Safety, innovation, and flexibility are the key ingredients to a strong contractor screening program for returning to work post COVID-19.

Flexibility in your background screening program will help you navigate uncertainty as you create a safe work environment post-COVID.
Flexibility in your background screening program will help you navigate uncertainty as you create a safe work environment post-COVID.

By Alla Schay, General Manager, Sterling Industrials, Government, and Education

Challenging times will typically allow businesses to quickly learn which strategic partners they can count on, and which will show cracks under strain. Through the COVID-19 pandemic lens, key phrases such as “essential businesses” and “essential workers” have become part of our regular vocabulary and way of thinking. Wherever your business and workforce fall on that spectrum, reliability is key so that whenever you are called upon by your customers and your community, you will rise to the challenge.

When you hire staff, you are focusing on solving business challenges with the best available people. As you bring workers onboard, you are adding to your company culture and introducing new people to your employees, and potentially to your customers and your community as well. In short, new team members can impact your brand and reputation. A consistent, high-quality background check thus remains critical for ensuring a safe, secure workplace that includes only those individuals who meet the standards you set.

An effective background check solution needs to operate without interruption, even during a crisis. When turning on the hiring switch to fill critical roles, it is now even more important to know the systems you have in place will work, and not create needless uncertainties or impediments for your ability to deliver.

Operating Without Interruption

Before the pandemic, the criminal records check portion of a background screening was typically measured by speed and accuracy. During the COVID-19 crisis, this is where the most effective screening processes have shown differentiation. At a time when many court jurisdictions have been closed and records cannot be accessed in traditional, physical locations, technology capabilities that enable access without human intervention have become even more critical.

We can now add “accessible” as a key indicator of speed and value provided, since the inability to complete a background check can delay the hiring process as well as the execution of critical business needs. Beforehand, the lack of automation likely caused a longer turnaround time but still permitted checks to be completed. Now, these network gaps can be the difference between being able to complete a check to hire with confidence, or having to roll the dice, potentially sacrificing a commitment to trust and safety, which could pose risk to employees, customers, communities, and reputation.

Many background screening providers reported that they were unable to fulfill the most basic criminal checks in key geographies. When working with a background screening provider, learn more about how and where they can access necessary records, and be sure that you will receive the information you need to feel comfortable about the decisions you’ll be making.

Innovation Even More Critical in Uncertain Times

At the beginning of this year, few could have imagined that daily temperature checks would become a standard procedure for entering a work location. Siemens – a Sterling client and global powerhouse focusing on electrification, automation, and digitalization – is doing just that. Portions of its business that have been deemed essential involve the electric grid, healthcare and medical, and transportation. To maintain a safe environment in its manufacturing locations, where there may be inherent challenges to social distancing, the company took swift action.

“Siemens’ essential businesses have been critical in keeping America’s vital services and critical infrastructure up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic. In locations where we do not have trained personnel onsite, we have engaged two staffing agencies, along with Sterling for background checks, to hire hundreds of medical professionals to assist in temperature screenings at many of our manufacturing facilities,” said Mary Hassler, Program Manager for Siemens FlexForce.

Our client accomplished this rapid mobilization through an expansion of its existing Contractor Screening Program. The company has long recognized that contract or contingent workers operate in close collaboration with other employees, interact with customers and the public, and can impact perceptions of its brand and hard-earned reputation. Therefore, the company applies the same background screening process it uses when hiring permanent workers to hiring contract and contingent workers.

By determining a uniform process and set of standards that is executed by its background screening company, Siemens has achieved needed consistency and control. In addition, it continues moving at a rapid pace – which, for many businesses, may be a key reason to hire contractors – without having to sacrifice thorough background checks that help provide an environment of trust and safety.

Flexibility a Key to Survival

There are several reasons or opportunities for companies to utilize contractors across the full spectrum of white-, grey-, blue-, and emerging green-collar positions, including:

  • Projects with specific scope or for limited duration
  • Within industries or locations where this is the historic norm and general expectation
  • When financial investments in full-time hires are not feasible
  • As part of a “trial-hire” or “temp to permanent hire” philosophy to ensure appropriate skill, cultural, and other fit before a full-time commitment is made
  • Roles with seasonality impacts
  • In times of uncertainty, when a job needs to be done but it is unclear if that position can be maintained
  • When hiring needs are urgent, the process for hiring contractors may be faster than hiring permanent workers
  • Flexibility

A clear indicator of a strong contractor screening program is one that allows you to control, administer, and operate within your master background screening account. A consistent scoring approach, with easy access to the status of each check, enables you to quickly see an individual contractor’s eligibility to access your worksites.

At a time when customers are counting on you in new and challenging ways, it is even more important that you devote time and attention to your critical mission. Partnering with a background screening partner that can overcome obstacles and offer innovative solutions will help you get there while adhering to the standards that you set for your business, employees, customers, community, and brand.

alla schay sterling
Alla Schay

Alla Schay is General Manager of Sterling’s Industrials, Government & Education business. Over the last 14 years she has served in several prominent roles at Sterling including leadership of the company’s Clients Services and Account Managements teams, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Human Resources Officer. Alla is an operations management professional with rich experience in business process transformation, Six Sigma analysis, and software and CRM implementation. Prior to Sterling, she held senior and strategic positions at Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services (CLS). In addition, Alla spent six years as a principal management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).