A #SHRM18 Interview with Allison West, Esq.


In anticipation of #SHRM18, I had the amazing opportunity as a #SHRM18Blogger to talk with one of our most popular speakers, who has not just one, but TWO Mega sessions coming up in Chicago. Allison West, Esq., SHRM-SCP, SPHR is an attorney and HR specialist, delivering customized interactive training, conducting workplace investigations, coaching executives and managers, delivering human resources consulting and provides expert witness assistance-she is an all-around employment law and HR guru! She has been speaking at SHRM annual conferences for over ten years, sharing her roadmaps for HR professionals to use to ensure they are practicing especially the most technical parts of their roles in an effective, compliant manner. We are lucky to have her joining us in Chicago to talk with the #SHRM18 audience about two great topics-I, for one, will be there listening intently for the many useful takeaways that are bound to come out of her sessions!

Allison’s first session, Seven Steps to Creating Bulletproof Documentation, reflects the importance of creating documentation that will withstand scrutiny in the event of a legal action. What is it about documentation that is challenging for HR? What I learned from Allison is that her clients were often coming to her in her employment law practice with requests to terminate someone, but when it came time to review the documentation, it was often less than complete. “Document, document, document is what lawyers often say,” she mentions, “but I realized that we never teach people how to do it properly.” So, in response, Allison created a program with seven critical steps, to help HR learn.

It’s not only risk that drives documentation. It’s effectiveness of the process of performance management. This is the main goal of managers, and yet they resist documentation. Why? “It’s too time-consuming, they don’t know where to start, and they don’t know what to say,” Allison notes.

At the many onsite trainings Allison delivers, often people will ask, “Where do I start?” The answer is that managers should think about what an employee needs to understand about what is expected and make sure they clearly convey this to the employee. Are the expectations clear? “Provide excellent customer service,” could mean many different things, but “greet all customers as soon as they enter the store and ask them how you can help them” ensures the employee understands what is expected.

“Managers often think they have it all in their heads, that they’ll remember. But they are too busy!” Allison observes. Failing to create documentation at the time events happen means that managers risk losing important details. Allison shares that one risk of failing to create good documentation is a lack of backup to support the decisions you’ve made along the way. Bad documentation is almost worse than no documentation because ambiguous documentation leaves room for interpretation. Another risk arises when we fail to put the employee on notice. Employees who are not performing should be receiving coaching from managers that is documented to help the employee understand what he/she needs to do, and to support success.

How do we ensure that managers complete the documentation needed for success in the process, and defensibility if needed?  “You have to make it part of managers’ performance management,” Allison recommends. Every job description for every executive and manager should show that they are accountable for creating prompt, thorough documentation of performance, disciplinary and other employment issues. If they don’t follow through, their bonuses should be impacted.

Allison’s final note? “Remember who sits on a jury-in an employment case: it’s often 12 angry employees.” Create your documentation so that it shows your effort to help an employee perform well, and to let him/her know what is needed for improvement.

Join me at Allison’s session to get some great takeaways to create a framework for developing effective documentation at your organization. And don’t miss Allison’s second Mega session on The Top 10 Things You Need to Know When Investigating High-Level Executives. See you at #SHRM18!


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