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What Is Not Documented

Most of us have heard, “if it is not documented, it did not happen”. For most of the time that is true. The reality is that we cannot document everything. Imagine trying to document every rule, every instruction, and every direction to staff. Lately, we find that is what’s being asked of supervisors.

Have you ever heard, “you did not tell me that”? Do you have employees who you need to write everything down and record conversations because they will challenge you that this was not said? Here are a few ideas on how to determine what to document and what not to document.

Consider common sense items – now think carefully on this. Do you need to write down that employees are not to steal from you, stand on the tops of ladders, or speed on a delivery job? Some unions would have us believe this, however, general knowledge does not always require documentation. What it does require is evidence that the information truly was “general knowledge”. How do you prove general knowledge? For example, a lawyer will call upon a variety of staff and ask them; “did you know that taking cash from the register for personal use is stealing?”. If the employees answer “yes”, we can prove that stealing is prohibited in the workplace, and this is determined to be general knowledge. This is probably an obvious one, but what about operating a piece of equipment that has been taken out of service for repair, or using a piece of equipment that an employee was not trained on?

What about employee directions? Generally, this is not needed for every employee, especially in an environment where effective SOPs/SWPs exist. But what about that verbal direction on a question? The best practice is when an employee has multiple questions and wants answers, depending upon the circumstances, have the employee send you the notes or an email confirming the direction you gave. We find this is very useful for employees to receive directions from upper management on work and projects.

When in doubt document, or record audio. One construction firm, openly records the audio in all meetings (including client meetings) as evidence of what was said, directed, promised and understood. When we first learned this, we were skeptical. However, it is much easier than note-taking, memo writing, and worrying about what was missed. Something to consider, but ensure you have a policy and disclose this at every meeting. Keep in mind, this can also be used against you if you have failed to deliver or meet the needs of the conversation.

Just a few opinions and points to ponder!


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