Routine documentation is an important part of any performance management or coaching process. Documenting conversations you have with direct reports ensures that you will recall everything discussed during the year for the performance evaluation and if, unfortunately, the performance declines to work probation or worse, you have a record of the actions you took with the direct report. This type of documentation is called a document of record and can be crucial to the performance management process.
You should document all coaching, performance assessments, and job-related discussions. You need to create document files for all direct reports—not just poor performers—where you keep the records of your conversations. Documents of record must contain the following four fundamental items:
- Topic of conversation – Clearly defined subject of the conversation and why you had the conversation
- What you discussed – The key points discussed, for example, if the conversation was a coaching conversation, record behavior-based examples and feedback
- Follow-up action steps – What agreed-upon action you and the direct report agree to take after the session
- Date of conversation – Always date any document of record
At first, documenting may seem overwhelming, but the following simple processes can ensure that you incorporate recording into your management processes:
- Follow-up e-mails – Send direct reports a follow-up e-mail after every performance- or coaching-related conversation. This not only gives them a written record of the discussion, but it also provides you with a document of record.
- Note or memo to self – After every conversation, record an electronic or a handwritten note to yourself. If it includes the four key points above, it is a good process.
- Running log – Some managers like to keep a running log of conversations in their own personal notebook. Again, if it meets the criteria above, it’s a valid document of record.
- E-mail file – Store follow-up e-mails along with e-mails you get from the direct report or from others about your direct reports in a secure place on your computer.
You may think of other ways to create documents of record; the key is to simply do it. If you ever must go through any employee litigation, these records will be invaluable to you and your company. On the positive side, having comprehensive document of record files on employees sure makes that year-end performance appraisal easier to write!