Personnel files: A short guide that answers all your questions

Personnel files are important documents for the HR Department and you have to be careful when working with them. However, many people still have questions about this subject and getting answers from various sources doesn’t always help. So we’ve put together the most frequent questions about personnel files and got you answers that free you from stress and anxiety. Everything seems easier when you have the know-how.

Here’s what you’ll learn from this article:

What is a personnel file?

A personnel file is a folder that keeps all the data related to an employee. By data, we mean personal payroll information. It may be a physical folder full of papers or a digital folder. Personnel files aren’t just for current employees. You have to archive and store the personnel files of previous employees too. So, keeping them in digital format seems to be the best idea. Otherwise, you’ll need a lot of space for storage.

Why is a personnel file useful?

When you have organized personnel files for all your employees it’s easier to find what you need. You can organize them alphabetically or by the department. Personnel files help you track the history of an employee, follow their progress, and understand their work patterns. And when you’re working with thousands of employees, keeping everything in order is essential.

Moreover, personnel files help you avoid losing or misplacing important documents. In case of an audit, you can quickly find the requested documents, saving time and making a good impression.

What should a personnel file include?

A personnel file should include all documents related to the employee’s work situation. Start with the documents you’re required to keep by your state laws such as work contracts and agreements, education degrees, and personal and contact data. Then add the payroll history, leave days situation, and attendance documents. Complete the file with training records, performance statistics, disciplinary actions if any, and previous employers’ references. Here’s a complete list of documents to include in a personnel file:

  • Personal and contact data in case of an emergency;
  • Payroll history, overtime, and tax information;
  • Contracts and agreements, employee benefits and compensations, and termination documents when the employee stops working in your company;
  • Employment-related documents: resumes, cover letter, offer letter, interview answers, questionnaires, etc;
  • Signed acknowledgment of employee handbook and job description;
  • Education and experience related certificates;
  • Reference letters;
  • Leave and attendance records;
  • Performance reports, long-term goals, training documents.

We’ve made things easier for you. Download the personnel file checklist from here and make sure you put all the right documents in the employees’ personnel files.

How do I prepare a personnel file?

These days it’s safer and cheaper to keep personnel files in digital format. Invest in HR software that suits your company’s necessities and gives you smart tools to work with. Start by choosing a sorting system and divide the employees into categories. Then add the important documents, the ones required by an auditor, and leave less important documents at the end. If you use the digital format, it’s easier to put everything in well-labelled folders. You also have tools for searching and automatic sorting.

How are personnel files stored?

If you use paper documents, you have to store them in large dossiers and archive them in a dedicated room. Label each dossier with all the information you need: department, job title, employee’s name, etc.

If you use the digital format, all your documents will be stored on a hard disk, server, or cloud. Dedicated HR software provides secured login forms and keeps your files safe. It also performs periodical backups to make sure you don’t lose any data.

Do the employees have access to their personnel files?

In many states, the employees’ access to their personnel files is granted by the law. Even if this isn’t the case in your state, you can allow the employees to see their files. This maintains a transparent relation between employees and the HR Department. It also empowers the employees and makes them more interested in their work situation. However, if you keep the personnel files on paper it will be much more difficult to grant access for all employees at the same time. This is where digital solutions can bring you important benefits.

What problems can I have with the personnel files?

Personnel files store important and confidential documents. You have to keep them safe and make sure the access is secured. Another problem is the big volume of data. If you keep them on paper, you’ll need a lot of paper, printers, and storing space. Paper also deteriorates in time and you need to find a way to keep the employees’ personnel files for the entire time requested by your state laws. This is costly.

Another problem raised by personnel files is the sorting system. You need to be efficient and find anything you need very quickly. Personnel files include documents with different levels of importance and you need to access them accordingly. Thus, an efficient searching and sorting system is a must.

In conclusion

We hope we’ve answered all your questions and you now have a clearer perspective on personnel files. Keep in mind that personnel files aren’t optional. You have to have them. Moreover, they have to include the documents your state laws required. So, choose an efficient system, with low costs and good perspectives. You don’t want to change it right in the middle of the company’s busiest times.

Secure, online access!

Each of your employees will receive one secure account. They can view their employee data online, anytime!

Easy set-up ● No contracts required ● No credit cards