Roland Dürre
Wednesday February 15th, 2017

Entrepreneur’s Diary #119 – Your Personnel Records

Ard Leferink for buurtzorg in Stuttgart at #fav17 (agile)..

Last week, on the Forum Agile Administration #fav17 in Stuttgart, Ard Leferink of buurtzorg was the Key Note speaker.

On the evening before, he had told me that buurtzorg has no HR-Department (human resource), just like they have no marketing department, no sales department, and, naturally, also no CRM System (Customer Relationship Management).

Well, I actually know a few companies that have no human resource department. As a general rule, however, those are small enterprises with a number of employees that does not exceed the two-digit scope. In the Netherlands alone, more than 10,000 people work for buurtzorg. Well, I guess that can be considered a little bigger, can’t it?

Yesterday, I discussed this with an entrepreneur I am good friends with. He immediately replied by asking: “So what do they do with their personnel records?“  To which my reply was the question: “What do you need personnel records for?“

I actually believed – and have believed for some time – that in an enterprise that is agile and based on trust, personnel records are as unnecessary as a personnel department, not so speak of a “director personnel”. For the administrative processes (paying the salaries, …), a list of employees with very little information would absolutely suffice. Everything else is unnecessary “overhead”.

But before I give you reasons for my opinion, I will describe for you all the things a personnel record consists of.

  • As a general rule, the personnel record is started when an employee is hired. That is old knowledge as it has been handed down over the centuries.
  • When a new employee is hired, a master data list is made. It contains all the data about the employee necessary for realizing the working procedure, such as his/her birthday, sex, social security and retirement number, religious belief, etc. The work contract is added and sometimes the (successful) application letter with the CV and diverse diploma (school, education, academic grade). And, of course, the protocols of one or more job interviews is filed here as well.
  • Then the personnel record is updated all the time by adding:
    • All extensions of the work contract;
    • All goal-oriented agreements;
    • Organisational changes,
    • Gratifications and social support (costs  for child-care);
    • All documentation pertaining continuing education;    
(the many “private educational measures” that, for instance, a software developer is doing all the time are not part of this);
    • Documentation of sickness and health insurance;    
In Germany, all employees who have been sick for more than three work-days have to bring a doctor’s testimony. To me, this looks like a method for creating work and money for doctors – I never knew a doctor who did not write such a testimony when asked by the patient,
    • Special events (change of marital status…) and activities (presentation, …) will also be written down.
    • Protocols of yearly evaluation interviews and all other relevant discussions;
    • Interim job references;
    • All “disciplinary” things such as misbehaviour and/or written warnings;
    • In former times, positive letters were also kept in the personnel record. For instance if a colleague received a special tax-free payment because of a jubilee (company employee) or the birth of a child. However, now that these are no longer tax-free, there is less motivation for the employers to pay any special gratifications.
    • Today, less agreeable data are also part of the personnel record. They suggest a strange concept of humanity. Because humans, too, are now considered a measured object. For instance, we find the results of strange tests (Score-Cards as results, for example, of the Reiss-Methode), as well as “psychological” reports about the employee’s personality and numbers that indicate his performance for the enterprise. I do not know if this is legal, but I know it is done.

(In some companies, they have agreements that state what may be added to the personnel records and what may not be therein. And the works committee controls in regular intervals).

If someone has been an employee for many years, then this report folder can become quite extensive. It might weigh a few kilograms. If you have a hundred employees, you need quite a bit of storage space. That is why you have to have a digital HR application. And, incidentally, you will also get quite some problems with “privacy protection“.

Because, by definition, IT systems are not secure. To be sure, the drawers with the personnel files in locked rooms were not very secure, either. I actually remember some creative employees who managed to get the keys. And I also remember a personnel file lying around on the desk of a “boss” overnight. But in those days that was not a problem.
In IT, you have to introduce processes that define who can read what under what conditions. It has to be documented. And again, you have one of those coffin nails that will do damage to an agile and slim enterprise and give you yet a little more bureaucracy and administration.

In other words – everything you do not really need is something you better avoid!

Incidentally, the dialogue with my friend continued. His reply to my question why you need personnel records was (after some hesitation):
“For writing references?“
Indeed. As we all know, in Germany the employer has to write a reference for an employee when he leaves (or whenever he wishes one). That reminded me of when and how I used to write letters of reference. Here is what I did:
First and foremost, I asked the employee to write down everything he did for the company and mark which of those things were important to him. Then I took this input and added my own knowledge and estimation, before finishing with one of those famous phrases taken from a book that lists all the relevant phraseology.

But I only ever took a look at the personnel folder when I needed a birthday for wishing someone many happy returns.

For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

And about good & bad/ right & wrong …

To manage means to act. And I learned, both in life and in many expensive seminars and intense discussions with my mentors:

A good manager should distinguish between good and bad a little more often than other people. And he should make more good decisions than bad ones. If he succeeds, then he has achieved quite a bit and you can respect him very much.

Moreover, I learned that the “attitude of mind” has central meaning for everything you do. Attitude of mind is made up of two words: mind and attitude. If you wish to act with responsibility, you should have the “correct” mind-set. Your attitude can be the backbone you need in order to maintain your mind-set even in what you do.

Well, this is not precisely news. Neither is it news that all decisions, along with the subsequent behaviour, by definition have both a constructive and destructive component. I will not go into details, because everyday-life is full of examples.

Also, it is quite trivial that decisions and behaviour will always have both constructive and destructive elements. If a decision is “right” and an action is “good”, then the constructive element should always be stronger than the destructive one.

The same is true for what you say and what messages you send. Basically, the task of a manager is to communicate. Whatever content a manager communicates will always be partly constructive and partly destructive. Therefore a “correct” or “good” statement will always also – apart from the hopefully strong constructive idea – contain a destructive part. You can – often quite easily – find it by “logical negation”.

Some people, however, – and I am afraid we all have a tendency towards this – like pocketing the constructive message and then they get extremely enthusiastic about the destructive part. In doing so, they deprive the sender of the trust that the constructive part is actually the most important part of his message.

I am not the only person who sometimes comes close to despairing when witnessing this. Here I am, wishing to say something positive. The majority of my audience also understands this. But then some people extract the “negative” element. In the worst case, they will hand it on as some kind of “conspiracy theory”. And if I am out of luck, this theory will be taken up by someone or somewhere and a lot of damage will be done.

Consequently, I believe it is also part of a good enterprise culture to not just point out the constructive part of your actions, but also to see the constructive element in everything you receive and evaluate. Rather than minimizing this element through heightening the destructive parts.

Incidentally, what annoys me most about eloquently presented and well-sounding messages is if they contain ZERO information – that is if, after close analysis, you discover that they contain NOTHING. The senders of ZERO messages make use of the advantage that, if you send no content, naturally you cannot send constructive or destructive elements. In this case, nobody can degrade the message through a heightening of the negative. I would not be surprised to see that such people are actually particularly well-loved and successful.

🙂 This is another place where I will refrain from giving examples for persons whose messages have ZERO content.

(Translated by EG

For all articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!