Good documentation is necessary for every human resources department. Proper documentation should follow your employees from hire to retire. It’s what keeps companies compliant and safe from unsubstantiated lawsuits.

Problems arise when the documentation process becomes lengthy and cumbersome. If you visualize all the paperwork HR requires employees to fill out, submit and save, you will see a very large pile. HR departments need to come up with a way to easily gather and contain the documentation needed for each employee. A good record-keeping process, one that keeps all employee documentation in one place, is the key to maintaining your company’s security and compliance with local, state and federal laws.

What is Workplace Documentation?

Workplace documentation includes all the paperwork HR must gather from each employee. These documents provide a written record of every onboarding, performance and disciplinary action taken. According to The Balance Careers, employee documentation records are made up of government and legally mandated elements, documents required by company policy and practice, documents suggested by best human resources practices, and formal and informal recordkeeping about employment events.

Onboarding, performance, time and attendance and legal compliance provide some of the most essential materials for a company’s documentation process.


Before your new hire begins work, your HR department should already have a stack of paperwork about her or him in hand (or in your digital systems). Your company needs to gather a lot of essential information (required by state and federal governments) from employees during this first stage of employment including:

  • W-4 for employees or W-9 for contractor
  • I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification form
  • State Tax Withholding form
  • Direct Deposit form
  • E-Verify system that verifies employee eligibility in the U.S.

These documents must be kept secure, only accessible to the employees themselves and certain administrators.

During onboarding you will also want to review your company’s policies and procedures with your new employee. These should be printed in your company or employee handbook. It’s critical that your employees read your handbook and that they sign off, stating they’ve done so.

Performance Management

Performance management documentation includes all the paperwork and records associated with performance reviews and any performance corrections. Examples of this type of documentation include written goals, tasks, evaluation forms, employee competencies, promotions and disciplinary actions.

To go further, consider all the documentation involved in the performance appraisal process. HR should keep records of:

  • Employee goals and their desired outcomes like driving profits, improving workflows or being promoted.
  • Notes from 1:1 meetings with managers, including any written feedback.
  • Results of goal measurement and how/if employees were able to achieve their goals.
  • Any reward or compensation given for achieving said goals.

A deeper dive into performance correction could include documenting:

  • Lack of goal achievement and reasons as to why.
  • Written warnings about lack of performance and consequences.
  • Demotion and/or termination due to performance.

Time and Attendance

Time and attendance documentation tracks when, and sometimes where, your employees clocked in and clocked out each workday. Time and attendance records should also note when employees were late or simply didn’t show up or call in. It pays to invest in a cloud-based time and attendance solution due to its ability to accurately track and record when each employee works and make this information accessible at the click of a button. Time and attendance software also makes it simple to stay wage and hour compliant, ensuring workers are paid for every hour or minute they work, including overtime, but not more.

HR must maintain personal records about employees and keep them secure. Documentation that pertains to legal compliance might include:

  • Medical records, including documentation submitted for sick leave or an extended leave of absence. This includes any records that would fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers of 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child or parent.
  • Records related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, including any requests for accommodation from employees and the actions taken by employers.
  • COBRA continuation coverage documents, including documentation about qualifying events that led an employee to lose their group health insurance coverage.
  • All specialized compliance regulations related to specific employees or industries including:
  • Unions and their members, such as contract negotiations.
  • Veterans and currently enlisted service members and the documentation that proves their positions were protected when called for active duty.
  • Documentation proving hiring practices followed Equal Employment Opportunity standards which prohibit any type of employee discrimination.

Why is Proper Documentation so Important?

Proper documentation is your first line of defense when facing any question raised about your compliance. Ask any company facing an audit by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and you’ll hear just how essential good recordkeeping procedures are; proper documentation means the difference between submitting your paperwork once or going through a lengthy in-person audit. The goal of such clear documentation is to protect your company from compliance fines but also lawsuits. Workplace documentation protects employers in the event an employee sues over discrimination, harassment or back pay.

Proper documentation also helps companies avoid any liability connected to reprimanding or terminating employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, good documentation provides credibility that shows employees are treated fairly and consistently. It provides clear, concise statements about employee improvements and evidence that supports decisions related to discipline or termination.

Documenting Best Practices for Performance Management

Documentation can only protect your company if you have a good process in place to gather, track and store it.

  • Clearly spell out company expectations. A company or employee handbook is the perfect place to keep all the policies and procedures you expect employees to follow. Go a step further and require employees to sign off on all company policies after reading them.
  • Provide employees with a complete job description. Outline all the expectations of a position in the job description and make sure employees have a copy of it.
  • Keep performance reviews neutral and job-related. That doesn’t mean you can’t be critical of an employee’s job performance, but the critique shouldn’t be personal. If a review centers around the employee’s behavior, describe how the behavior affects other employees. Don’t forget to add positive comments, too.
  • Include feedback from other employees and management. 360-degree feedback is a performance appraisal method that uses feedback from everyone who works with or around an employee. Managers, co-workers, direct reports, customers, CEOs, anyone who is in the employee’s circle anonymously gives their input, giving employees an idea of how their performance is viewed by others. Include this input in your documentation process.
  • If declining performance does need to be addressed, include the employee’s explanation as to why. The first step a manager should always take when addressing a behavioral or performance issue is to ask “why”. There might be a good explanation for why an employee is late, not following the dress code or struggling to meet deadlines.
  • Utilize an Employee Self-Service (ESS) portal to give employees access to important documents and provide company transparency. An ESS portal is a web-based tool that allows employees to access their information in the system. Payroll, benefits, personal data and tax documents are all typically accessible to employees through a self-service portal. Employees can update or access all their documents, giving them some responsibility in the recordkeeping process.

How Arcoro Can Help

Arcoro’s Core HR module not only keeps central HR recordkeeping and essential compliance documents in order—laying a solid foundation for orderly HR operations, from onboarding to performance management and time tracking—but features an ESS portal that integrates with all its modules. Employees can log in anytime to request PTO and sick leave, submit expense reports, view benefits statements and paystubs and more.

Arcoro’s Onboarding software ensures new employees are ready to begin work before day one with a 100% paperless, cloud-based system featuring an ESS portal that walks new employees through the entire process. Arcoro’s Performance Management software offers companies an efficient way to gain insight that enables informed personnel decisions as well as promotes two-way feedback between manager and employee—while documenting the entire process.

To learn more about how HR technology can take your company to the next level, read HR Tech Tools to the Rescue.

Read the Blog