bigstock-Close-up-image-of-an-office-wo-41874253To begin, there is no reason not to document performance. From safeguarding the brand and the company, to workforce development and planning, documenting performance is vital to the success and safety of the organization. We realize that this is just one more process to add to the laundry list, but it is such an important one. While a consistent and outlined process is ideal, anything from handwritten notes, to formal performance reviews (signed by both parties of course) can work as relevant performance documentation. Documenting performance is easy, and the benefits are proven.

Guide Improvement

As managers add performance documentation to their processes, they should keep in mind that these bits of documentation are all part of a profile for each employee. Documentation should be reviewed regularly to look for trends, changes in performance or repeated issues. Managers should use this documentation to set goals and define challenges. Documentation paints a picture of the employee, one that is worth taking a look at.

Documentation provides management with a guide to improvement. They are able to see areas of weakness, as well as strengths. If performance reviews are consistently showing improvements, perhaps it is time for a raise, promotion or added responsibilities. If the same negative issues arise with an employee, maybe it is time for a written and verbal warning, or suspension. Documentation should be used as an unbiased tool for improvement.

Avoid/Prepare for Legal Issues

I say avoid/prepare, because no amount of documentation can actually keep a business from getting sued. However, documenting each employee’s performance is what makes for timely and safe talks with the lawyers. Having thorough documentation of an ex-employee’s performance will help safeguard the company against costly legal action. According to an Entrepreneur article on the matter,

“In recent years, labor boards and courts have sided with terminated employees more and more by awarding punitive damages or requiring payment of compensation in cases where termination grounds were unclear.”

Again, there is no reason why businesses shouldn’t document performance in some shape or form, there are only good and sound reasons to do it. When employees take legal action against a company from which they have been fired, they will usually base these claims on discrimination of some sort –age, sex, race, religion, etc.. If there is no documentation of the performance issues that led to the firing of this ex-employee, it is almost impossible to combat the discrimination case.

RIF Reality

Performance reviews and write-ups will also be very helpful in the case of a reduction in force. Although we are in the up swing of the recession, layoffs are still quite common in businesses across the nation. Having documentation of both the good and the bad can greatly assist in choosing who goes in the reduction in force. Layoffs are a virtual minefield of legal issues. When management has taken the time to properly document each employee’s performance, they are taking steps in guarding the brand and the organization.

See the Path and Plan

Documenting performance not only helps management lead, it can help them plan. Documentation allows management to see what path each employee is on. Are they steadily headed for the top, or are they going South? Documentation will make it clear if an employee is on the path to a termination meeting, or a succession-planning meeting. In the case of highly-skilled or hard to place positions, management might need this information to plan accordingly. Documentation works both ways. Leaders shouldn’t only use this information to properly give employees the boot. They should use it to hone in on their key players and keep them on the right path.

Documenting performance is such an easy way to fortify a positive employer brand, help guide the workforce and protect the organization. Whether your company is just starting to document performance, or improving this process, it is a worthwhile step to take. No one’s memory is perfect, nor is it unbiased. Documenting performance helps everyone from judges to managers make better decisions.