3 Best Practices for Designing an Effective Background Screening Policy

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As hiring begins to recover and employee turnover increases, organizations should stay ahead of hiring demand and ensure that they have an effective and compliant employment background screening policy in place.

The right background screening policy can help an organization by reducing the risks of claims, as well as improve the quality of its workforce.

As revealed in the 2011 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, the most common reasons for conducting background checks are:

  • Regulatory compliance – 52 percent of respondents cite compliance with regulatory requirements as the top reason for background screening.
  • Talent acquisition – 49 percent of respondents cited an improvement in the quality of hire as a primary reason for background screening.
  • Risk mitigation – 48 percent of respondents indicated that protecting against the risks of negligent hiring is also critical.
Reasons for conducting background checks

Source: HireRight 2011 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report

Furthermore, by establishing a clear employment screening policy and following through on it, an organization can help minimize the risk of potential discrimination allegations.

For example, if an organization conducts random drug testing, and one employee feels that he or she is being singled out for testing too frequently, a documented drug testing policy that is properly followed may help the organization defend potential discrimination claims. A written policy that outlines that its drug testing process is indeed completely randomized and non-discriminatory may help the organization defend potential claims.

This is just one example of how a stringent, clear and up-to-date background screening policy can benefit an organization. Whether you are looking to improve your current background screening policy or are creating a new background screening policy, consider the three best practices below.

1. Streamline Manual Processes
Many companies have separate systems for recruiting, HR, applicant tracking, on-boarding, compliance, training and screening. Gaps between these systems can negatively impact an employer. Time-to-hire is becoming more important in netting the best talent available.

Reducing the overall time-to-hire was the top screening challenge reported in the HireRight benchmarking report. Organizations using labor-intensive manual employment screening processes may not be able to compete in an employment environment where timeliness is a factor.

A manual background screening process also creates a wider margin for human error, with personnel entering a candidate’s data by hand in multiple locations. An automated system allows human resources professionals to enter data once and has built-in reminders and checks in place to protect against incomplete forms or other screening errors. It is also much easier to use a screening process when it involves one system versus several pieces of software and employee processes.

2. Involve Experts Across the Organization
The reasons for creating a screening program are varied and include compliance, talent acquisition and risk mitigation. In order to create a comprehensive screening policy that covers each of these areas, companies should involve key decision-makers across the organization.

This includes executive management, human resources, security and legal counsel. It is also recommended that organizations participate in any leading industry associations that are tied into regulation and policy creation.

Even for organizations that do not have in-house legal counsel, it is a recommended practice to incorporate a legal review of your screening policy. According to HireRight’s benchmarking report, a majority of employers incorporate legal teams into their screening policy decision-making. Of the surveyed respondents, 29 percent use in-house legal counsel, 25 percent use outside counsel and 23 percent rely on the legal expertise of their trusted background screening vendor.

3. Always Work to Improve the Policy
As regulations, legislation and technology evolve, it is vital for organizations to continually self-evaluate and improve background screening policies. By involving key personnel from the management, human resources and legal departments, an organization will be equipped to handle changes in regulations and new legislation.

In HireRight’s benchmarking report, we found that 37 percent of employers continually review and update their employment screening programs, while another 42 percent occasionally do so. Only about 21 percent of employers reported that they rarely or never review and update their screening programs. In this climate of change, we expect that more employers will see the need to monitor legislation and continually revise their screening policies.

Is your organization prepared to build a successful screening policy in today’s employment environment? By reviewing these three best practices, you will be on your way towards creating a more effective employment background screening program.

Free Report: HireRight 2011 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report
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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and is not a substitute for and should not be construed as legal advice. HireRight does not warrant any statements in the HireRight Blog. Any statutes or laws cited herein should be read in their entirety. You should direct to your own experienced legal counsel questions involving your organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply.