One critical mistake small business owners often make is failing to keep accurate and current information on their employees. This does not only include their employment applications and forms from the hiring process but also records of any critical interaction you may have with your workers. Your business may have only a few employees, and you may think it is not important to log your conversations, warnings or corrections, but many business owners have regretted taking a casual approach toward documentation.
Certainly, you have files for each employee that contain the documentation the government requires you to keep. You may have your own policies for keeping certain information on each employee. However, you may be overlooking important details that could leave you scrambling if an employee ever decides to take legal action against you.
The benefits of smart record keeping
Too often, employers fail to write down what they say and decide when speaking with employees. Instead, they believe they can rely on their memories if they ever need to recall a certain event or meeting. This is almost always a mistake and is rarely a reliable way to preserve the accuracy of an event. Careful, factual documentation can provide an overview of an employee’s performance that supports any action you may take, including:
- Promoting those who have proven their worth
- Offering pay raises fairly
- Coaching an employee who may be struggling with production
- Knowing when it is appropriate to take disciplinary measures to the next level
- Dealing with serious conduct issues, such as sexual harassment
- Avoiding the appearance of discrimination
- Terminating an employee with just cause
After meeting with an employee, whether for positive or negative reasons, it is wise to record the main points, any decisions you make with the employee and what your next steps should be. Your documentation may be on a formal template you create or informally, but it should be objective, noting facts and behaviors and not your personal feelings about an employee. For example, instead of saying an employee is unreliable, you might record that the employee missed three important deadlines.
If an employee ever files a wrongful termination claim or another legal action against you, you may be thankful that you have kept careful and consistent documentation. The information you preserved may be helpful in building a strong defense against the accusations. With the guidance of a California attorney, you can develop good techniques for keeping employee records as well as having a skilled advocate when facing employment law claims.