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The importance of documentation

Documentation is a written record of an employee's actions, discussion, incidents of performance coaching, witnessed policy violations, disciplinary action, positive contributions, reward and recognition, investigations, failure to accomplish requirements and goals, performance evaluation, and more.

It allows the employer or employee to preserve a written record of the happenings and discussions that occurred around a specific event. 

Documentation about employees is generally both positive and negative, when necessary. It is factual and not judgmental. It describes events as they occur not the beholder's opinions and thoughts about the event.

It also describes the actions that were taken in notable instances such as when you provide formal employee recognition or take disciplinary action.

In a legal proceeding, documentation about an employee's past performance is often critical to the outcome the employer experiences from the event.

There are different types of documentation. Policies, procedures, the employee handbook, and performance development plans are also forms of documentation that record expected employee behavior and workplace requirements.

Documentation may be formal and retained in the employee's personnel file. Employees are expected to sign this documentation to acknowledge that they have received a copy and have reviewed the contents.

Documentation may also be informal as in a manager's record of his or her discussions with an employee over the course of a year. It is important that managers maintain this documentation on all of their reporting staff members; no employee should be singled out because of performance. 

Documentation of critical incidents, whether positive or negative, is also recommended so that managers have a record of employee performance spanning a period of time.

Documentation about an employee’s performance will allow you to discipline, terminate, or fairly promote, reward and recognize employees. Without documentation, making a case for any of these actions is difficult—and potentially risky for the employer.