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Prove it!

Just about any human resource professional will tell you that if it isn't written down, proving that a conversation actually took place will be difficult to prove. Employers should know that the burden of proof belongs to them when the circumstances require proving it. What am I talking about?

Documentation. The conversation you just had with an employee will be very difficult to prove if you don't have documentation. The verbal warning that you delivered yesterday will be very hard to prove unless you have it in writing that it actually did occur. I know this seems counterintuitive because, after all, it is a "verbal" warning. The prudent employer has learned that it's essential to provide training to managers so that they understand the importance and relevance of proving it in writing.

At some point, the IT that you may be asked to prove--a verbal warning, a conversation about a performance issue, a chat with an employee about how or why something needs to be done a certain way, or a reminder that consistently being on time is a requirement of the job--will be your burden to prove. The employer carries the burden of proof to identify when and how the conversation actually occurred.

There are many ways to prove IT and they all involve taking a little time (little is the operative word here) to document. I like to make it as easy as possible for employers by providing easy-to-customize templates for everything from a job description to an offer letter, to a documented verbal warning, to a termination letter. Sometimes it isn't necessary to use a template and I help employers to determine what should be written and how it should be written.

You're probably thinking, gosh, she's so negative. All she talks about is documenting the bad employee behavior. And you're right. That's because you'll not likely be asked to prove that a positive conversation occurred where you took time to praise an employee's performance.

This means that documenting positive performance is also essential--just for different reasons. According to a recent SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey, organizations believe recognition programs and engagement programs are key factors for better employee performance and motivation. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. While formal recognition programs are a mainstay in many organizations--everything from awarding additional paid time off for loyal years of service, to an annual luncheon, to a years of service pin--the importance of providing recognition in the way of a verbal thank you followed by a note to the personnel file cannot be overstated. Make providing daily recognition a goal.

Employer--you're IT.

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