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Recording and transcription - avoiding the disciplinary pitfalls | << Back


Recording interviews is a sound idea

Co-founder of DictateNow, Maxine Park recently wrote an article for Credit Control and Asset & Risk Review magazine, which highlighted the reasons behind the rising numbers of employers who are using digital recordings in disciplinary interviews, performance reviews and even job interviews. In this article,

She looked at the growth of this trend and discusses the benefits for all parties involved, with the latest technology and apps making it possible for even the smallest businesses to adopt this approach. Offering an audio record of any interview, within minutes of its conclusion, helps avoid any accusations an organization may have acted inappropriately.

The article was featured in the latest edition of the magazine, which is one of the world’s leading research journals dedicated to the advancement of credit and risk management knowledge. Since its founding in 1979, the Journal has continued to provide a unique forum for the publication of high quality manuscripts, challenges conventional wisdom, explores alternatives, and offers new perspectives that will enhance bottom line performance.

For more information about the magazine visit www.creditcontrol.co.uk

Or, read what Maxine had to say here.

Recording and transcription - avoiding the disciplinary pitfalls

Employment law has recently been through one of its most significant periods of change. The Ministry of Justice has introduced fees for individuals bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal, which some have predicted will lead to a drop in the number of cases, but this is certainly no time for employers to relax.

Maxine Park, solicitor and co-founder of digital dictation and transcription services provider DictateNow, explains why more employers should make digital recordings and transcriptions of disciplinary interviews, performance reviews, interviews and hearings.

It is still imperative that managers take every possible measure when conducting confidential meetings with employees, like disciplinary or grievance interviews, to avoid the common pitfalls that could lead to a resurgence in the number of employment tribunal claims.

Minor disciplinary matters are still often handled informally by many employers, with a quiet word off the record, hoping to stop trouble before it really starts. However, they must be aware, that once the need for formal proceedings has been established, it is essential they adhere to the approved policies of the organisation.

However, the stark reality is if you get the procedure wrong or make simple mistakes in managing your disciplinary or grievance interviews, the likelihood of an employment tribunal claim being pursued - along with claims for breach of contract, unfair dismissal and discrimination - could increase dramatically.

These cases can cost organisations considerable time, effort and money to defend and that’s before taking into account any pay-out which may be awarded to the employee.

Following agreed procedures should certainly minimise the risks, but many organisations now appreciate the benefits of making sound recordings of all formal interviews with employees. Retaining the sound files also allows for transcriptions to be made quickly, often within hours, to be offered to the interested parties.

The confidence this process inspires in managers undertaking the interviews, has even led some organisations to routinely record job interviews, sometimes using video, to ensure accurate records are created of who said what.

Listening again helps add perspective

As valuable a tool as it is, recording is not just about helping to get procedures right. It can also provide extra insight and, for certain organisations, help with recruitment during the interview process for prospective staff.

Before any interview takes place, employees should be informed the recording is taking place and that the resulting sound files will be made available for review by colleagues or senior managers. An alternative perspective on an individual’s performance can be valuable and it is far easier to form an opinion about someone you are able to hear yourself, rather than having to rely on reading another person’s notes.

Strictly speaking there is no legal requirement to advise meeting attendees that a recording is being made. Much may have made of MP Andrew Mitchell’s covert recording skills, but in formal interview proceedings, it is best practice to ensure the recording is overt and everyone is aware why the recording is being made.

Being able to provide an audio record of any interview, within minutes of its conclusion, is a major asset in avoiding accusations the organisation may have acted inappropriately, dragged its feet or has something to hide regarding any personnel matters discussed during verbal communications.

The use of recording has benefits for everyone concerned, but it is important to remember that every word will be captured; the good and bad; intended and unintended. For this reason it is essential that those managers within the organisation tasked with undertaking disciplinary and grievance interviews   not only understand the correct, approved procedure but they can also be trusted to follow it, even in the face of provocation.

The knowledge that an interview is being recorded often helps to keep feelings in check throughout the process. Generally speaking, it proves more difficult for either party to become too emotional or even threatening during a conversation when they know every word can be listened to or reviewed by senior managers at a later stage.

Helping managers keep an open mind

One major benefit of using sound recordings in the disciplinary process is they can address and document a common failure among managers, namely, to keep an open mind about an employee or situation until they have heard all the evidence.  Sound recordings not only capture every word they are also able to convey emotion and offer context to the words which have been spoken. This makes it much easier for reviewing any issues which may have arisen for a second or even third time.

Listening to a sound recording makes it far easier to ignore preconceptions and form an accurate opinion. When people speak their own words it provides assurance and confirmation, something which you cannot ascertain when reading through a pile of handwritten notes. Importantly, sound recording equipment doesn’t miss words because it gets involved in a rapid exchange of views and forgets to make notes.

The switch to digital recording has also helped address another common complaint, namely the time proceedings take. There is now no need to wait for handwritten notes to be typed up and distributed to all those involved, for them to check and approve that the document does indeed represent an accurate record of what was said and by whom.

