HR Documentation: Your Ultimate Guide

by | Aug 2, 2023 | Human Resources, Knowledge Base

Have you ever wondered why HR documents are extremely important? Well, it shows the official activities that your business has taken part in. It is vital to record all of your business’ transactions, events, and activities. When you have all of your records up to date, you can have a smooth operating business. 

Now, HR documentation is not the most glamorous of tasks. It can be extremely tedious at times and does not get a lot of recognition for its importance. However, your business needs it to be transparent and onboarded regarding legal aspects. When your documentation is kept and recorded properly, then you have created a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is an online library that is self-serve, and it holds all of the information about your business. Many knowledge bases consist of the ins and outs of your HR, so the information is easier to access. 

This is why your business is going to need to file away the following pieces of official information. These documents are useful to have in unforeseen circumstances. They should be handled with care and maintained properly because they are your ‘proof’ of any important events and activities. 

What is HR Documentation?

HR documentation includes all of the paperwork that HR needs to gather and keep from each employee. This is their record in your business. These documents consist of government and legally mandated elements, company policy and practice that is required, any documents that have been suggested by human resources, and informal or formal recordkeeping about any events that have taken place. 

HR meeting between staff

You want to think about it this way: if it is not written down, then it did not happen in the HR world. If anyone begins to ask where your proof about your policy or an incident is, then you are going to want it readily available. This is also why having it all located in a knowledge base is handy; it’s because you can access it quickly.

HR Documentation Prominent Areas

Onboarding Paperwork

Before any new employee is brought onto the team, you should already have a pile of paperwork for them. This is all information that is needed by your state and the federal government during their first stage of employment with you. These are things like a W-4 for the employee or a W-9 for the employer, a state tax withholding form, a direct deposit form, and an E-Verify system that proves an employee’s eligibility in the United States. 

All of this information needs to be kept secure and should only be accessible to the employee or certain administrators. You must also take this opportunity to go over any of your company’s procedures and policies with your new employee. Provide them with a physical copy of your employee or company handbook and have them sign it off, stating that they have read it. Then, add this to your HR documentation and knowledge base.

Medical Documentation

Americans in the “Disabilities Act” require you to keep all employee medical records confidential. You need to have this information anyways because if your employee needs any assistance due to a disability, you need to provide that assistance. However, make sure to keep this information separate from the employees’ records. You do not want someone to have access to this information because it is confidential. 

If anything changes with your employee and their medical needs, you need to update this information appropriately. In this way, you are making sure you have covered all of your bases, but then you are also aware of what they need while working for you.

Performance Communication

Performance communication documentation includes all of the paperwork and records that show performance reviews and any corrections. This is where you can showcase the goals, evaluation forms, tasks, promotions, employee competencies, and disciplinary actions of an employee. 

Male and female communicating in office

After a performance appraisal, HR should be keeping many different forms of documents like the employee’s goals with their desired outcomes, such as improving workflow, driving profits, or being promoted. These can also be notes from a one-on-one meeting with managers, including any written feedback. This should also include the results of your goal measurements and how/if the employee has been able to achieve these goals. Finally, any rewards or compensation that has been given for achieving these goals needs to be documented as well. 

However, it is not just about writing down the positives, you need to write down the negatives as well when it comes to performance. You must have proof as to why a goal has not been achieved by the employee and the reasoning. 

If you have needed to hand out any written warning to employees due to their lack of performance, this should also be added. Lastly, any demotions or terminations that have happened need to also be added. 

Attendance Policy

Your attendance policy outlines when your employees should be clocking in and out for work. This is important to have because your employees are fully aware of your expectations. With this information readily available on your knowledge management software, you can then see when they do come into work and when they leave. 

The attendance records must also show when the employees were late or did not show up for work, too. You want your information to be accurate, so when it is written down and tracked properly, you can ask the right questions to your employees in regards to their attendance.


Having all of your company’s benefits is handy to have because you should be giving this information to any new employee. Even current employees may want to read about these benefits because they need to see if they are covered for an optometrist appointment. You can add this to your employee handbook that you give out, but it is not necessary. 

employee benefits

With this documentation, you want to include all of the information about your health and life insurance plans. These are extremely important because people want and need to know what they are covered for. You should also include your retirement plans because the employee needs to see what benefits they are getting with retiring from your company compared to someone else’s. 

