5 Documents Every Team Should Have

Good collaboration is creative brainstorms and insightful discussions. It solves problem, enables autotomy and builds relationships. 

Bad collaboration is the inability to answer questions without asking someone else. It hinders projects and processes when people aren’t sure what to do without “collaborating” first.  

The best way to avoid trivial collaboration is to document everything people need to do their jobs. This provides workforce autonomy and creates a distraction-free environment where everyone gets time to focus. 

Creating this documentation sounds daunting. But everything you need is already spread across various channels or committed to memory. 

Here are five starting documents that apply to nearly every team and every industry. 

1. Team Charter

A team charter is a canvas for any leader to map out strategy. Workplace problems such as role confusion, employee-manager tension, unnecessary overwork, etc. All of these are symptoms of a missing team charter. 

There’s no sense in following a strict team charter template for several reasons. 

The concept of “team” varies. A team charter could be for a small team within a massive corporation or for a newly launched 5-person startup.

Team charters are not confined to a certain industry. Analyzing the nuances of a given situation is a necessary step of creation. 

There’s not a template with everything needed to effectively lead and manage a team. Every situation is different and every team charter will vary accordingly. 

With that said, here are two methods for getting started. 

  • Background & Context 

  • Objective

  • Roles & Responsibilities 

  • Team Operations 

  • Budget, Resources and Available Support 

  • Final Consensus 

We’ve expanded on these here: 6 Core Components of a Team Charter Document

Another approach is to use these writing prompts: 

  • Who the Team is

  • How the Team is structured

  • How the Team fits into the larger organization

  • Who depends on the Team

  • What Team does to serve their customers/clients

  • The principles that guide the Team in those pursuits

2. Job Descriptions/Role Criteria 

A job description accurately describes the day-to-day workload and interactions associated with the role. These documents include: 

  • Day-to-day and long-term processes

  • Interactions with other teams and roles

  • Lines of communication and reporting structure

  • Individual success criteria: goals and constraints

  • How the role operates (opposed to a workload list)

Many companies task the creation of job descriptions to the HR department or a generic team member. This is a missed opportunity. 

Job descriptions should be reviewed and improved constantly as organizations change. Job descriptions are an opportunity to attract the best of the best. They can be a statement of company’s culture and innovation. The most notable example of this is the Netflix culture deck which included 129 slides about how the company operates and what it believe in. However you don’t need a viral slide deck to get some of the same benefits. Creative job descriptions are a vehicle for sharing personality, and showing how the company is unique. 

3. Goal Framework/Log

A lack of written, transparent and fair goals is connected with several employee dissatisfaction issues. For instance: 

Availability of training - Without goals, employees can’t determine what training they need. They’re tasked with projects last minute and run on a feedback treadmill that doesn’t translate to improvement. 

Relationship with their manager - Just as athletes don’t need to be best friends to win championships, managers and team members can perform well with a baseline of respect. Personal differences will bubble up without documented goals and shared investment. 

Opportunity to speak up and share feedback - Employees need to have a plan for personal growth that ties into company trajectory. This empowers them to share meaningful feedback that is backed by data from their goal logs. 

Employers don’t care - Without written goals, it’s natural for employees to feel like “just a number.” It’s also natural for employees to overlook employee contributions if they’re not tracking goals often. 

An effective framework for creating goals is S.M.A.R.T. This means all goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 

Goal setting and accountability must be a shared responsibility to work. Every manager should take specific steps to help achieve inherited goals, and help their team improve operations.

4. Employee Onboarding Program

Employee onboarding deserves more than a checklist. A better fitting term is program, or plan of action. 

There should also be a series of documents that can be reviewed together so the new employee has a clear understanding of responsibilities, and can provide feedback. 

Programs are better than simple checklists because onboarding doesn’t just apply to new employees. Promotions, lateral job movements, organizational changes, transitioning to a remote role are just a few examples of when onboarding is needed for existing employees. This is possible if job descriptions, success criteria, software usage guides, etc. are clearly documented, and can be reviewed appropriately. 

5. Interview Protocol

Interviews will vary between departments. But similar to job descriptions, there’s an opportunity to brand the experience. Certain personality and culture questions can be asked to every single interviewee. This experience leads into the first day as employees automatically have something in common to discuss.

Additionally, each interview usually begins with a company intro about history, expectations and how things work. All interviewing managers should collaborate on this intro (without scripting it),  so interviewees get a similar feel of the company. 

Another crucial reason for interview protocol collaboration is the ability to eliminate bias. Don’t risk passing on talented and qualified candidates simply because their name, look or even past experience. Candidates should be given the opportunity to complete skill-based tests or assessments at some point in the process. These assessments will vary by position, but can be structured in the same way or share similar conventions.