8 Reasons pre-screening employees is just smart business

Matt BauerBusiness Insurance, Employee Benefits, Human Resource Consulting, Risk Management

I spend my workday helping Sinclair clients manage risk, avoid hidden pitfalls, and implement initiatives that give them the best chance to be prosperous and successful. I do this work happily, it gives me great joy! That’s why I am such a strong advocate of making sure organizations have a structured, consistent approach to pre-screening employees.  It floors me that more than half of organizations do not conduct any kind of background check.

Hard work and strategic planning can suffer mightily in the face of bad hiring decisions. Too often employers don’t take pre-screening seriously enough, only to deal with negative consequences after the fact.

Best practices in hiring include background and drug screening and a thorough dive into references, social media, and other online sources. This isn’t about nitpicking, playing “gotcha” with someone who inflates a title or educational achievement on a resume, this is about protecting your organization from the potential for serious disruption within.

Here are eight reasons why pre-screening potential employees is not only smart risk management, but smart business:

Reduce overall liability — If your organization is one of the more than half that don’t do even basic criminal background checks, you could easily be hiring somebody with a violent past, perhaps even with a track record of altercations in the workplace. Once that person is within your fold, your staff is at risk and you’ve created a huge liability for your company.

Reduce health care and absenteeism costs — Employees that bring substance abuse problems to the workplace cost their employers big time, to the tune of $81 billion annually. In no way should sober individuals who previously had a problem be disqualified from a position, but an active alcoholic/drug abuser is another matter entirely, and one easily corrected by pre-employment screening.

Customer relations — You’ve recruited a young person for a front-line, customer facing position. He seems pleasant enough, and impressed you with his enthusiasm for working with the public. Outside of management eyes though, he can be rude, unhelpful, and catty, alienating your customer base. Had you followed up on reference checks, you would have learned that’s why he was shown the door at his last job.

Avoid poisoning the office culture — She had the right education and experience and did well in interviews. You were in a rush to fill a critical position and didn’t worry about references who didn’t call back. Turns out your new hire is a Debbie Downer who is quick to bring her personal grievances into the workplace, adding tension and dysfunction that can easily spread and grow.

Keep management from getting distracted — Once taken root, a difficult employee becomes a handful to manage, consuming an outsized portion of attention from your senior staff. It’s amazing how quickly one or two problem employees can suddenly command so much energy.

Keep flexible — Difficult employees tend to be the least flexible, the least open to management initiatives and changes in strategic direction. They may go along with the program when the boss is within earshot, but as soon as she’s out of sight, the problem employee is quick to badmouth the strategy to others, gumming up the works, sowing doubt, and making it harder to get buy-in from staff.

Avoid getting stuck — Despite the fact that nearly all non-union workers are “at-will,” problem employees are hard to get rid of without incurring substantial litigation risk. Plus doing so can also disrupt staff dynamics. It’s better to do everything possible to avoid the situation in the first place.

Avoid negative publicity — When it comes to bad publicity, it used to be you only had to worry about the folks who bought ink by the barrel. Now you have to worry about everyone with an internet connection…which is everyone! Disgruntled ex-employees can trash you on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. They can leave negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor and a host of others that exist just for that purpose (and have very good SEO).

In short, your problem employee is not going to go quietly, so the best approach is to try as best you can to avoid hiring them in the first place.

Not sure how to implement a best-practice pre-screening program at your organization? Contact me today to see if Sinclair can help.

Matt Bauer                                                                                                                     President,Sinclair Risk & Financial Management                                                            mbauer@srfm.com