Even information about paid time off goes under benefits because it benefits everyone. Your employees need to know about their paid time off and how to go about it. Do they need to give you a week’s notice? Does it need to be written in an email? This is where that information goes, so anyone can figure out how to get that day off. 

You want your employee to feel like their employer has thought about everything when it comes to their contract, so they don’t have to. 

Compliance with Employee Policy (Sexual Harassment, Non-Compete Clause, Etc.)

When hiring an employee, you take the risk of them engaging in some activities that do not follow your organizational policies. When you have your policies written down, the employee knows exactly what they can and cannot do, so you are not at fault for their behavior. They could be rude or violent when speaking with another member of staff. 

Any safety rules you have could be ignored by some employees. Their social media could have information about work that should not be made public. There are so many different scenarios that could happen, so it is important to keep yourself safe with documentation.

Depending on what your employee has done, their contract could be terminated on the spot. You must document anything that has happened and add it to their file because you’re going to have proof and reason for their termination. 

When documenting your policies, you want to make sure that everything is in the employee handbook because they have easy access to that. Moreover, during the onboarding process, you had made them sign off on it, so they now have a binding contract saying they understand your policies. If you need to speak with an employee, tell them why they are in trouble and how they have not met these policies. Make sure to be very specific. You want to tell them the exact policy they have violated and where it can be found. 

Remember, write down everything that is said, so you have a paper trail and documentation of this happening. However, have the employee sign the document with the conversation notes, because if this is not signed, it may not have any importance. If they refuse to sign it, make sure you write that down on the notes because that can justify why they have not signed it. 

At the end of this conversation, you may want to explain to the employee that this behavior cannot continue, otherwise, they are facing termination. Once they understand, add this to their file so that your documentation is kept up to date. 


Your promotions section must include who and why someone has been promoted. You want actual evidence to support this promotion because it cannot be ‘just because you felt like it.’ If you do not have the proper evidence, you can end up in trouble for discriminating against someone else. It is better to have this information recorded and placed in your knowledge base.

When you are going to promote an individual, you must have their performance reviews at hand. Highlight where they have exceeded your expectations and how this is going to help them with their new job role.

Have a conversation with this employee about this promotion and write it down so that you have proof. Once you feel confident in giving them the new title, you may go through the process of doing so. 

Write up a new contract that has all of the new job roles and responsibilities. This is important because they should not get confused about what they now need to do in your company. Go through your HR team and make sure that everything has been changed accordingly.

Depending on how much they make, you might need to put in a different tax code, so change it immediately when they start their new role. Again, you do not want to get in trouble with anything tax-related. 


This information is extremely important because payroll is also tied in with taxes. You want to make sure this is all kept up to date and is following the correct tax procedure because you do not want to end up in trouble because of taxes.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires all employers that have at least two employees and annual revenue of more than $500,000 to follow overtime pay, minimum wage, child labor, and recordkeeping laws for the non-exempt employees. 

You need to keep at least three years of payroll records on file just in case you get asked any questions. This can also include employee identification information and how much they were paid each time. With this information kept safely and properly, you can rest easy knowing that if anyone walks through your door asking for it, you can provide it. 

Also, this is handy to keep for the employee. They are going to receive their pay and the taxes that have been deducted on their payment document, but they also have the right to be able to access the file that HR is keeping safe.

It’s important that it is being kept safe because if an employee asks to take a look at it, and they notice something is not being recorded on their file, they can alert the authorities. 

It’s just better to stay safe and write everything down.

How to Get Started with HR Documentation

When you are ready to get started with your HR documentation, begin writing everything down. This needs to start once you find the right employee for you. You need to gather this information to create your knowledge base because it can hold all of this information easily. Then, the right people can access it when they need to, allowing for transparency within your business. 

HR is extremely important because it keeps you and your employees safe, so make sure to keep yourself on top of it. These tasks can seem redundant or tedious, but it is going to keep everyone safe from additional and unwanted headaches. This has been your ultimate guide to HR documentation, so start writing up that paperwork!

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