Human resources staff must have easy access to personnel files so they can manage them properly for confidentiality and up-to-date employment actions. In addition, record keeping is an essential function for HR departments. Federal and state employment laws and regulations mandate record-keeping provisions to which employers must adhere. Organizing file materials appropriately and logically facilitates accurate record keeping and easy access. Because there are so many aspects of the employment relationship, many HR departments create tabs for specific areas of an employee's file.

Separate personnel file contents related to specific types of employment actions. Employment actions include recruitment, training, workers' compensation and employee health benefits, compensation and pay records, performance appraisals, disciplinary records, attendance and timesheet data.

Create a file folder that contains each employee's first name, middle initial and last name. For easy reference, use color-coded files according to department. For example, place purchasing department employee files in blue folders and sales department in red folders.

Contact the HR staff member responsible for employment matters such as FMLA leaves of absence, workers' compensation injuries, health insurance enrollment and disability insurance matters. Explain the importance of maintaining confidential employment records that contain medical- and health-related information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates strict confidentiality of file materials and requires that employers maintain separate files that contain medical- and health-related information. Create a separate folder for confidential records for each employee including the same information -- first name, middle initial and last name.

Separate remaining file materials. Create tabs for each section of an employee's personnel file. The sections contain materials related to recruitment and selection, training and development, compensation and pay records, performance information, attendance and time sheet information.

Put the recruitment and selection materials near the front of the employee's file. Label this section "Application Materials," "New Hire Materials" or a similar title. In this section, include the completed employment application, resume and cover letter, job posting and job description of the position for which the employee was initially hired and emergency contact information.

Place training and development file materials after the recruitment and selection section. Label the section "Training and Development" or just "Training." Include proof of completion of workplace training, such as new-hire orientation records, skills assessments, training sessions and professional development. Also, include documentation about professional conferences the employee attended and certifications, such as training for food service workers' health assessment, HR designation or professional licenses.

Label remaining sections and insert appropriate file materials in each section. For example, create labels for "Performance," "Discipline," "Payroll and Withholding" and "Attendance." In some cases, you can combine performance records with disciplinary records; however, maintaining separate sections makes access simpler, particularly when a supervisor wants only to review past performance appraisals.