Category Archives: HR

Better Recruiting Through Social Media

Don’t just mess around on Twitter. You need a plan in place to get solid results.

Social Joy Duce, Partner-in-Charge, Human Resources Consulting Services at Sikich | Feb 14, 2019

 

Social media has become a near-constant feature in almost every American’s life, and for that reason it must also be major component in any successful talent acquisition strategy. Today, 69% of American adults use at least one social media site, according to Pew Research.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, are engaged in a no-holds-barred war for talent. Part of the problem is that they don’t know how to reach job candidates effectively anymore.

As a hiring tool, social media allows manufacturers to reach large numbers of prospective employees at relatively low cost. But leadership often underestimates the resources and planning required to execute an effective social media plan.

Fortunately, there are strategies manufacturers can deploy to establish a powerful social media presence that enhances recruitment efforts.

Find the Right People for the Job

Many manufacturing company leaders make a crucial early mistake by tasking their human resources teams to manage their companies’ social media pages. This can pose two major challenges:

1. HR professionals—while typically excellent at assessing candidates, improving company culture and ensuring compliance—often lack expertise in social media. Without the right people handling social media, companies can send mixed messages to the marketplace or even make mistakes that harm their brands.

2. The 24/7 nature of social media requires companies to provide nearly instantaneous responses to inquiries. Manufacturers that fail to respond quickly to a potential applicant can lose out to competitors that are immediately engaging with prospective talent online.

Consider recruiting skilled communicators from other departments to the social media effort. In some cases, it might be a good idea to form a larger committee of employees who can work together to plan and execute social media content. Human resources staff can certainly contribute to the effort, but they should not be the sole contributors to a manufacturer’s social media operations.

Play by the Rules

Often, companies extend their social efforts into applicant screening processes. In fact, according to CareerBuilder, 70% of employers will search applicants on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter before hiring.

But using social media as a screening tool often provides more details than a company needs to make its hiring decisions—such as religious affiliation, political views or sexual orientation. If a company makes a decision based on personal information that it mined from social media, it could quickly become vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit.

To avoid this scenario, a manufacturer should create a written social media policy that outlines employee usage guidelines as well as HR screening guidelines that discourage problematic hiring practices. This policy should clearly prohibit hiring decisions based on personal information and beliefs that are irrelevant to the open position. It should also clearly detail the factors that are relevant when considering an individual for employment, such as professional qualifications and credentials, work experience, and facts gathered during the interview itself.

Start Planning Today

Manufacturers who are new to social media will want to start with a very targeted social media strategy, involving only one or two channels. The channels that they select should depend on the positions they seek to fill. LinkedIn may be a good place to reach management personnel, but it won’t be the best option when searching for entry-level plant workers, who are more likely on Instagram, Craigslist or Facebook.

No matter which social media channels they choose to use, manufacturers can’t afford to ignore Glassdoor, an online platform that features employee reviews of companies. Many applicants rely on Glassdoor for the “inside scoop” about a company. Though an employer can’t control the reviews current and former employees post on the site, it can actively manage its Glassdoor page and ensure the page features valuable information about company benefits and culture.

Once a manufacturer has developed a social media strategy that aligns with the company’s global mission, vision and values and puts it into action, the next step is to monitor results and continually tweak and refine the strategy as the company’s needs evolve.

Nobody is going to create the perfect social media plan on the first attempt. It takes time to master online activity and optimize messaging. As the social media team gains capacity, manufacturers can consider adding new channels to the mix to reach new talent.

The manufacturers that invest the time and effort to develop a robust social media strategy will put themselves in a position to recruit the best and brightest employees – and come out on top in the war for talent.

About the author

Joy Duce is partner-in-charge of the human resources consulting services practice at professional services firm Sikich.

 

6 Things You Should Never Do On Your Work Computer

Amy Elisa Jackson
October 12, 2018 | Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson, Editorial Director, Glassdoor

These days, many companies provide employees with a variety of work devices from smartphones to laptops and even tablets to complete their work with. Company IT departments usually set them up with your login information, a selection of important apps and all the bells ’n’ whistles that allow you to successfully do your job.

Somewhere around day five on the job is usually when we start updating the device with our own preferences: changing the screen saver to a picture of your pet, logging into your Spotify account to queue up the perfect “working late” playlist, checking Facebook for the news of the day (oh, and to say Happy Birthday to that friend from high school), and so on and so on.

However, cybersecurity experts say that weaving your personal and professional lives together via a work laptop is risky business — for you and the company.

Software technology company Check Point conducted a survey of over 700 IT professionals which revealed that nearly two-thirds of IT pros believed that recent high-profile breaches were caused by employee carelessness. “The greatest threat resides in your organization,” said Check Point.

