Personnel records are the standard way of documenting an employee’s relationship with a company or organization. In some instances, these records contain fairly general information, whereas other times, they may include private or confidential details. Regardless of the file type, personnel records need to be regularly updated to ensure operational efficiency and success. 

Personnel Records

What are personnel records?

Personnel records, or personnel files, pertain to the employees at an organization, and consist of comprehensive, accumulated information. Personnel records are typically maintained by an agency’s HR department, and include relevant insights regarding an employee’s application, job description, salary data, and more.

6 different types of personnel records 

While there are a range of personnel records an organization may use, all of these documents fit into one of six categories. Of these categories, the most commonly referenced tend to be hiring documents and reports on job performance.

  1. General information: This grouping ecompasses personal information like the employee’s full name, birth date, social security number, phone number, address, and potentially their emergency contact numbers, as well.
  2. Hiring documents: Most employers hang on to documents used in the hiring process, such as employment applications, job descriptions, and resumes or cover letters.
  3. Employee agreements: At times, aspects of the employer-employee relationship are governed by official documents such as union contracts, non-compete agreements, and confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements.
  4. Compensation: Records related to compensation (and benefits information) include W-4s, beneficiary forms, payroll records, and time cards for previous years.
  5. Job performance: This section is rather broad, but can include performance evaluations, corrective actions, disciplinary letters, awards, nominations, education, credentials, training records, or promotions within the agency.
  6. Post-employment information: In the same way employers retain hiring documents, many file post-employment information, too. These documents are things like a resignation or termination letter, final performance appraisal, and final paycheck.

6 records that should be kept in a separate, confidential file

It’s a good idea — and often legally required — to keep certain employee records and information in a confidential file that’s separate from the rest of your paperwork. Proper personnel records management might take some extra effort, but it’s a necessary step toward protecting the privacy of all employees or staff members.

  1. Background check results: Background check results span from past employment verification, to credit history, to the criminal history of an applicant. Conducting background checks is done to ensure the safety and security of every employee.
  2. Litigation documents: Litigation is a process for handling disputes within the court system. Documents involved with a litigation (i.e. the contested action itself or the final decision by the judge) should always be stored in a confidential file.
  3. Form I-9s: Form I-9s are used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for work in the United States. Because these forms possess highly-sensitive, personally identifiable information, they mandate careful protection. 
  4. Medical records: Any employment-related documents that contain medical information must be saved independent from other personnel files, so nothing is inadvertently revealed or shared with another employee. 
  5. Federal and state leave documents: Most federal and state workers receive paid leave each year for situations like the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child; caring for a spouse, child, or parent; military caregiving and leave purposes; and personal health reasons, all of which is completely confidential. 
  6. Employee investigation: Documents referring to the disciplinary action of an employee, or an HR investigation concerning an employee claim, need to be safeguarded in a confidential file that cannot be accessed by other staff members in the office.

Why it’s important to keep personnel records up to date

It makes it easier to file taxes

Revising your personnel records is essential to the success of your organization, especially when you consider how these records come into play for filing state and federal employee taxes. If you relax on updating these documents, you’ll likely have more of a challenge completing the mandatory tax forms and preparing quarterly details for your payroll. But with accurate and ongoing record keeping, you’ll have a much easier time filing non-taxable wages, employee benefits, vacation time, sick leave, and so on. 

It complies with the law

In addition to updating personnel records being a good business practice, it’s possible you’ll need to keep up with certain records in order to comply with provisions under both state and federal law. While state laws obviously vary depending on where you work, you’ll want to make sure you’re abiding by the applicable laws wherever your offices are located. These laws may dictate what information has to be collected, what your organization may or may not do with said information, and how long employee records should be stored.

It helps with salary revisions

A salary revision differs from a salary hike, in that a revision adjusts the entire salary structure (including all the primary components). Since a revision is more involved than a traditional raise, it makes it that much more important to have the correct information to help facilitate this change. Without precise personnel records to serve as a guide, any number of issues can crop us when trying to initiate this modification. However, with up-to-date records, salary revisions can happen seamlessly, thanks to the current data and percentages provided. 

It assists in a legal dispute

If your organization finds itself in the middle of a legal dispute, you’ll be glad to have a stack of personnel files to support your case. Maintaining personnel records allows you to preserve a written history around a designated event (or events), and in legal proceedings, this type of documentation can be critical to the final outcome. Well-managed files are the best way to cite employee promotions, pay raises, disciplinary actions, or even termination, and this sort of physical evidence can go a long way in guaranteeing a fair and balanced decision. 

It determines promotions or terminations

Another reason it’s recommended to keep personnel files up to date is because they aid in determining promotions — and sometimes they reveal grounds for termination, as well. If your organization doesn’t amend and improve its records, it can be incredibly difficult to monitor employee performance and productivity levels. But when you make it a point to document lateness, absenteeism, and personal performance, you can better track where employees are thriving or falling short, and then take action as needed based on this information.

Digitizing your personnel records

Updating your personnel records is a necessary part of any well-organized HR department, and yet, handling all of that paperwork can feel like a daunting (and never-ending) task. The good news is that digitizing your personnel files makes things easier and more streamlined for every team. By utilizing digital records, you’ll no longer have to deal with clunky filing cabinets, and instead have your important documents conveniently uploaded and accessible via the cloud — which many agree is the safest, most efficient way to manage documents and processes. 

By partnering with Image API, your agency can move beyond its stacks of paper personnel records and dive into the modern, digital landscape. Image API’s digital imaging services, cloud content management, and digital process automation is designed to simplify the complexities of records management and ensure your organization achieves measurable value and sustainable results at the speed of digital.

Going digital with personnel records makes appropriately managing files easier and more secure. Keeping certain personnel files confidential is simplified with different permissions for different user levels, and finding needed documents is efficient with intelligent search options. Digitized personnel records also make staying compliant with complicated retention schedules painless — systems like Image API’s Axiom Pro manage these schedules automatically.

Personnel record FAQs

Who has the right to see your personnel records?

In most circumstances, employee personnel files should be treated as private records that belong to the organization and the corresponding employee. With that said, it can be helpful to set up a policy that acknowledges who has the right to view personnel records, like the employee’s supervisor or manager (in addition to the employee themselves). 

Why is it important to keep personnel records?

It’s important to keep personnel records because these documents provide a written history of everything that’s happened over the duration of employment. For that reason, personnel records are needed to support actions like promotions, pay raises, and even disciplinary action. 

What are the main documents that should be in a personnel file?

Personnel records should be kept for each employee from the official date of hire. The main documents to file include general information (name, address, phone number); hiring forms (application, resume, job description); official employee agreements (union contracts, non-compete agreements); compensation or salary data; performance evaluations; and post-employment information (termination letter, final review).

 

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About the Author: Meredith Kane

Meredith Kane is a freelance copywriter based in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from where she grew up. She's been creating SaaS and B2B content for the last several years, which is largely focused on the practical application of today's digital solutions.