Screening for success

Jim Heeney speaks on employee rescreening

Screening for success

Pre-employment screening  long since been a standard consideration for Australian employers. There’s an obvious good to filtering out potentially problematic employees before they’re able to create issues within the company – but what about post-employment? how can employers ensure employee integrity over a more extended period?

Jim Heeney, Vice President, Head of Australia & NZ at First Advantage, believes that employers need to be looking more closely at rescreening during employment, and how they can better leverage it to ensure both the reputation of the company and prevent future issues.  

Currently, Heeney explains, rescreening usually happens for two reasons.

“The first is new regulatory requirements; rescreening is mandatory in many high-level finance roles and education roles,” says Heeney. “Qualifications need to be maintained, and certain background checks – such as a Working with Children Check or working visas – must be renewed periodically.”  

The second are criminal checks and finance-related checks. Although these are usually carried out prior to the commencement of employment, Heeney notes that within certain roles it’s considered best practice to conduct periodic criminal, bankruptcy and credit checks in order to ensure that there haven’t been any outcomes which may effect the role subsequent to employment.

Beyond these situations, Heeney believes that rescreening is still relatively underutilised in Australia, though demand is slowly beginning to increase.

“I think a lot of organisations are starting to realise the potential for risk that exists within their structure,” says Heeney. “Unfortunately, they’re often discovering it the hard way. We’ve seen plenty of cases where long-standing employees in trusted positions use their status to siphon off funds, and may not be caught for years.”

Rescreening, Heeney says, can aid in highlighting exposing these issues before they become major problems, or even stopping them before they occur. Data that First Advantage have gathered, he notes, has indicated that when companies have a background screening program, they tend to hire people they’re more happy with – and in turn, when individual employees go through a background screening process, they tend to be longer-serving employees and have far less attrition.

“When companies have regular rescreening and checks, you tend to have more accountability,” notes Heeney. “Working with children or vulnerable people, roles with physical fitness requirements, work visas, employees who have access to key IP information for the company, customer records or sensitive data – all of these are places where your organisation can be exposed.” 

Heeney is quick to note that ongoing screening isn’t about putting employees under perpetual scrutiny. It’s important to set expectations around it very early on – preferably when a new employee is hired.

“Initiatives like this are really far more to do with risk minimisation,” explains Heeney. “No-one’s being singled out or judged; it’s just a normal part of the role. It’s a means of taking care of management, employees and the wider company culture.”

Heeney says that when an issue such as theft, fraud or regulatory failings have occurred in a workplace, there tends to be a focus on the immediate consequences – such as the financial damage or the potential termination of an employee. But there are longer-term consequences, too. 

“I think the most obvious thing is the impact it has on the rest of the employees,” says Heeney. “It affects the office culture, and in turn, productivity. Management will typically need to introduce new procedures to stop the issue from occurring again, and there can be a real erosion of trust. The negative PR can also really impact your ability to attract the best candidates into the future too.” 

Looking ahead, Heeney believes that rescreening will become progressively more important for employers.

“We’re going to see the regulatory environment become increasingly complex, particularly around health and safety considerations, as well as visa requirements,” says Heeney. “But the good news is that there are also plenty of tech innovations which will make the whole process easier – so I think that will also encourage uptake on its own merits, too.”  

First Advantage are winners of the Gold Medal in the Pre-employment Screening and Psychometric Assessment Category for this year’s HR Service Provider Awards  

To find out more about employee screening, click here.

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