Personnel records refer to items of information which have been recorded about the employees of an organization. The data relating to past and present (and often future) employees are built up by the HR department over a period of time.
8 .1 Need for Personnel Records
The HR department of an organization is responsible for maintaining and updating the records of each and every employee of the organization. An employee’s full and up to date records need to be immediately available when required.
The personnel records of an employee constitute a ‘personal history’ since the date of his/her employment in the organization, right up to the time at which the record is being perused. It also contains details of previous employers, previous experience, education, and training background etc.
8.2 Information in Personnel Records
An employee’s “current” personnel records will contain most or all of the following particulars:
- Personnel number or code: This is allotted to the employee at the time of appointment and usually remains unchanged during the entire period of the employee’s stay with the organization. This number must be ‘unique’ so that its use will positively and accurately identify the employee concerned, and enable his/her records to be located immediately.
- Full name: An employee’s full name (first name, middle name, and surname) should be recorded. The employee’s gender and marital status are also usually recorded.
- Full address: This contains employee’s residential address, address for communication (in case it is a Post Box Number), telephone/mobile number, email address etc. Provision must be made for future changes in any of these details.
- Date of birth: Recording date of birth helps in calculating an employee’s age at any given point in time.
- Date of appointment: This contains date of appointment, dates of trial or probationary period, and date of confirmation.
- Education and training: This must contain the employee’s educational background, training taken in the organization or workshops attended, etc.
- Job or position: The job or position of the employee at the time of appointment must be recorded. Provision should be made for future changes e.g. change in nature of job, promotion, transfer etc.
- Pay scale: The pay scale (grade and rating) at the time of appointment is to be recorded. Every change in pay scale is recorded up to the current time. Current overtime rate or other special rate (where applicable) is to be mentioned. There needs to be provision for recording changes in future.
- Current entitlements: These include details of any special benefits and allowances to which the employee is entitled, number of holidays availed and due, etc.
- Contribution or deduction numbers: In many counties employers are required by law to make deductions from the salaries of employees for income tax, national or social security, contributions to pension or provident fund etc, and forward the payments so deducted to the relevant government departments. Employees are allotted, by the government departments, numbers or codes for each type of statutory deduction. These must be recorded here.
- Medical history: Complete medical records of the employee are kept in his/her personnel folder. These include pre-engagement medical examination, records of all other illnesses, sickness leave availed, etc.
8.3 Formats of Personnel Records
The format of personnel records maintained varies from organization to organization, and also between different categories of employees working in the same organization. The records maintained by the HR department might fall into three main types.
These contain the most frequently needed current data about the employees. It is essential that these summaries are always maintained up to date and accurately. They enable HR department staff, and other authorized personnel, to obtain quickly the current basic information about employees. This recorded information is usually referred to as ‘personnel sheet’ or ‘personnel card.’ There are different methods by which such cards can be stored or filed, for safety and future reference.
- The ‘loose card’ method: In this method cards are kept in metal, wooden or plastic trays or drawers, which might fit into cabinets. This is the simplest and the least expensive method but there is a danger that if a card has been taken out and not replaced at the correct place, it might be misplaced.
- The ‘loose-leaf’ card method: Cards are kept in files or binders. In some cases entries can be made in cards without removing them from the files or binders.
- The ‘visible card’ method: In this method cards are placed flat in metal trays which slide in and out of cabinets especially designed to hold them. The cards are so arranged and fitted into a tray that although they lie on top of each other, a space at the bottom of the card is always visible. This helps in the speedy location of the required card.
- Computers: More and more organizations, ranging from fairly small ones to very large ones, today use computers to store data about personnel, and to provide quickly the current data summaries about employees. Entries and changes can be made in the record quickly and then saved in the system. Another advantage is that through networking the records can be accessed by any number of HR staff, finance department or top management, from their own locations.
