January 20, 2015

It’s Time to Follow up on Your Business New Year’s Resolutions

By Paul Bieber

What’s more important? Seeing one more potential customer per day, or working on government paperwork? Or could your choice be cross-training all of your team or setting up a new filing system for personnel needs? Last choice: Getting more quotes out timely, thus generating more business, or actually setting up two DIFFERENT personnel files for each employee?

Congratulations, you have picked door number three, the one with the two filing cabinets for your personnel records. Aren’t you the lucky and wise one!

Maybe you have an office manager that acts as your personnel department, or maybe you actually have a person who does all of your insurances, vacation scheduling and payroll. Whatever… your New Year’s resolution was to make sense of all of the paperwork in the office, and your personnel records are a good place to start.

Personnel files should always be kept in locked file cabinets, with a strict need-to-know access controlled by a responsible person. Files are not public information. In many states, an employee may ask for and get his personnel file, and may request copies of most documents. Check your local chamber of commerce or your state department of labor website for details. Many companies operate in multiple states; don’t assume what goes on in your main office is correct for your satellite offices.

And, actually, you need to have two employee files. The first one contains basic information and forms, while the second one contains medical information such as pre-employment physicals or drug testing results. This second file should not be viewed by an employee’s supervisor; only the most senior of mangers should have access to this. In a small company, only the owner should be able to go into this file.

Back to the main file. Supervisors should have access here. They will want to reread last year’s employee review, check attendance records or see if the employee has met goals previously discussed.

Here is a list of most records that should be in each file:

  • Job description
  • Employee’s application and resume
  • Your offer of employment or terms that you have given this employee
  • A copy of the employee’s W-4 form for taxes
  • A receipt or signed acknowledgement stating this employee has received your employee manual. You should include here a note from the person who gave the employee the manual and notes on their discussion of key points.
  • PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS (Yes, this is the most important part of your company’s relationship with your employees.  More on this another time.)
  • Forms relating to starting or defining your employee benefits
  • An emergency list for this employee… phone numbers to reach a spouse or relative
  • Complaints from customers or coworkers and your resolution of same
  • Awards and ‘atta boys’ this employee has earned. It is important to remember the good things, as well as the problems!
  • Disciplinary notes or proceedings including notes on tardiness and attendance
  • Any other papers including a specific contract, if applicable, salary history and anything else your company uses in working with employees

Now, for the Super-Secret file. This contains:

  • Medical results of physicals, drug testing, results from worker’s comp medical issues
  • Notes on references obtained before hiring
  • Ongoing investigations about the employee
  • Notes concerning an employee disability, if relevant

Enough for now. Next week we’ll work on the information on the employee application and his resume.