What Background Screening Accreditation Means for HR Professionals
June 10, 2011
By Kevin Bachman
There are hundreds of companies selling employment screening products across the country, all with varying levels of accuracy, service and quality. I’d hate to be an HR Director tasked with sorting out which background screening company is best. Slogans like “Free!” “Instant!” “Nationwide!” Promises like “Seamless!” “Comprehensive!” “Automated!”
Pounded with marketing materials and website demonstrations that all look the same, it’s reasonable to think organizations can’t always predict which choice is the best one. And unfortunately, shortcomings aren’t evident until they happen in real time, with real candidates, causing real harm to your organization.
That’s why EmployeeScreenIQ recommends choosing wisely. Of the 700+ employment screening firms, partner with 1 of the 9 that are NAPBS Accredited.
What Accreditation Means to You
As an EmployeeScreenIQ client, you have chosen an Accredited partner whose quality, accuracy and service standards are shared by only 1% of all employment screening companies. That’s something to be proud of. It validates your choice and provides maximum possible protection for your organization.
It ensures our company processes and procedures are compliant with industry best practices and we take proper precautions to protect confidential applicant data from misuse. It demonstrates accountability and clear communication of our products and services. Finally, accreditation is an affirmation of our industry knowledge and expertise within the company.
As an HR professional who is a faithful reader of EmployeeScreen University (but not a client), ask your provider; “are you accredited?” If they are not, ask a few more questions. Do they plan to? Did they apply and fall short? What is holding them back? Earning Accreditation is not as simple as asking for it. It’s a process that requires total commitment, focused intensity, and above all else, an extended period of time. Below is the story of our journey.
EmployeeScreenIQ: Path to Accreditation
The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) launched the Accreditation program in the spring of 2010. So it might come as a shock to hear that EmployeeScreenIQ began pursuing it more than 5 years ago.
It emerged from a long held belief within the industry that self-regulation and oversight was necessary for a variety of reasons. To separate companies from the fly by night operators whose processes caused legal harm to their clients. To distinguish and honor those whose commitment stands out as industry experts. To demonstrate to regulatory agencies the background check industry cares enough to establish and promote best practices. And a commitment to educate clients on ways to appropriately use background checks in their hiring process.
But beyond that, we were interested in pursuing this from the start because of what it represented. Quality. Accuracy. Service. Compliance. To EmployeeScreenIQ, it was simply the right thing to do.
How It Began
When the National Association of Professional Background Screeners was founded, creating and adopting some sort of standards was in the minds of many of the Association’s founding members, among them EmployeeScreenIQ.
As the industry evolved, working groups began creating and circulating drafts of what an Accreditation program would look like. Companies provided feedback, shared best practices, and the final form began to take shape.
We began reviewing these drafts of the proposed Accreditation standards, the highest standards the industry had ever set forth. We quickly noticed that it’s one thing to apply for Accreditation and another thing entirely to demonstrate you abide by its values and principles well in advance of an audit. We did not want to be an accredited company beginning the day of the audit. We wanted to do it as soon as we could. So we did, molding our operations to the highest standards possible. For all intents and purposes, EmployeeScreenIQ acted in a manner consistent with an accredited company several years before the program was officially launched.
How We Did It
A NAPBS accredited background check company must demonstrate full compliance with unique standards in multiple areas. Legal compliance, consumer protection, information security, organizational integrity and ethics, client knowledge and awareness, and our quality, accuracy and service level commitments.
But in order to determine our strengths and weaknesses during the self-evaluation process, we needed to review each step within our organization. There were areas where EmployeeScreenIQ created processes to enhance the client experience, strengthen compliance steps, and more strongly protect consumer data. Our auditing programs became stronger. The selection of public record researchers and internal standards were reviewed. We approached each process with an open mind. Willing to modify anything that would result in stronger processes. Flexible enough to consider new tactics to helping clients get accurate information faster. Anything that gets in the way of providing clients with the information they need is identified and rooted out of the system as a normal course of business. We were happy to find that we did not see major structural problems that forced us to rethink the way we conduct background checks or build new systems from scratch.
When we were finished with our organizational self-review, we felt pretty good. Truth be told, the operational foundation of EmployeeScreenIQ was pretty strong to begin with.
The Application Process
This was the easy part. And by easy, we mean 6 months of preparation proving compliance through processes already in place. This is an important distinction. Because EmployeeScreenIQ operated in accordance with most of these principles, the process was primarily documenting and assembling the several binders worth of information for the independent auditor. Hundreds of pages of supporting documents demonstrating we abide by each clause and each subsection. We did not spend this time “becoming” an accredited screening company. That work was already done.
Fast forward to a desk audit and an onsite audit, and it was smooth sailing. Compared to the challenges of the previous 6 months assembling documents and the past several years building the foundation, the audits were routine. A nice opportunity to sit back and reflect on what was created and who we’ve become. The day of the onsite audit was a very proud day for our team.
In today’s economic climate, state and federal agencies continue to evaluate how information is used to make hiring decisions. Now more than ever, companies need to rely on partners they can trust to provide accurate, compliant information. Accreditation is the measuring stick employers can rely on to sort through the noise among competing background screening companies all touting the same unparalleled excellence, service, and accuracy. Few employment screening companies have had these claims affirmed by an independent auditor. EmployeeScreenIQ is proud to be one of them.
Kevin Bachman is Vice President of Quality Service for Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ, a best practices provider of pre-employment screening services throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Kevin can be reached at (800) 235-3954 ext. 450 or by email at email@example.com.
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