We all know the saying, "If it isn't documented it didn't happen". This statement couldn't be more true and documentation is going to be a saving grace for many. With the Pandemic our nation faces, it is more important than ever that we discipline ourselves to document everything. We must train ourselves and our management to remember the "who, what, where, when, and why's" of everyday business dealings.
If you think documentation is not essential, here are some reasons why it is:
*Employment lawsuits are expected to be on the rise due to the decision of companies to continue day to day business and crossing the line of human rights. It is not always clear when it comes to a business being deemed "essential" and it can be perceived from different angles for sure. Trying to stay in business and make a profit may seem essential to the business owner but not essential to employees who are nervous about contracting the virus. It is a fine line to walk and you want to make sure you document reasoning behind every decision you make. Regardless of a lawsuit, documenting your decisions and processes will give you an edge for strategic planning and emergency planning for potential further economic impacted events.
*Unemployment Claims have risen in the United States in just a month. Over 3 million Americans have filed for unemployment and it is expected to continue through April and possibly much longer. Timekeeping and payroll records should be accurate during this time to ensure that employees that are filing can have a seamless process through unemployment. Documenting any potential differences in why an employee is let go or laid off needs to be documented and discussed with the employee. As many people are struggling and unsure how they will survive financially, the main key is to provide accurate information to state unemployment agencies so that benefits can reach our American citizens as quickly as possible.
*OSHA Complaints- OSHA is already seeing a rise in complaints from workers feeling the pressure of working and feeling unsafe in their work environment. A big thing to remember is that emotions are high right now, and even the most decorated employee may feel unsafe in their work environment. Communications are key to let your employees know that you are ensuring their safety and following standard guidelines to provide a safe work environment. Be sure to document the steps that you are doing to keep your workers safe and within the regulations that you as a business are required to do. Most complaints that OSHA is receiving are being deemed as incidents and companies will only be required to respond to the complaint.
*Avoiding discrimination- if we do not document past performance issues, attendance violations, or skill sets of our employees we could possibly put ourselves into a discrimination lawsuit. Businesses are making tough decisions in terms of employees to keep and employees they must let go. Detailed documentation of your employees and the reason for both keeping an employee and letting one go is vital. Always remember to use the who, what, where, when, why analogy to make your documentation as detailed as possible.
*Employee Rights and Moral- this to me is the biggest reason to document. Your employees are the key to your success, without them, you have no business. Even during hard times, we have to keep one thing in mind, humanity. It is important that we remain logical; meaning we need to be fair, un bias, and transparent to our employees. Although it may be difficult to tell an employee they will be one that is laid off, it is important to have it documented and go over the reasons why. It may not be the conversation you want to have but is the conversation that you NEED to have.
Three basic principals that require a strong documentation system:
1. Accuracy- which goes hand in hand with immediacy. Memory is a shaky defense, so be sure to take notes before, during, and after any incident. If warranted, get statements from witnesses.
2. Believability- if an outside observer is called to judge your side of a story, detailed observations add authenticity. The more specific the documentation, the great the credibility. Be objective in your documentation and focus on facts, not emotions.
3. Agreement- if both sides agree on the situation, it is much tougher for either side to later change claims. Involve employees in the documentation process. Give them the opportunity to state their case and their side. Talk about it and compare each sides differences and try to come to an agreement.
Documentation can hold many advantages and should be implemented into your daily routine. Short notes of who, what, when, where, and why jotted down and then detailed out later can save you a lot of headache in the future. Be safe, stay healthy, and document.