While we’ve all be warned to steer clear of NSFW (not safe for work) websites or links (cough, cough porn), there’s more than just naughty photos to avoid while using company-issued devices.

As a refresher in cybersecurity and smart professional practices, we reached out to the experts to tell us the six things we should never do on our work computers. Bookmark this one, it’s going to surprise you.

1. DON’T: Save personal passwords in your work device keychain.

Most of us use our work devices for eight or more hours a day. They come home with us, they become our primary device, sometimes used more often than our personal devices. Therefore, it’s so easy to click the button when prompted to “save password in keychain.” But not so fast.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) many companies have a clause in their computer, email and internet use policy that makes storing personal passwords a potentially precarious move. It reads:

“E-mail and other electronic communications transmitted by [Company Name] equipment, systems and networks are not private or confidential, and they are the property of the company. Therefore, [Company Name] reserves the right to examine, monitor and regulate e-mail and other electronic communications, directories, files and all other content, including Internet use, transmitted by or stored in its technology systems, whether onsite or offsite.”

It’s always important to read your company’s policies and procedures as they pertain to internet use and equipment. Know what you can and cannot do.
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2. DON’T: Make off-color jokes on messaging software.

As chatrooms like Slack, Campfire and Google Hangout become increasingly handy for team collaboration, it’s easy to use them as though you were in the office break room having a gossip session with a colleague while raiding the fridge. However, those messages are being kept on a server somewhere and are just as retrievable as emails.

Slack “has access to all of your chats,” says Trevor Timm in an interview with Fast Company, “[as well as] any internal communication you may not want in public,” including private conversations. Remember to be very intentional about what you say and don’t say on chatroom platforms.

3. DON’T: Access free public wi-fi while working on sensitive material.

With so many of us working remotely or sending a few work emails over the weekend from a cafe, it’s tempting to grab your laptop and log on to free public wi-fi. After all, it’s everywhere and the boss isn’t going to wait until Monday for a review of that project. However, places that offer free wi-fi like the neighborhood coffee shop, the airport or the hotel, can open you up to fraud.

“Don’t access your email, online bank or credit card accounts when on public Wi-Fi,” says fraud expert Frank Abagnale. “This is because con artists may set up fake networks that seem like the real thing but aren’t (this is known as the “evil twin” scam).”

4. DON’T: Allow friends or non-IT department colleagues to remotely access your work computer.

“Now that remote access software is easily accessible, you have the ability to have virtually anyone you know access your computer from outside the office,” says Joe Rejeski, CEO and Founder of avenue X group. “You wouldn’t have your friend walk into the office and sit down at your computer without first checking with your boss. Beware of doing the same thing virtually.”
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5. DON’T: Store personal data.

It’s so easy to have a “personal” folder on your desktop full of all of the cute photos your spouse sent of your children or to save that receipt from the plumber, but it’s important to remember that a work device is not your property—it belongs to the company.

“I knew a company that suddenly went out of business,” recalls Rejeski. “A few people voiced concerns about what would happen to their personal data (ex. tax returns) on their work computers. When the company closed down, securely erasing personal data from the work computers wasn’t exactly a priority for management. Nobody knows what happened to the computers or the personal data that was on them.”

Another thing to remember is that if you ever get let go from a company, standard HR policy is to have you leave immediately. Rejeski says, “you probably won’t have time to remove those files.” Instead, consider keeping a USB wand on your keychain to save any personal data.

6. DON’T: Work on your side hustle while at the office.

Many of us have second or third jobs that we do as hobbies or to earn extra cash, but don’t blur the lines while you’re “on the company dime.” As mentioned above, everything you do on your work device can be legally recorded by your employer and is as easy as IT pulling your data. Be careful about using your company devices for outside work. It may seem harmless, but can be the straw that breaks the camels back in a discussion with your manager or a dispute with HR.

“Even if your coworkers are doing some craziness on their work computers, you could be the one that is made an example of,” adds Rejeski.

Guess Who’s Looking At The HR Tech Market? Microsoft.

By Josh Bersin, Author | Published December 20, 2018 – Updated January 1, 2019
[From JOSH BERSIN, Insights on Corporate Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology site]

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending time with Microsoft, and the company is doing some interesting things in the HR Tech space. In this article I’d like to give you some background, and share why I believe Microsoft is going to have a big impact on the market.

First point:  Microsoft is on fire right now, and your IT department knows this.

First, let me start by saying that Microsoft has entered one its company’s hottest product cycles in years.

In the latest quarter, Microsoft’s revenue increased by 19% to $29.1 billion, and operating income increased by 29% to $10 billion. This growth is based on many things, not the least of which is the tremendous change in company culture leading to one of the company’s most innovative product cycles in years.

