Building a Culture of Documentation

Kyle Kirkland
As an employer in California, you do not want to find yourself in an unemployment appeal, regulatory hearing, legal challenge or even routine performance review without documentation –date, time, parties, photo/video and an objective description — of the incident, behavior or feedback in question. Most HR managers understand the importance of detailed, objective documentation but struggle to get managers to provide contemporaneous documentation necessary to support real-time staff decisions and defend against potential challenges. “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.” is the oft-repeated mantra. So how do you build a culture of documentation in your organization?

The good news is that our society has embraced documentation of life events via mobile devices and social media, so society itself is helping your managers build skills and comfort with documentation. It’s common to see observers recording events with their cellphones, taking photos of things that strike their interest, checking in at locations and tagging friends on social media. Most new managers aren’t trained to investigate or document incidents or behavior patterns, but many are comfortable capturing photos and videos, texting and posting from a mobile device and posting items on social media. As a result, when you’re working with line managers you can use social media as a frame of reference for their documentation of workplace incidents — When did it happened? Where would you “check in”? Who would you “tag”? Any photos or videos you would “post” or “share”?

Although managers may be increasingly comfortable with “documentation” given social trends, they often lack a discreet, in-house medium to collect and organize the info. That was the motivation behind the introduction of JobStats software at our company. JobStats is cloud-based software that lets managers and HR professionals aggregate, organize and access data on incidents, disciplinary or training needs from mobile devices to help managers and HR professionals make better, more defensible employment-related decisions. JobStats features include employee contact info and tools to record and share files related to incidents, counseling sessions, notes and other employment-related items, all aggregated by employee and presented in reverse chronological order.

Once we started using JobStats, we had a means for managers to input, organize and reference information about employee time and attendance, incident and counseling documentation, notes, shift reports and other info. Now when we hear of an employee incident we’d like to address, it’s common for our line managers to mention that they “put it in JobStats” or mention that an incident is “in my Shift Report.” As an HR manager, I can then review the entries and prompt the manager to fill in items which might be lacking — a photo, a guest receipt, a copy of a social media review or guest comment and complete the file. That file is then connected (tagged!) to the employee and accessible to senior and department managers for future reference. The result is a timeline of incidents, notes, time/attendance issues for the employee that gives us a better handle on the employee’s work history.

Over time, we’ve seen that once managers are encouraged to document items, they become more comfortable with the routine and need less prompting. Ten years ago, we might not have seen people photograph their meal, check-in at a restaurant and tag the people they’re with, but that’s a common and accepted practice today. And while you might long for a dinner date with your significant other away from social media, the increased facility of your line managers with documentation will serve your organization well when it’s time to defend management decisions and practices. Encourage your line managers to document, document, document using tools like JobStats, and when a third party questions your management decisions, you’ll be able to respond and defend your practices with confidence.

About the author

Kyle Kirkland is President of Brick HR, Inc., the developer of JobStats documentation software. As owner, President and General Manager of Club One Casino in Fresno, California, Mr. Kirkland has extensive experience managing employees in gaming, food and beverage, facilities, security, administration and managerial positions. He has direct experience in dealing with the challenges California employers face and how to mitigate the related risk. Mr. Kirkland is also the president of the California Gaming Association, a non-profit trade association which represents California cardrooms.

Prior to joining the gaming industry, Mr. Kirkland served as the chairman of Steinway Musical Instruments, the world-renowned musical instrument manufacturer, a position he held for 17 years. Earlier in his career, Mr. Kirkland worked at Bain & Company, an international management consulting firm and Drexel Burnham Lambert, an investment bank specializing in high yield securities. Mr. Kirkland has served on the boards of several public and private companies and non-profit organizations.

Mr. Kirkland holds an A.B. degree from Harvard College magna cum laude in Economics and an MBA degree from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

He can be reached at


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