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How to Write a Memo to File

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Workplace communication addressed to "file" must adhere to the process and structure for employment records as well as basic format for business correspondence. File memos are intended to document such actions as staffing changes or employment decisions. Also, they preserve the facts and circumstances related to human resources activities and workplace investigations.

The Addressee

Although your memo is intended to document the file, there may still be addressees who should directly receive a copy of the communication. For example, if you're documenting an employee's file about her consideration for a promotion, you might want to include her current supervisor and the supervisor to whom she will report in the new role. In addition, provide the employee with a copy of the memo.

Sensitive Information

Workplace memos about sensitive information should be addressed only to those with a need to know and the memos should be clearly marked "confidential" if they contain information that must not be discussed among HR and the employee's supervisor. In some cases, the memos to file about sensitive matters shouldn't be placed in an employee's file at all. For example, in cases of workplace investigations, such as sexual harassment, a memo to file goes into the investigative file and not the employee's personnel file. Memos to file for investigative purposes remain confidential and accessible only to staff with a need to know, such as HR staff, company executives and owners, or legal counsel.

Memo Contents

Unless this memo is part of ongoing correspondence, you may need to describe the circumstances or explain the reason for your documentation. If it's a personnel matter -- other than an investigation -- begin the memo with the employee's name, department, position and length of employment. For example, if you're summarizing an employee's request for transfer, your first paragraph should contain pertinent information, such as the employee's position and the position or department for which she requested a transfer. The memo would also contain details about whether her transfer request was granted, considered or denied.

Distribution and Archives

If you're writing to an employee's file, a copy of the memo should go into the HR general correspondence file as part of the distribution list. In addition, the employee receives a copy and so do other parties who may be privy to employee information, unless the memo is part of a confidential workplace investigation. In that case, only HR and the staff working on the investigation should have access to the memo. When the file containing the memo is sent to your archives, the HR department retains a copy of the memo located in the department's general correspondence file.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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