If it’s not documented it didn’t happen: The importance of HR documentation

guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

IN the human resources world, we sometimes get on this kick about document management or recordkeeping. Proper documentation is critical in almost every aspect of managing your employees at workplaces. A word of caution, do not just document for the sake of documentation because poor documentation is often worse than no documentation at all. Instead, it should be done with purpose. In this article, we will discuss why documentation is important.

What is documentation?

Documentation refers to safe keeping of records or data either electronically, on paper or on hard drives in organisations. In the workplace, documentation is retained records of employment and company actions and events as required by legal mandates and company policy. Maintaining records at workplaces allows the human resources department to preserve a written history of events. The documented information or events can guide managerial staff on employee promotions, disciplinary actions, pay increases and terminations.

Yes, documentation is boring, tedious and can translate into boredom as some can say but it is important as it helps to handle documents in such a way that information can be created, shared, organised and stored efficiently and appropriately. The maintenance and retention of critical records is mandated by law, and your business could be liable if you do not store information correctly. There is a common saying which goes “if it is not documented, it did not happen”, hence it is very critical to maintain documents properly.

Documentation of employee information

HR staff must preserve files on every member of an organisation. Maintaining these records allows the employer and employee to preserve a written history and all the relevant information about the employee and this information is neatly kept on employee files either electronically or using actual files. You should always remember that employee personnel files are very important to your company. As such, most, but not all, documents relating to employment should be kept in your employees’ personnel files.
Employee performance

It is crucial to document performance over time. Documenting employee performance is imperative in making sure employees are treated fairly. Moreso, it also helps in providing employee’s performance, will allow you to discipline, promote, or reward your employees. Without documentation, making a case for any of these actions is difficult, and potentially risky for the employer as it will lead to favouritism. When HR staff make documenting a habit, not only are they helping their employees, but they are also helping themselves. Documentation empowers leaders to organise their thoughts and be better prepared to deliver feedback both positive and negative to employees. Documenting performance reviews provides employees and managers with a roadmap of employees’ career paths.

Discipline and terminations

Discipline and termination are issues for almost all companies. However, many managers make employment decisions with incomplete knowledge of the events leading to the discipline or termination. In this regard documenting workplace incidents helps employers make decisions with better knowledge of the facts. Proper documentation also reduces the risk of legal liability if the discipline or termination is challenged in a grievance or a lawsuit. By documenting disciplinary steps, HR managers make sure employees are aware of possible consequences, if behaviour or performance issues are not resolved. In addition to that, the employer has written proof in case something comes up in future.

Complaints from employees

Employee complaints are inevitable even in the most work-friendly companies. Some complaints are quickly and easily resolved, while others take more time, energy and patience. Employee complaints seem like a bad thing, but they can actually be very useful and worthy to document. When managers receive a complaint, it means the company has an opportunity to handle the problem in-house before it makes its way into the legal system. Even if you consider employee complaints bothersome, welcome them as early warning signals and documenting them is crucial. Complaints can alert you to a new or growing problem before it gets out of hand and turns into a grievance. In addition to that they can also give you a chance to retain valued employees by attending to their concerns promptly.

Reasons why documentation is important

Documentation is used in all organisations to record a variety of information and keep them for future purposes. Maintaining extensive records allows the human resources department to preserve a written history of events. Documentation can guide managerial staff on employee promotions, disciplinary actions, pay raises and terminations or any decision that need documented information. Moreso, documentation also reveals professionalism as it shows both employees and stakeholders that you are committed to safeguarding critical information and you are dedicated to providing stakeholders with factual information as needed.

Further to that, documenting your processes ensures consistency, efficiency and standardisation for everyone allowing them to perform at their best and be clear on your expectations. Taking the time to document each of your procedures in a step-by-step format will save time and money in the long run. The role of HR professionals mainly consists of managing different types of data, most of which is confidential. From job offer letters to contracts and dismissals, all these operations have to be accurately registered in files that must be accessible at any time.

Documentation can play a pivotal role in ensuring your business’ success. If you want someone to do something, the most efficient way possible, you document it. By documenting your processes, you ensure efficiency, consistency, and peace of mind for anyone involved. This kind of standardisation between processes ensures everyone in your organisation is working the same way towards the same outcome. This benefits not only your customers who are receiving a consistent service experience, but your bottom line as there isn’t any variation in how things are getting done

Making documentation a priority, especially when it comes to the company’s HR department, can help mitigate disputes and offer resources when they are needed. Maintaining these records allows the employer and employee to preserve a written history of the happenings and discussions that occurred around a specific event. Documentation of the employment relationship provides a written record that may be necessary to support such actions against an employee.

Few of us enjoy dealing with paperwork, but taking the time to properly do documentation at work is crucial. You will have all the important documents relating to each employee in one place, easily available when it’s time to make decisions on promotions or layoffs, to file tax returns, or to comply with government audits. And if you have to fire a problem employee, careful documentation will protect you from legal danger.

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