16 Essential Documents Human Resources Departments Need

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 13, 2022 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated May 13, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Building a business has many steps and requirements, including tax-related items, health insurance, worker’s comp and more. One crucial aspect of starting a business that often gets overlooked is human resources.

Building an HR department within your company requires effort and knowledge, and, depending on the size and industry of your business, can seem overwhelming. In this article, we will provide a checklist of specifications and items you need to make sure you have a robust HR system in place.

What is a human resources department?

A human resources department manages a company’s employees, including recruiting, terminating, training and all employment-related paperwork. The human resources department often performs tasks like sifting through resumes and applications, scheduling and conducting interviews, hiring and onboarding employees, maintaining employee files, and overseeing the company’s fair employment practices and workplace safety. They also arrange company benefits policies, such as health and life insurance, retirement accounts, payroll and vacation time.

Related: Human Resources: Definition and How it Works

Why a human resources department is necessary

A business owner’s primary interest is their bottom line, so at first glance, they may think they can save money by performing HR duties themselves. They’d be very wrong. The human resources department goes far beyond hiring and firing employees; in fact, one of the main objectives of an HR department is to make sure the business gets the highest ROI out of its employees.

In other words, HR is responsible for finding and hiring the people who make the company more money than it costs to employ them. The human resources department also manages all employee files while actively recruiting, ensuring legal compliance and more, warranting a full-time, dedicated department.

What does a human resources department do?

Duties performed by the human resources department include: 


Employee recruitment includes determining when recruitment is necessary for each department, posting job descriptions, interviewing and selecting new hires. These tasks are typically the responsibility of the human resources department.


The HR department also develops orientation schedules for newly hired employees as well as plans and schedules processes for them.

Employee assistance

Human resources may also create and implement helpful programs for employees, including personal leave, childcare, incentives for outstanding performance and flex schedules.

Employee benefits

Human resources keep employees informed about news and updates regarding life, medical or retirement benefits, answer questions and help with applications or claim forms. 

Act as an intermediary

HR may best be known for their intermediary capacity in cases in which communication between employees or between employees and management need a facilitator. They help to clarify communication and resolve conflicts as easily as possible for all parties involved.

Training and development

This department is often in charge of arranging training sessions, classes or courses periodically to ensure all staff is adequately informed and trained in things like first aid, new software and new methodologies in the field. 

Employee data privacy

Highly confidential information, such as employee contracts, job descriptions and responsibilities, discipline records, attendance records, performance records and IRS documents are all under the care of the human resources department.

Legal compliance

Labor laws, including breaks, overtime, wages and discrimination, are all the responsibility of the human resources department. The HR department is required to keep employees updated on local and federal laws to ensure compliance.

In short, the human resources department protects the interest, image and success of the company from every possible angle by ensuring compliance with laws, performing administrative duties and implementing company policies as efficiently as possible.

Related: Human Resource Management and Their Role in Your Job Search

How to build a human resources department

Your HR department must support and reflect your company’s desired culture. Follow these steps to build an HR department that aligns with your company’s needs:

1. Create your culture

Define what you want your company culture and values to look like by clearly identifying why your company exists, what you believe in and what you envision for the company’s future. You may ask yourself why qualified professionals would choose to work for you—and stay with you—rather than with another company. Use the answer to this question to focus on unearthing your core culture.

2. Balance personality with competence

The person or people you hire to form your HR team will need to understand your desired culture and even blend into it while remaining consummately professional. This unique blend is necessary to recruit employees who will fit well into the culture as well as bring the necessary experience and skills to the position.

3. Clearly identify what you expect from an HR department

Generally, your HR department should be able to handle administrative elements as well as people-focused elements. Some companies can find these qualities in one person, but most opt for the “divide and conquer” method.

They do this by having a team within which the person or people who are strong in the administrative side focus on compliance, procedures and administration, while the people or person who are stronger in the people-centric side of things remain focused on recruiting, retention and training. No matter their daily duties, each person on the HR team should possess strong communication skills, a sense of fairness, diplomacy and clear ethics.

Documents needed for human resources

Anyone who’s ever had a job has been given an employee handbook. These packets outline almost any specific policy and procedure you could think of. The items in a company handbook typically include: 

  • Job profiles

  • Organization chart

  • Staffing plan

  • Applicant tracking system

  • Salary structure 

  • Compensation and benefits overview

  • Holiday schedule

  • Vacation and PTO allowances

  • Mission statement/statement of values

  • Performance metrics

  • Travel and expenses tracking

  • Time and attendance standards

  • Dress code

  • Exit policy

  • Training and development

  • Job descriptions 

Related: Documentation in the Workplace

Tools for human resources

The human resources department typically handles more information and diverse tasks than any other department in a company. Most HR departments perform these duties with the help of several technological tools, such as the ones listed below, to make the job a bit more manageable:

Human resources information systems

To successfully manage the reams of information they’re responsible for keeping organized and confidential, most HR departments use a comprehensive human resources management system. This software stores data like employee records and documentation, tracks vacation and personal time, manages employee benefits, files performance evaluations and accesses payroll records. This software can aggregate data and create comprehensive reports for auditing purposes, something that would be near impossible to do by hand.

Recruiting software

Recruiting software is used to streamline the process of acquiring new staff. Using the software, HR professionals can post job ads, collect applications, manage candidates and more. These software solutions save time as well as eliminate the need to track all of this information manually.

Performance solutions

When supervisors evaluate an employee’s performance, a set of objectives and milestones are developed and subsequently tracked throughout the year by a human resources professional. HR can provide supervisors with information and tools to help monitor employees’ progress throughout this period and thus revisit and readjust future goals.

Payroll services

Payroll services automatically calculate and process paychecks, hours, deductions, paid time off and tax forms.  

Benefits management platforms

These solutions can do more than most payroll services available in terms of administering and tracking benefits, managing retirement and insurance plans, worker’s compensation insurance and other special benefits that some companies choose to offer, such as discounted phone plans, community service hours and more.

Employee engagement tools

These tools can provide insights regarding what you can do to keep your employees engaged. The program monitors your company’s culture, allowing you to recognize and reward your staff, and lets you collect anonymous feedback from your team that you can later refer to when developing improvements to your culture and operations.

Pricing and features for each solution vary depending on your company’s size and needs.

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