If there’s one word that every HR practitioner (and every employment attorney for that matter) would spend good money to have embroidered on a custom-made throw pillow to keep in their office it would be “document.” Good grief how we love to talk about documentation.
- Having a coaching session with Bob about his slovenly attire? Document.
- Discussing Polly’s tendency towards tardiness every Monday morning? Document.
- Making it crystal clear to Sean that his continued use of the “f” word in customer meetings is not appropriate? Document.
But mere documentation and note-taking won’t do of course. Every HR Department on earth has created its own form to use for the documentation process and, depending upon the style of the HR leader and the culture of the company, they’ve devised catchy names like:
- Employee Counseling Form
- Coaching Conversation Form
- Corrective Action Report
- Corrective Action Notice ( a.k.a. “CAN” )
- Employee Warning Notice
- Memorandum to Employee File
- Record of Counseling
- Employee Discipline Form
- Progressive Discipline Form
Lots and lots of euphemisms devised by HR teams for a form that signifies “you’ve done something we don’t like so we’re going to write it on a piece of paper and put it in your permanent file!!”
And then, of course, there are increasing levels of severity for various infractions so the CAN may have checkboxes to distinguish whether this piece of paper being generated is a:
- Verbal Warning
- Verbal Written Warning
- Written Warning
- Final Written Warning
- Last and Final Written Warning
Having been duly instructed by their HR partners, supervisors and managers churn these forms out at a furious pace. “Uh oh; Susie didn’t hit the requisite number of minutes on the phone today in her call center position. I better ‘write her up!’ (note: if there is one phrase that sets my teeth on edge it’s “write him/her up.”)
In some organizations it is a cyclonic whirling maelstrom of paper as managers compete with each other to win the organizational Gold Medal for number of pieces of documentation generated. File folders overflow. Spreadsheets are overloaded.
If you work in HR though you can make a bit of a game out of it AND toss around some numbers that will delight and impress. I give you an easy equation that will tell you a lot about the management culture/state of affairs at your organization:
Management Culture Number
total number of discipline notices (divided by) total number of employees = MCN
Let’s toss a few examples out, shall we? (Remember that CAN = Corrective Action Notice; I have to use that one because it is just too precious):
- Company with 150 employees; 10 CANs = 0.067 MCN
- Company with 1,000 employees; 200 CANs = 0.2 MCN
- Company with 5,000 employees; 4,762 CANs = 0.95 MCN
Note: this doesn’t mean, in the last example, that 95% of the employees received some sort of documented discipline; it might be that 40% of employees had multiple instances of documentation.
You can easily run this number over any period of time; per week, month, quarter, or year. It’s a number that can tell you any manner of things:
- Perhaps you’ve just instituted a policy outlining some type of new behavioral expectation and either employees don’t understand it or managers have not communicated the expectations clearly
- You may have production or performance measures that are either unrealistic or easy to manipulate. Think about this in the context of a call-center (calls-per-hour) or a warehouse (pick-and-pack and throughput) where employees either have difficult targets to hit or, conversely, targets they can manipulate so that when production slacks it’s noticeable and leads to documentation.
Sometimes though an overabundance of documentation means that leaders are managing by pen and paper as opposed to managing by conversation.
Yup; that management culture number can explain a lot of things.