How to screen non-traditional workforces

While the debate around the future of work continues, one development that has certainly come out of the global pandemic is the uptick in remote working as companies have enabled more employees to work offsite. But this is arguably a change that’s long been in the pipeline. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, research from CV-Library revealed that the number of remote workers in the UK had more than doubled in the last four years. In addition to this, the gig economy has boomed in popularity, with roughly 1 in 10 workers now employed as ‘giggers’.

However, as flexible modes of working become widely accepted and embraced, there will also be a need to correctly carry out background checks on these remote and sometimes fluid workforces. So, how can you ensure your screening process is not only appropriate during the global lockdown, but also adapted to incorporate remote and gig economy workers in the long term?

Defining procedures during the pandemic

First and foremost, it’s important to clearly outline what procedures to implement during this period of lockdown and social distancing, and as these restrictions begin to lift. Where businesses are welcoming new hires or tapping into the contingent workforce, it is advisable that screening processes are approached as they would be prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. How these checks are carried out may be the only major difference between implementing these compliance screening procedures. While there will certainly be a need to have some in-person involvement – particularly for identity checks – there are ways to streamline these. For example, it is entirely feasible to digitise elements of screening to limit the amount of face-to-face interaction required. As a case in point, Costa Coffee recently announced that it will be using a product that enables the use of innovative facial recognition software to streamline employee screening. This allows candidates to provide a ‘selfie’ along with a photo of their official documents, with the two being instantly cross-referenced and any red flags raised – significantly reducing the level of person to person interaction required.

A clear plan 

While the use of innovative technology will be critical now and in the longer-term, there are a number of other elements that employers need to consider when developing robust and future-proof screening procedures that incorporate contingent and remote staff. Ultimately, the key to creating a process that successfully screens remote workers is to have a clear-cut policy. When it comes to background checks, compliance is king, and all steps must be taken to ensure your company acts within the law. Businesses should make a well thought out policy their top priority. This should outline objectives, processes, and types of background checks for each position, along with details stipulating any difference between remote and onsite worker requirements.

This plan should also clearly outline any criminal record checks which may be needed, guidance on meeting obligations regarding social media screening, and be fully GDPR compliant. The absence of a written policy may lead to inconsistent decision making and put you at risk of non-compliance. Unfortunately, one in five employers don’t have an official background screening policy,  risking a disjointed approach to background checks, which is exactly the type of approach that can lead to non-traditional workers being overlooked.

Keep it consistent

It’s also vital that there’s a consistent approach across the workforce and that permanent and temporary workers are given the same level of screening. As many remote workers are contractors, and gig economy staff are often offsite for a significant proportion of their assignment, this is very important.

However, many organisations fall short in this regard, with a significant gap between the level of screening conducted on permanent employees and contract talent. In fact, our recent research paper found that while 89% of companies perform checks on full-time employees, just 60% of employers screen their contingent workforce.

Whether this is a result of mis-communication with recruitment agencies as to where this responsibility lies, or a lack of the correct resources to screen temporary workers, the honest truth is there is no room for complacency. Any gaps in the screening process could put your organisation at significant risk, so consistency and absolute transparency are critical.

Choosing the right provider

As the challenges around remote working rise, so does the regulatory complexity, and many companies are taking the route of hiring an expert partner to conduct their background screening. Organisations shouldn’t make this choice lightly if they are to ensure that remote workers are screened to the same degree as full-time employees. Companies should seek a supplier that takes a consultative approach, adds value to their organisation and has clear experience of compliantly screening fluid workforces. During these times of uncertainty and accelerated change, it’s important that employers don’t rush into a decision that could open their firm up to a wealth of risk, so even if there is a high level of urgency in finding a partner, don’t compromise on quality.

The hiring process

To successfully embrace different ways of working, companies must start with the hiring process. By providing robust background checks, businesses can make properly informed recruitment decisions, and be confident that all employees have been thoroughly assessed.

Non-traditional modes of working are inevitably the future, and while they may lead to added considerations, there is not a huge difference in the checks needed. The main challenge is ensuring that processes are consistent across workforces. If you want to ensure candidates can do their job efficiently, regardless of whether they are onsite or not, identifying and adapting your procedures to meet these considerations is essential.



Original article ‘How to screen non-traditional workforces’ Written by Steve Smith Published by The HR Director


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