The key to promoting a safe, secure workplace isn’t reactively managing crises through zero tolerance policies, but proactively creating a security-conscious environment and corporate culture. An important first step in creating this culture is the employment screening program. 

The Security-Conscious Culture

According to Barry Nixon, executive director, National Institute for Prevention of Workplace Violence, “Creating a secure workplace environment involves several components integral to the corporate culture. Fostering an engaged, ethical workforce with clear guidelines for identifying and handling potential threats is key to avoiding workplace violence and it’s important that security and HR departments work together. For example, organizations should proactively address any warning signs or co-worker comments or complaints to HR. Security professionals should also be involved in exit interviews to influence questions that identify any potential issues or individuals. The overall goal should shift from zero tolerance of workplace violence incidents to zero incidents entirely.”

An employment screening program is a critical step for reducing the risk of workplace violence incidents and helping organizations develop a security-conscious environment, and it’s a program on which HR and security departments must be closely aligned. Pre-employment screening is practically ubiquitous in large companies, and in fact, the 2010 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report showed that 94 percent of respondents conduct background screening. There are, however, a few common significant screening security gaps that many companies haven’t identified and plugged. The most widespread issues are in terms of global screening, contingent workforce screening and ongoing employee screening.

Global Screening

Global screening is important both for organizations with offices worldwide and for those with domestic candidates with international backgrounds. Global criminal checks and sanctions lists are especially important to help address terrorism risks and avoid making a bad hire. Global screening can be complicated as each country has its own unique laws and available data. Screening solutions should guide users through the processes and regulations for each country, including identifying specific information required, documents that can be obtained, and regulations governing data usage, so organizations stay in compliance worldwide.

Contingent Workforce Liabilities

The contingent or extended workforce including temporary and contract employees and vendor and partner employees can have extensive access to an organization’s personnel, facilities, property and systems, but they often aren’t as fully vetted as regular employees. This is the case, in fact, for the 65 percent of respondents to the HireRight Benchmarking Report who do not screen non-employee workers. Organizations may request that vendors screen, but companies often don’t know how diligent the vendor’s process is. One way employers can ensure compliance with screening guidelines is by preventing access to the organization until clearing mandated employment screening. The vendor can manage the screening process directly, and some screening solutions can be integrated with badging systems to ensure contingent and vendor workers meet screening standards before being granted access.

Ongoing Employment Screening

Often once an employee is hired, the individual may never be screened again, leaving the company potentially liable for negligent retention and preventing it from identifying changes in criminal history that could raise a red flag. It’s a best practice to screen on a recurring basis, such as when an individual is promoted or changes jobs and on a company-wide recurring schedule every few years. 

Changing Regulatory Environment

New EEOC and other regulatory requirements may affect the screening process. The EEOC is taking a harder look today at employment screening and the possibility that screening disparately impacts protected classes and could be the basis for discrimination charges. Employers must shift their processes to address these concerns and requirements, but still ensure a secure workplace -- a balancing act that requires careful consideration.

According to Nixon, “The best approach is to shift the screening program away from blanket policies against hiring any convicted individuals to a more complex, multi-layered policy that takes into consideration the nature of the conviction, the job responsibilities, the relevance of the crime, and the length of time since the crime was committed. It’s important the policy and procedures demonstrate an appropriate balance.”

Future Role of Screening

The key to preventing workplace violence is the creation of a more security-conscious environment. The screening program is one of the first steps toward developing an overall environment that fosters security and is inherently not conducive to violence. This requires strategic planning around the employment screening program to identify and close common security gaps, such as global, contingent workforce and recurring employee screening, while adapting the program to current laws and regulations.