A Business Owner’s Guide to Creating & Maintaining Personnel Files

3 Tips to keep in mind when creating and maintaining personnel files


Are your personnel files overflowing with information? Or is creating and maintaining personnel files for your employees something that’s on your to-do list?


Creating and maintaining personnel folders supports the privacy of your most precious asset – your employees.


At Tandem HR, we understand that human resource solutions are vital to preserving confidentiality and normalcy at your company. Here are three tips to keep in mind when creating and maintaining personnel files.


Tip #1 – Confidentiality Is Key

The first step of creating and maintaining personnel folders is to uphold confidentiality by handling your personnel files as you would any other private company record.


If your files are paper, keep these personnel folders locked in a cabinet and allow access to only a select few management and HR personnel. If storing records electronically, they should maintain the same type of security as you would with a lock and key.


You should also have a policy on who exactly can see your personnel folders. In many scenarios, the following titles should have access to personnel folders:


  • Human Resources Manager
  • Employee Supervisor
  • Top Tier Management


Whatever works for your business, make sure you have a handling policy in writing to avoid confusion.


It doesn’t matter if the files are paper or electronic – your HR department has an obligation to protect your employees’ personal and employment-related information. But, what information is this exactly? We’ll dive into that next.


Tip #2 – Include More than Just the Basics

Personnel folders contain personal and sensitive information about your employees, from compensation and work history to job performance and personal contacts.


When creating personnel files for the first time, make sure to include basic personal information, including:


  • Basic employee information
  • Job description
  • Any application and resume submitted
  • IRS tax withholdings forms
  • Payroll and compensation information
  • Contracts or agreements
  • Handbook acknowledgments
  • Performance evaluations
  • Garnishments
  • Termination documents


Also, if the employee has received complaints from others, proper documentation of each incident should also be included in their personnel folder.


Tip #3 – Not Everything Belongs in a Personnel File

Here’s a question we hear from business owners quite often.


Does this mean everything related to my employees should go in their personnel files?


The short answer is no. For example, refrain from keeping medical records in a personnel file. In fact, you are legally required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to keep medical records in a separate file for any employees with disabilities.


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also requires all I-9 forms to be kept in a separate folder as well, so I-9s should not be kept in personnel folders.

Bonus Tip on Maintaining Personnel Files

Keeping up on office clutter, whether it’s paper or digital, can be difficult. But as a final tip, keep in mind that each document in a personnel file can have a specific retention time frame so it’s best to have a Record-Keeping Policy on hand that speaks to maintenance, retention, and destruction.


Once you are legally able to do so, you should shred, incinerate, or electronically delete documents to protect the former employee’s privacy.


After hearing our tips, are there any changes you need to make to your current personnel folder process? For additional help in creating and maintaining personnel files, reach out to one of our HR professionals today.