and possible solutions. The employee needs to acknowledge the documentation and receive a copy if they so desire. Even if it's just an oral warning after a few conversations, the meeting needs to be documented and signed by the employee.  They must be made aware that if the performance problem is not corrected or if behavior does not improve, future employment with your company may be in jeopardy. 

The quality of your documentation speaks volumes as to your credibility (if you ever end up in court), so be sure to document performance problems correctly. Making notes on napkins, (I've actually received documentation like this with salsa highlights) isn’t exactly the best method. You need your supervisors to produce professional, dated, accurate and complete documents of employee performance and behavior issues. Performance related documents must also be specific. Whenever possible, refer to either a policy or procedure and include dates. Absolute and vague statements will only come back to bite you. No one "always" does something incorrectly. When you bring opportunities for improvement to your employee’s attention, they should walk away knowing exactly what they did wrong and have ample time, resources and your support to improve.

Documenting employees' performance doesn’t have to be a dreaded task; it’s a major responsibility of managing people. If done consistently, you should either be successful in this endeavor and if not, both you and the employee will be in agreement that maybe a career change is in order and you can free them up for other opportunities.


View Scott Valley Bank - The Vault - June 2012