The process can also be extended by the time taken to discuss and agree amendments which may have to be incorporated into the written record. Senior managers will be waiting to review a final version so any delays can prove unsettling and allows grievances to fester. It is often the length of this whole back and forth process which leads to complaints being made against an organisation.

Plenty of time to explain

A common complaint from employees is that the managers involved in the hearing or interview process fail to provide them adequate opportunity to put forward their own version of events. But once again, the knowledge that a recording is being made will help ensure managers act appropriately and are not tempted to cut corners.

Knowing that the time which is given to the employee to express their case will be captured by a recording will positively motivate managers to adhere to the accepted procedure. By sticking to the accepted process, the recording and subsequent transcription become useful evidence to rebut any accusation that the employee was not afforded the necessary time.

Organisations will also suffer problems when inconsistencies exist in the disciplinary procedures being followed. Whilst organisations work hard to standardise their approach, making sound recordings of all interviews or hearings can help to ensure everyone conforms to the agreed standards.

Recordings can also be used to review the performance of those undertaking the interviews with appropriate training being offered if and when the review highlights deficiencies in their performance. The review of recordings can also help shape and improve the procedures to help address any issues raised during interviews or throughout the review process.

Smartphone is a smart solution

Modern Information Technology (IT) has significantly changed the process for capturing information with far more now being undertaken digitally. With work now being dictated into digital recorders and sound files routed to internal secretaries and typing pools the workload is being shared. The switch to digital dictation has also introduced identifiable cost savings because the whole process is proving to be both quicker and more efficient.

For smaller organisations the use of digital dictation machines, or innovative dictation apps for Smartphones and tablets, usually proves sufficient for the low number of one-to-one meetings and interviews.

For those larger organisations with a greater expectancy of more interviews and hearings featuring multiple attendees, some of the leading transcription service providers can supply conference-style recording equipment which includes a separate microphone for each participant. It is easy to set-up and use and allows for an accurate record to be made of more than one speaker, even when they each talk at the same time – something which is far harder to capture with written notes.

Transcription is the next step

Once an organisation has created a sound recording the next step is to get it transcribed into document format and ready for distribution to everyone concerned. It can be tempting for organisations to get this sound file typed-up using internal resources, but this can have confidentiality implications, particularly where redundancies, serious behavioural or health issues are concerned. With this in mind, many organisations utilise external transcription service providers and avoid any potential accusation of a breach in confidentiality. 

The best and most experienced service providers, well-versed in the process of transcribing hearings and interviews, will ensure the typist (usually a qualified legal secretary) signs a certificate of accurate representation. Although this verifies the transcription is a faithful reproduction of the sound file some clients will insist the transcription is checked for accuracy by a member of the service provider’s quality assurance team who will then also provide a signed certificate of accurate representation.

Faithful representation is guaranteed by utilising verbatim transcription. This means the transcription includes not only every word spoken, but all the ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ which have a direct impact on the flow, context and meaning of the conversations being recorded. Unlike transcription of business dictation, where skilful typists exclude mistakes and hesitations, in interview transcriptions any omissions may inadvertently affect the perceived meaning of the spoken responses.

The failure to keep accurate records of any interviews or hearings can cause problems at an appeal stage, if a case proceeds to tribunal. The ability to produce not just an accurate transcription of any interview - together with a certificate of accurate representation -  but also the original recording will significantly reduce any assertion that accurate records were not kept. Any tribunal is also sure to appreciate the ability to hear a recording of any interview, if it offers insight into the detail or emotions of the individuals involved.

Show you take it seriously

It is very important to understand that positive engagement and the accurate capture of information in disciplinary hearings and interviews can also help improve standards of work and performance within an organisation.

Being able to achieve a quick resolution to any grievance can prevent employees from spreading gossip or damaging the organisation’s reputation. By recording and transcribing information gathered from personnel interviews, reviews and hearings, an organisation demonstrates just how seriously personnel issues are taken. It also shows not only how determined managers are to get things right, but how committed an organisation is to refining its processes to ensure they are as good as they can be.

Although some senior managers, might see the switch to recording and transcribing employee interviews as extreme, an increasing number of organisations are beginning to accept it as best practice for personnel matters. For those slow to adopt this approach to interviews and meetings, they must understand the potential damage they risk to the reputation of their organisation from repeated accusations that they have acted inappropriately.

If you would like more information about the services we offer please call us on 0845 601 7726.

  T V Edwards LLP have used DictateNow for a significant period and have become reliant on the service. DictateNow provides an efficient and organised typing service which has become vital to T V Edwards LLP as we expand and increase our work load.

The advantage is that the typing is saved directly into T V Edwards LLP’s case management system which reduces the administrative time once the typing has been completed. Also, DictateNow are able to complete typing quickly which is essential for fee earners, particularly those who are out of the office at court and who are under time constraints.

DictateNow also provide a helpful telephone support service for any queries that arise providing a professional service.

Maria Adams
Family Solicitor
T V Edwards LLP