Microsoft Financials in Context (CB Insights)

I’ve been following Microsoft since my days at IBM in the 1980s, and it has always been a powerhouse. Yes, it had rough periods over the last 40 years, but today it generates more than $8 billion in cloud revenue and products like Office 365, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn and Dynamics are all growing at double-digit rates.

Microsoft Teams:  Messaging And More

Microsoft Teams, a product I believe could re-invent the way we work, is already in use by 87% of the Fortune 100 and is the fastest-growing app in the company’s history.  While products from Google and Slack are exciting to many, Microsoft still owns the enterprise, and the new Microsoft Modern Workplace is amazing to see.

Not only does Microsoft Teams provide messaging like Slack, it automatically transcribes and translates video and audio, it serves as a meeting platform, and it is going to be positioned as a replacement to Skype. I’m sure your IT department has plans to roll it out.

(More on this later, but if you really want to understand it, read this article – it describes how Microsoft Teams was built.)

Second point: Microsoft understands HR.

While Microsoft doesn’t specifically sell to HR today (its sales teams focus on technology, tools, and industries), the company really understands this space.

Satya Nadella’s book, “Hit Refresh,” is one of the most important books you can read about corporate culture, leadership, and learning. In many ways, it is a manifesto for the new world of work, and many of the principles are appearing in Microsoft products.

Just as Diane Gherson, the CHRO of IBM, has played a huge role in transforming the HR profession around topics like agile, AI, and careers, Kathleen Hogan, the CHRO of Microsoft, is doing the same in the areas of culture, leadership, and learning. The company recently hired Karen Kocher (ex-IBM and ex-Chief Talent Officer at Cigna) to lead an initiative for 21st Century Jobs, and many others in Microsoft are looking at ways to reinvent learning.

So the DNA of Microsoft is now focused on the empowerment, development, and inspiration of people.

Third point:  Microsoft is already in the business applications market with HR solutions today.

Microsoft Dynamics, which includes financials, ERP, CRM, manufacturing, and other applications for front-office workers, is over $1.3 billion and grew by 61% in Microsoft’s fiscal year 2018. Its new versions are AI-enabled are in use by companies like Chevron, H&M, and many large and mid-market companies around the world.

(Note: Workday’s revenues are around $2.1 billion and growing at 36% YTY, so Microsoft Dynamics is more than half the size of Workday with almost twice the growth rate.)

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is not an end-to-end talent platform yet, the company is investing in this area. Microsoft recently introduced Microsoft Attract (ATS), Onboard (an innovative onboarding and onramp tool), and Core HR.  (Core HR is a very light employee record-keeping system today.) Dynamics is tightly integrated into the Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft Teams, the Microsoft Graph (integrated directory and organizational networking), Workplace Analytics (the company’s leading product to analyze your daily interactions at work), and other Office tools are integrated.

There is a reason to believe Microsoft can thrive in HCM space. HR technology is moving away from the back office and getting closer to employees, moving “into the flow of work.” While SAP, Oracle, and Workday aspire to be a “system of productivity,” Microsoft is already there. So as Dynamics 365 for Talent matures, the product could be more integrated into your desktop than almost any competitor.

Think about the needs of front-office workers (retail, hospitality, service). They need the same types of HR and learning tools that office workers need, yet they often don’t have desks. Microsoft’s products can deliver applications to these workers through the wide array of Microsoft mobile and collaborative products.

And there are a lot of Dynamics customers. While the company does not disclose customer counts, my estimates are that there are more than 50,000 small and medium businesses using these products, so there are many HR departments Microsoft can reach. And most of these customers don’t have much HR technology to replace: most are primarily using payroll as their core system.

(By the way, Microsoft has invested very heavily in AI, building an entire business unit focused on this technology. Dynamics 365 AI is already enabled to provide intelligent alerts for sales, customer service problems, and market changes. Imagine how this technology could be applied in areas like employee retention, fraud, or engagement.)

Fourth point: Microsoft has an amazing sales and partner channel.

Over the last 30+ years, Microsoft has heavily invested in its sales, reseller, integrator, and educator channel around the world. While most large application vendors have a small number of dedicated resellers and consultants, Microsoft has thousands.

My office productivity software, for example, all comes from a large Microsoft reseller – and this particular company is one of the most service-oriented providers I have ever done business with. So as the company rolls out more products in HR, there are literally thousands of integrators to help make it work for customers.

Fifth point: Through LinkedIn, Microsoft has a very strong reach to HR buyers.

While Microsoft did not traditionally sell to HR, LinkedIn always has. LinkedIn, which is now over a $5 Billion business growing at 38% YTY, is rapidly expanding into almost every area of the HR technology landscape. LinkedIn Recruiter has become a standard tool for almost every talent acquisition professional. LinkedIn Learning has more than 14,000 corporate customers and is growing at double-digit rates. And the company’s recent acquisition of Glint gives LinkedIn (and Microsoft) a leading platform in the market for employee engagement, analytics, and performance management software.

