By now, the performance year is in full swing with all its twists and turns. This is a good time to discuss performance documentation and journals. The reasons for documenting conduct and performance are multiple. They include praising the employee for exemplary performance; creating a history of the employee’s performance with precise descriptions of events and actions; documenting all steps taken to support the employee; documenting personnel actions such as promotions, merit increases, or disciplinary actions; and protecting the employer from legal pursuits.
Here are some expert tips for best documentation practices:
1. Performance documentation should be fair and include both good and bad performance: Nobody argues with documenting behavior that needs to be corrected. But have you considered documenting positively outstanding performance? If not, you really should because you may have forgotten it by the time EPA 2s or 3s roll around. This may result in an unfair evaluation and may prevent the employee from receiving promotions or other rewards. Also, no one is fully good or bad, so balanced documentation allows for better decision making, for viewing the whole employee and leads to more trust as the employee is more likely to view the documentation as fair if it cumulatively acknowledges all performance.
2. Write your documentation as close to the event as possible: One of the biggest mistakes you could make is believing that you can reconstruct what happened based on your memory. Our memories are fickle at best and fade quickly. Of course, ensure safety for all involved, control your emotions and thoughts, and then begin documenting. You can always review your documentation later to ensure that it is factual, specific, and free of judgments and opinions.
3. Ensure your documentation is professional: What you say and how you say it matters. It is always a good practice to imagine that a third party (judge, lawyer, supervisor, union representative) will read your documentation. You would want them to get the impression that you are professional, neat, and organized and that your account of the events and actions is correct, fair, and appropriate.
4. Ensure your documentation is appropriate: Your documentation needs to be factual, fair, objective, specific, complete, and consistent. Avoid personal judgments and opinions. Any potential grievance or legal action that finds errors in your documentation could throw doubt over all of it. With this in mind, your goal should be to paint a picture for those reviewing your documentation. Who said/did what, where, when, how, and what impact it had. Stick to the facts.
5. Include the employee’s statements and explanations: Maybe there is an explanation for why the employee acted the way they did. You need to include this in your documentation to prove that you are working together with the employee to correct the behavior and that you are not jumping to conclusions.
6. Include notes about the path forward: What commitments and agreements did you make? What deadlines did you set? How will you know the employee made progress? What are the consequences should the employee fail to improve? Make sure to include details regarding the path forward. This way, you and third parties can reconstruct the timeline of events if needed.
7. Consider using the Journal function in NEOGOV Perform: Using this function can make your life easier because it saves the journals, and therefore, your documentation in the system that you will be using for your EPAs. You can also create documentation outside of Perform and email it to your Perform account. Lastly, you may also use paper versions and store documentation in the administrative file just as before. Just don’t forget to consider those items when you complete your employee performance appraisals in Perform.
Need more information about documentation in general? Check out these websites:
How to document employee performance
How to document employee performance and behavior issues
How to create bulletproof documentation