Personnel records: A management tool and a legal requirement (Part 2 of 2)

Getting the best management “Bang for the Buck” out of our personnel records system.

In part 1 of this series, we covered some of the legal requirements of personnel record keeping. Covering legal requirements is obviously very important, but personnel records can also be a critical management tool.

Let’s focus on four areas where personnel records can provide some great management information. Personnel records can be very valuable in the areas of 1) Improving communication between employers and employees, 2) Improving employee performance, 3) Improving the employee selection process and 4) Improving your employee management skills.

Job descriptions, checklist from employee orientation, acknowledgment of the receipt of your employee handbook, letters of recognition, progress reports, and performance appraisal forms are all documents that provide some evidence of the level of communication between you, the employer, and your employees. These documents can’t attest to your verbal communication skills, but they are a great start in providing important communication to employees on what is expected of them in their job, how well they are doing in comparison to those stated expectations, and how they can continue to improve.

Employee performance

At our recent “Making Labor the Most Productive Enterprise on the Farm” program, Bob Milligan (from Dairy Strategies) talked about communication and employee performance. Bob said that evaluating employees without a clear set of expectations is like knowing one side of the score in a basketball game. You might be able to say the team scored a lot of points, but you can’t say if they actually won the game without knowing how they “measured up” compared to the other team’s score. With employee performance, our employees really don’t know how well there are doing unless they see and hear a clear set of expectations. A specific recognition of what the employee did right, is more effective than just a pat on the back, and a verbal “good job.” A record of that good performance, kept in the personnel records, is a reminder to both you and the employee of the good work that has been accomplished in the past, and can be expected to be accomplished in the future.

Employee selection process
As you build a personnel record keeping system, you can begin to learn some valuable lessons on how you have selected employees in the past. Are the job announcements and recruiting tactics that you have used in the past providing the quality of employees that you need? Do your job descriptions need to be modified in order to better communicate the available job to prospective employees? Has your interview process, and the feedback that received from perspective employees been a good indicator of their performance after you hired them? Of course, all of these questions can only be answered if you have kept these records on file. How long you keep the files depends on how many employees you hire, so as to give you a good handle on how the system is working overall. However, the small added storage space that you will need in your file cabinet can pay huge dividends as you adjust your employee selection process and start hiring the right employees.

Improving your management skills
Finally, and probably most painfully, a good personnel record keeping system can help you improve your employee management skills. Often times we are quick to blame poor employee performance on the employee. “If I could only find better employees,” or “You just can’t find good help anymore,” are often heard from employers having difficulties with employees. Certainly there are cases where you may have hired a problem employee, but even in those circumstances, you as the employer bare some of the responsibility through your hiring process. If it were all about the employees, then there wouldn’t be those shining examples of employers that seem to have all the great employees. They are probably not that lucky. They are probably doing a lot of things right when it comes to employee management.

Do your records show that you are regularly communicating both specific positive feedback and helping employees see areas where they can improve? Does your feedback to employees lead to better performance that you can and have measured? Are you discovering ways to improve your business through your employee performance appraisal, and are you recognizing them for their input? Often times there are factors that are keeping an employee from performing the way that you expect them to. Maybe it’s a tool that they need. Maybe they need education in some area in order to perform better. Maybe there is a change in protocols that will lead to better outcomes. In any case, your personnel record keeping system tells a story about how you are doing as a manager if you care to “read the book.”

Personnel record keeping has both legal requirements and management opportunities. Those that meet legal requirements, and are the subject for possible audits, should always be maintained in a separate, locked area. All records need to be visited annually to purge those no longer needed or required by law, but records with management implications should certainly be visited more regularly. Don’t let your system stop at legal requirements. Let’s get the Best Management Bang for your Buck out of your Personnel Record Keeping system. For additional information, read Personnel Records: A Management Tool and a Legal Requirement (Part 1 of 2).

A Podcast Version of this article is available at Dairy Moosings Podcast.

Did you find this article useful?