December 14, 2021

Your Background Checks Are Slowing You Down: Here is How Companies are Changing their Approaches

Vanessa Mulcahey
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“I need more workers, and I need them to start faster!”

“Am I losing out on great talent to competitors?”

These are sentiments I have been hearing from nearly all my customers over the last few months. As a Customer Success Lead with extensive experience in the extended workforce industry, I help Brightfield’s customers diagnose and improve their contract worker supply chains. As you may have seen in our December Extended Workforce Intelligence Report, it now takes 41% longer to find, vet, and onboard a contingent worker in the U.S. on average! Using TDX, I can see exactly where each of my customers is having challenges and is losing out to competitors—by geography, type of role, phase of the process, supplier, etc. (see Figure 1).

Often, the time to find the workers is not increasing as much as the time to get those workers started. Our analysis of US contingent assignments over the past year shows that while the average time to find a worker has increased by three weekdays (a 19% increase),the average time to then onboard that worker has increased by nine weekdays (a 69% increase) (see Figure 2).

One area where I have found success with my customers is helping them take a closer look at ways to shorten their contingent worker onboarding process. Sometimes very specific background requirements (security clearances, drug screens for Department of Transportation-regulated workers) are required depending on the type of role. However, there are pieces of your onboarding process that you do today that may be more optional than you think, specifically portions of your background checks.

Here are ways to streamline your background checks to get contract workers started faster:

Have workers start even if the background check is not yet complete

o  Every company faces different challenges with balancing risk and getting workers started faster. I worked with a retail customer whose strategy relied on being fast. They changed their policy to allow contingent workers to start, pending the background check, as it was more important to get the work started than to mitigate the (relatively small) risk of there being an issue with the screening. For other customers in, say, the Financial Services industry, risk and compliance is inherent in the work they do, and therefore all screenings need to be fully complete before a worker could start. Understanding what your onboarding strategy is and ensuring that your activities align with that strategy is key to success.

Rethink your requirements

o  There are so many kinds of background checks, and they are not all created equal. Some return almost instant results (e.g., database searches), but are limited in the amount of information they can return. County Criminal and State Searches are more robust, but they can be extremely manual and can take weeks or even months to complete. Some companies I have worked with have different requirements for different types of roles, say Light Industrial versus IT roles.

o  Do you really need that drug screen? A standard five-panel includes screening for marijuana, which is currently legal in 18 states and only illegal in four states (with all other states allowing it in certain circumstances). However, if you screen for marijuana, you may not be allowed to work with someone that tests positive, as it is illegal at the federal level in the U.S. Many companies, including Amazon, have moved away from including marijuana in their drug screens for this reason.

o   Do you really need that education verification or employment verification? These checks are time consuming and typically require intervention from the worker to complete, providing W2s or diplomas. Again, depending on the position being filled, the risk is often quite low.

Shorten the lookback horizon          

o  The standard lookback is seven years, with many states having this as a limit. If you decide to complete a fingerprinting check or a lookback of more than seven years, there is a higher risk of disparate impact claims and violating state anti-discrimination laws (SIA has a helpful primer on this). I have seen this happen where a qualified candidate was rejected due to an item on their background check from 35 years ago – something that happened when she was a teenager! Especially given the current talent shortage, these policies can significantly hinder your ability to be competitive and will narrow your candidate pool.

Have a single provider run your background checks, in parallel with other onboarding steps

o  Having all suppliers use a single background check provider can cut down on time wasted from the running of incorrect checks and allows the company to tightly manage one provider’s performance.

o  Run your background screenings in parallel with other onboarding requirements(systems access, badge access, equipment allocation, etc.) to shorten the overall onboarding time.

I have been having great conversations with my customers about ways to speed up their background checks as well as ways to speed up other parts of their processes to find, vet, and onboard contract workers. Please contact us if you are interested in hearing how we help companies diagnose and speed up their contract labor supply chains!

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