Minute Taking! 

Minute taking – probably not the most interesting topic but certainly a very important one. As the saying goes ‘if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen’.  

Accurate record keeping and minute taking is extremely important in the disciplines of HR and Co Sec. Whether it be recording formal board meetings, formal HR proceedings or informal meetings of any sort – accurate and timely record keeping is essential to all businesses.  

If Companies do not keep accurate records in a ‘live’ environment, then decisions can be challenged at a later date and the evidence or rationale for them being made isn’t there which can be problematic for Directors. In HR matters, Companies often cite conversations with employees (such as performance discussions or redundancy meetings) but having failed to record them, they cannot be relied upon as evidence of a fair process as the records are not there.  

Company Minute Taking 

In a recent article, Peter Swabey, Policy & Research Director at The Chartered Governance Institute explained the importance that was placed upon minute taking in relation to the Kids Company case (the well-known Children’s Charity which subsequently plagued with allegations of financial impropriety, poor governance and even abuse). Swabey highlights that that the recent ruling in the Official Receiver’s case against the Directors of Kids Company referred to minutes of board and committee meetings 135 times in a 221 page document. The issue in this particular case seeming to be the undue influence of the Founder and CEO in the content of minutes and them not independently reflecting the discussions held. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of references highlights the importance which is placed upon them and how accurate minutes may be looked at a later date and can be used to explain decision making processes. 

Given the confidential nature of almost all board level discussions (finances, strategic plans, staffing), it is often falls to someone in the meeting to record it which then provides them with the additional challenge of having to partake in and record the meeting – not something that you get many volunteers for.  

One company we worked with used to have a ‘last in writes the minutes’ policy which was a good way of ensuring that people turned up on time but also highlighted how much people often dislike being the nominated minute taker!  

HR Minute Taking 

Minute taking in employment matters is quite different to those required for board or company matters. Often the subject matter can be more delicate or even confrontational (particularly in grievance or disciplinary meetings) and the emphasis should be on accurately recording the meeting in a more detailed fashion (almost verbatim) and unlike board meetings, the contents can often be more colloquial.  

Regardless of the type of meeting being held, it is essential that good and accurate minutes or notes are taken and dealt with appropriately. 

Key recommendations in relation to Board and HR Minute Taking; 

  1. Have appropriate procedures in place for the recording of meetings 
  2. Appoint an experienced minute taker to each meeting – this should be someone who is independent and will not be biased in their recording of the meeting 
  3. Ensure that minutes are circulated following the meeting and agreed by the participants as an accurate reflection the meeting 
  4. Tone of the minutes – minute taking for board meetings isn’t about recording every single word but about summarising the essence of the discussion and succinctly conveying the tone and points discussed. This takes skill and experience to get right. A minute taker experienced in HR matters can also help ensure that the process is run fairly and provide templates to follow. 
  5. Don’t write minutes and lock them away in a drawer! Ensure that minutes are typed up quickly following a meeting and then circulated to those in attendance (or other relevant parties) and then confirmed by all to be an accurate reflection of the meeting. 
  6. Brief minutes are better than not minutes at all! 

Get in touch if you could benefit from outsourcing minute taking for your board or HR meetings!