Background screening: how to get the most out of it

Is background screening worth it? Well, as an entrepreneur, if you have not had your fingers burnt by a supplier or a past employee, or hired someone that looked great on paper only to find out later that they were not really suitable for the position or your business, then you truly are one of the lucky ones.

You no doubt recognise the value of good and trustworthy employees and suppliers. And, hiring talent with the right qualifications, experience, skillsets and work ethic for any appropriate position is critical to business success. However, it is not always easy to find the right talent when you are looking for it. Similarly, you simply can’t afford the risk of appointing a supplier whose business practices may not be 100% above board. With government clamping down and rising public consciousness on anti-corruption, compliant business practices and B-BBEE requirements; appointing a supplier with a questionable record exposes you and your business to far too many potential reputational and financial risks and penalties.

To this end, it’s important to be aware that, in the tougher economic climate today, there are more people and suppliers competing for less jobs or appointments – and in difficult times this can lead to anxiety and, for some, may cause them to behave unethically by misrepresenting themselves.

From criminal records to educational background and qualifications, credit records and behaviour on social media – each of these carries a weighting of associated risk that could potentially negatively harm the reputation, credibility, financial status or operations of your business. In this context, background screening is an additional risk mitigation and management measure; as by screening your people and supplier choices, prior to appointment, you will be better placed to make more informed and secure hiring as well as procurement decisions.

That, however, is not to say that conducting background screening checks is without risk. To help you avoid any negligent-hiring lawsuits, penalties and hefty fines, below are our top three guidelines to assist you in navigating the complexities and getting the most return on investment from background screening.

Step 1: Put a background screening policy in place

This is a crucially important step and should form a key pillar in your overall business strategy. Creating a background screening policy as part of the company’s human resource (HR) and procurement process – and particularly for any new job or supplier appointments – declares intent that this is a company-wise practice. Such a policy provides legal protection for the company in the sense that the background screening practices are objective, consent-based and do not discriminate against any job or supplier applicants.

Step 2: Know what you can check for, and when

Regulation of background screening as part of HR and procurement policies and practices is still quite ambiguous. However, at the very least, ensure that your company policy – and HR and procurement practices – are compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the National Credit Act Amendment 19 of 2014 (NCAA). Each of these pieces of legislation have different stipulations on what information may be accessed about an applicant – and how this information may be used for verification or vetting purposes – and thus provide some key guidelines to regulate background screening.

Step 3: Work with a reputable background screening service provider

Partnering with a service provider will give you access to comprehensive and cost-effective background screening solutions and services.  This will better enable you to manage and mitigate potential risks associated with an unsuited individual or supplier being appointed. Furthermore, a reputable provider will offer you high quality solutions and services – giving you added assurance and peace of mind that all background checks are conducted in a legitimate and compliant manner. The added benefit is that they have experience in this area of expertise, and would therefore, be able to advise you on what solutions and services would work best, based on your company’s specific requirements, as no company is the same.

Businesses, generally, are increasingly more in the public eye in this age of the Internet and social media, and the need to assess whether a candidate or supplier is the right fit for the business, is more prevalent than ever. Therefore, be more vigilant and proactive in your hiring and procurement practices – and partner with a reputable service provider who will work with you around managing your risks, to better protect your business. Can you really afford not to?