Even if the HR department is fully computerized, it might be necessary to retain files of documents relating to past, present and future employees. In many cases the documents will support and provide more data than the summaries. The range of documents which might have to be filed and retained for future reference might be very wide, and might include the employee’s original letter of application and/or completed application, copies of experience certificates, copies of educational certificates, CV, notes made by interviewers, results of selection tests, signed documents relating to appointment, medical reports, reports made by supervisors and/or managers, training officers and other executives, and many more.
- Records of former employees: When an employee leaves the employ of the organization, his/her records will be entered with the date from which he/she is no longer officially or legally employed. The reason why the employee left e.g. resigned, retired, dismissed, will usually be stated, accompanied by a detailed report in the case of dismissal. In the case of resignation, the reason for it, if known, might be stated. The records of former employees need to be retained – perhaps for a number of years – for possible future reference. This is necessary for various reasons. Some former employees might continue to be due benefits, such as a pension, for some considerable time after departure. The HR department might also be required by prospective employers to provide references or reports about former employees. There might also be instances in which ex-employees wish to return to the employ of the organization, though not necessarily with the same branch. In such cases, past records of such people could be very valuable in deciding whether to re-employ them.
- Records of non-employees: Separate sections of the personnel department’s filing system might be devoted to records of the following:
- Applications for jobs received but applicants not called for interview;
- Details of applicants who were interviewed but who were not offered jobs, although they might have been considered to be suitable for other posts in the future.
- Details of applicants interviewed and offered posts, but who have not yet started work.
8.3.3 Statistical Data
A lot of data needed by the HR department might be taken from the various records maintained. Many different statistics and analyses can be produced to meet the needs of the HR department and the management of the organization.
- • The rate of labour turnover: This simply means the number of people who leave the employ of the organization during a given period of time. The calculation is done using the following formula:
The statistics prepared will usually apply to a specific period e.g. one month, three months, six months or a full year, and will indicate a satisfactory work climate, or otherwise. If labour turnover is high or if it suddenly increases sharply, then something is wrong, and steps must be taken by HR department staff to find out what and why. Then they must recommend appropriate action.
- • The stability index: It can be valuable to the HR department when it is used in conjunction with the labour turnover figures. The index can be calculated using this formula:
Calculating the stability index enables the HR department to determine whether the organization has a “nucleus” of experienced workers. In this case, “experienced” means in the operations of the organization, as well as in their respective jobs. Having identified the “problem” areas, investigation can be done to ascertain why they are so. Once it is known what has gone wrong, steps can be taken by the HR manager to rectify the situation.
- Accident, injury and illness statistics: Another important set of statistics which the HR department can produce from its records relates to man-hours lost through accidents, or injuries/ill health sustained as the result of work. Problem areas might be identified and corrective action taken accordingly.
- Holiday periods: Statistics can be produced to show the period(s) of the year most popular with employees wishing to avail their paid holiday entitlements. The statistics might help some departments e.g. production and sales, to plan their activities well in advance to take account of probable “staff shortages” due to holidays being taken. At the same time, the HR manager can, if necessary and possible, arrange for “temporary” staff to be available and trained to “stand in” for at least some regular employees due to the holidays.
- • Other useful statistics: Other statistics and analyses might be produced for a variety of other purposes e.g. reports relating to the success or otherwise of induction procedures, training programmes, bonus schemes etc, reports about unexplained drops in productivity during a certain period, or absenteeism etc, reports compiled in conjunction with the finance department, relating to overtime worked.
The HR department is always involved in the preparation of reports for a number of reasons.
- Some reports will be of a purely routine nature, such as statistics concerning labour turnover, which are needed regularly by management.
- • Other reports might concern special matters, which might be outside the normal day-to-day operations of the department. An example might include the “labour supplies” in various areas in which management might be considering relocating the organization, or opening new branches or factories, and so on.
8.5 Learning Organizations
Workplaces, in which everyone expects as a matter of course to be routinely acquiring new knowledge and skills which do not better perform their existing responsibilities, but in anticipation of the expected changes to come, have been described as being “learning organizations.” Creating a learning organization can be one of the most satisfying results of leadership by any HR manager, and one which can have long-term benefits both for the organization and its workforce.