Do not include the following in your documentation, says Wobst:
- Personal opinions.
- Rumors or speculation about the employee’s personal life.
- Theories about why the employee behaves a certain way. (Don’t practice psychiatry without a license.) For example, don’t call an employee “crazy.” Instead, document behaviors.
- Legal conclusions. (Don’t practice law without a license.) For example, instead of saying, “Your conduct was sexual harassment,” consider saying “We have concluded that you violated our sexual harassment policy” (which doesn’t necessarily mean that the law has been violated) or “Your massaging Jane’s shoulders on two occasions was inappropriate and must not be repeated.” This makes for a better defense should the complainant sue for sexual harassment.
- Information about the employee’s family, ethnic background, beliefs, or medical history.
- Your opinions about the employee’s career prospects.
- Unsubstantiated accusations.
- Promises or threats.
- “Always” or “never.” For example, “Mike is always late.”
The simplest error can call into question the validity of an entire report. Double-checking and reviewing are critical to eliminating documentation errors and ensuring accuracy. When necessary, any errors that are made should be crossed out with a single strikeout line and the correct information added. The person making the change should initial and date the correction. (This does not apply to electronic documentation, Wobst says.)
Don’t spell-check and think that’s all the review you need, warns Wobst. He had a document responding to an employee’s claim that said, “The employee’s claim is viable.” Only in the last proofing did someone realize that the phrase should have been “The employee’s claim is NOT viable.”
All documentation should provide only the facts of what was observed and done; personal opinion should not be included. The drafter’s bias or perspective may confuse the accuracy of the documentation.
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Correct grammar and spelling add to the clarity and accuracy of the documentation. Again, proofread! Errors in grammar and spelling are not only embarrassing. They can actually change the meaning of the words and impact of what is being described. If the document is handwritten, it must be legible so that information can be easily and accurately communicated to others who may need it to rely on. Do not use abbreviations that are not universally understood terms.
If an employer is ever faced with litigation involving an action that it took—or failed to take—the written account of the incident will carry much weight.
Written documentation may have a much greater effect in a subsequent investigation or court action than spoken testimony since the lawsuit may not come to trial for several months or even years after the critical incident occurs. By then important details about what happened may be forgotten. Moreover, if witnesses are cross-examined by an attorney representing the employee, their vague recollections will be easier to pull apart in the absence of supporting documentation.
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In many cases, the critical document is the written performance appraisal. Of course, most managers look forward to conducting annual performance reviews about as much as they anticipate a trip to the dentist. Unfortunately, most employees aren’t sold on the concept either. In fact, 55 percent of employees don’t think performance reviews are the least bit accurate. But that doesn’t mean you can avoid them.
You do need a solid strategy for feedback that is mutually beneficial to both you and your employees, says Wobst. That is still going to be the key to talent retention, a positive work environment, and the overall growth and productivity of your organization, especially when you’re managing employees from multiple generations.
Another key part of your overall strategy is compensation. For more than 20 years, experienced comp and benefits pros have relied on an extraordinary program from BLR®.
In fact, thousands of managers have put their faith in Employee Compensation in [Your State]. The [Your State] refers to the fact that a separate edition is published for each of 43 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. So if you live in Illinois, Employee Compensation in Illinois is the reference you receive.
Each edition of the Employee Compensation in [Your State] service contains these key elements:
- Recommended rate ranges localized for your state and region for hundreds of jobs, based on surveys and official data. You shouldn’t pay the same in Manhattan, Kansas, as you do on Manhattan Island in New York. This program makes sure you don’t.
- A to Z state and federal law comparisons. Comp and benefits are regulated by a tangle of laws. Employee Compensation offers an alphabetically arranged set of practical analyses on how to comply. Look up “ERISA” or “Overtime” or “Workers’ Compensation” and you instantly have a plain-English explanation of how the controlling laws—state and federal—apply to you.
- A full job descriptions program. Employee Compensation offers a complete tutorial for setting up a job descriptions program. Many ADA-compliant sample job descriptions are provided, ready to copy and use.
- Free newsletter and updates. The Employee Compensation newsletter helps keep you on top of new state and federal compensation and benefits laws. Six updates throughout the year keep your book current with all new compensation laws.
- Complete wage and salary administration guidance. This walks you through the entire compensation process with step-by-step instructions for analyzing and pricing jobs, writing job descriptions, employee compensation policies, and more.
Use the links below to see samples of the program and newsletter, as well as a full table of contents of what’s included.
The program is priced affordably for small companies as well as large, at only a few dollars a day. That’s coffee money for just about every form of information most managers need to run a competitive and efficient comp/benefits program.