Speed or Safety? You Can Have Both: The Top 5 Employment Screening Trends for 2021

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Amid the uncertainty and disruption of 2020, we at the background screening firm Sterling conducted more than 100 million background searches to help organizations across the globe hire safely and with attention to compliance. Based on our industry expertise and our clients’ unique hiring needs during these unprecedented times, we’ve been able to observe the ways that COVID-19 has changed background screening and verification services — and how those changes may linger into the future.

To that end, here are the five trends we feel are likely to have the most impact on background screening in 2021:

1. Focus on the Candidate Experience

It’s difficult enough to find a new job during the pandemic. A company’s background screening process shouldn’t create additional obstacles.

A smooth and simplified candidate experience will be a top priority for employers around the globe in 2021. Today’s candidates want hiring experiences as convenient, efficient, and speedy as the best online consumer transactions, and that includes background checks. Inaccurate screening reports, cumbersome information-gathering processes, and delays caused by outdated technology can cause candidates who’ve already accepted a job offer to reconsider their commitment.

According to CareerArc, 72 percent of applicants will share a bad hiring experience on sites like Glassdoor, on social media, or directly with family and friends. A study by PwC found that 49 percent of job seekers working in high-demand fields have turned down a job offer because they had a bad experience during the hiring process. Employers that simplify and enhance the candidate experience will safeguard their reputations while securing more top talent.

2. Identity Verification Takes Center Stage

While always an important component of the hiring process, identity verification emerged as a top priority in 2020 and will continue to be critical in 2021. The shift to remote work and remote hiring means many employees are now hired and onboarded without ever meeting company representatives in person. As such, verifying the identity of a candidate is a vital step in the remote hiring process. In a study by the HR Research Institute and Sterling, 72 percent of organizations said they would consider including identify verification as part of their screening flows if simple and inexpensive solutions were available.

Depending on how the pandemic and the vaccine rollouts progress, we will likely see spikes in demand for talent in certain sectors. This will necessitate rapid, urgent hiring. But safety should never be sacrificed for speed, nor vice versa. If employers find the right background-screening tools and services, they can carry out due diligence on everyone they hire without slowing down their recruiting processes.

3. Background Checks for Contingent Hires

Amid revenue shortfalls, lower headcount, and inescapable uncertainty, business leaders are focused on the most effective plans for survival. A Gartner survey of more than 800 HR leaders revealed that 32 percent of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. That number could increase after the pandemic, depending on how economic recovery plays out. As companies rebuild their staffing rosters, they’ll need to incorporate contingent labor into their overall plans in order to restart growth in this challenging environment.

Best-in-class companies apply the same identity verification, background screening, and onboarding procedures for contingent workers as they use for their full-time staff. That makes sense, as many contingent workers have the same level of interaction with coworkers, customers, and the community as full-timers do. Contingent workers will affect your corporate culture and impact the foundation of trust and safety that you have built with employees. From this perspective, the hiring of contingent workers should be treated the same as the hiring of full-time staff.

One thing to note is speed. Sometimes, organizations bring on contingent workers mainly to have flexibility and the ability to move quickly. As a result, some companies forgo identity and background screening. This is, of course, a significant risk, and you should know that you don’t need to sacrifice safety for speed.

Check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine for more career advice and recruiting trends:

4. Rescreening, Periodic Screening, and Ongoing Workforce Monitoring

While prehire background screening is a critical means of managing risk in the workplace, periodic screening and ongoing monitoring can bolster the effort by ensuring employees continue to meet the criteria set for them as new hires throughout their tenure with the company.

A 2020 survey by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) found that 12 percent of companies are now conducting background checks annually or more frequently, compared to 9 percent in 2019. Within the unique workforce landscape of 2021, ongoing screening will allow for agility and enhanced safety for remote, on-site, and contingent workers. Workforce monitoring provides a way to continuously keep abreast of employee behavior that may increase risk and liability, such as DUIs, assaults, fraud, theft, domestic violence, and more. This approach is ideal for positions that require significant levels of trust or certification, such as those found in healthcare, education, and financial services. It is also particularly relevant to transportation and fleet services, as it can alert employers to relevant motor vehicle violations.

5. COVID-19 Health Testing

As companies begin returning to their workplaces in 2021, creating a safe office environment will involve COVID-19 testing and vaccine verification for employees who come into contact with coworkers, clients, and the community. Protecting employees and community members will be a top priority for many companies, and testing that follows directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and government guidelines can ensure this priority is met.

Alternatively, ongoing company-wide testing may not make sense for all organizations returning to work. For some, social distancing, wearing masks, and working remotely will be adequate. COVID-19 testing procedures will vary based on individual company needs, sizes, and budgets.

Current events have brought these five trends into the spotlight. As companies rethink their hiring and retention plans, being familiar with these developments will provide them with a considerable advantage over competitors.

As we look ahead, it’s important to keep in mind the future of background screening and identity verification. Sophisticated technological enhancements will continue to advance in the years to come, and organizations must respond agilely to anticipated and unanticipated changes.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Vincenza Caruso-Valente is the general manager of the staffing, retail, and franchise business of Sterling.

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Vincenza Caruso-Valente is the general manager of the staffing, retail, and franchise business of Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services. For more information, visit Sterling or call 833-342-4571.