Today LinkedIn is being run as a separate business, but I know the teams are talking. It’s only a matter of time before sales teams start cross-selling products and the Dynamics tools and LinkedIn tools start to come together. Already LinkedIn has announced deep integrations into Office for candidate scheduling and resume generation. More such integration is in the works.

Sixth point: Microsoft has some amazing core technology to take a lead.

Finally, I think Microsoft has moved to where the market is going.

First, as I’ve discussed frequently in the last few quarters, the HR technology market is exploding with innovation and quickly moving “into the flow of work.”

Consider the fact that today you can use Teams to author videos, share them, translate them, and intelligently recommend them to others. While this is not a full-fledged Learning Experience Platform, it’s awfully close. And companies like EdCast (micro-learning) and Disco (recognition and rewards) are already integrated into Teams, with more to come.

While companies like BetterWorks, Reflektiv, CultureAmp, and hundreds of others build better tools for feedback, goal setting, and surveys, they all have to reach your employees. Why not plug into Teams? I think this will happen faster than you may think.

Second, think about Microsoft’s potential solutions in core HR. Yes, there are lots of HR platforms in the market today, and most have taken years to mature. But none really integrate data from your organizational network (with the exception of ADP’s new Lifion) to really model, analyze, and improve your company like it really works. Most are built as hierarchical management systems, designed to manage people as “holders of jobs” in “hierarchies of job titles.”

Microsoft Graph Is Essentially A Graph Database

As most of you know, this is not the way companies work – we work on projects, teams, and programs. By leveraging the Microsoft Graph and Microsoft Teams, the company could build its core HR system into a true “system of record” of your network, storing data on network use, behavior, and real team activity. (I’m not saying Microsoft has announced this today, but I can see this coming over time.)

Third, think about Microsoft’s strengths in analytics, reporting, and AI. Tools like Excel (perhaps the most powerful user analytics tool ever invented), PowerBI (a similarly powerful analytics tool in the cloud), and Workplace Analytics (probably the leading tool for organizational network analytics) – all connected to your core HCM and business application system. Every interaction, survey, comment(feedback), or employee project can be analyzed and viewed by Microsoft tools. All the company has to do is add some application functionality, and believe me they’re thinking about it.

Microsoft Workplace Analytics:  ONA for Every Employee

I visited one of our largest insurance clients a few months ago and they told me they are using a Graph database (Neo4J) to model their customer service organization with more than 70,000 employees. By looking at interactions as well as talent data they have identified new drivers of customer service, retention, and productivity they had never seen before. And all this is based on capturing and analyzing “network and interaction data,” not just “talent transaction data.” Microsoft’s products store all this data, and they have the analytics to make sense of it.

HR In The Flow Of Work Is Here

While I’m not here to promote Microsoft in particular, I see the writing on the wall. As HR in the Flow of Work grows in importance and Microsoft Teams and Office 365 grow, it’s more important than ever that HR technology buyers look at what Microsoft is doing. We’ve had a series of CLO and CHRO meetings at Microsoft recently, and they’re seeing things they like.

The integration points between Microsoft and LinkedIn have barely even been explored, but just think about the possibilities.

Imagine a world where the tools you use to get work done are also coaching you on what you need to learn, giving you tips on your goals, providing nudges to be more engaged, and providing tips and guidance on your wellbeing and capabilities as a manager. And behind the scenes, all this data is being stored, analyzed, and intelligently used to make your work life better.

This is really the next big thing in HR technology, and Microsoft is in an amazing position to help. Let’s see what comes next.

What to Expect: Top 2019 HR Tech Trends

By Dave Zielinski, Owner, Skiwood Communications and Contributing Writer to SHRM – January 8, 2019

 

In 2019 HR will see growing adoption of “nudge-based” technology designed to encourage productive employee behaviors, more scrutiny of artificial intelligence tools and increased use of specialized “point” systems, according to technology industry experts who spoke with SHRM Online.

The new year also will see organizations continue to transition their core HR systems to the cloud and employ more AI-driven technologies to automate communication between HR and employees.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Here are the top technology trends experts expect to continue or emerge as HR turns the page to 2019:

‘Show Me’ Approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI)

HR technology leaders will become more diligent about keeping tabs on vendors’ AI tools, experts believe. The increased scrutiny will be due in part to highly-publicized cases like that at Amazon, where a home-grown recruiting algorithm was found to discriminate against women.

“We will see some push back on machine learning and AI next year [such as] testing its effectiveness and searching for potential bias,” said Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics for Alpharetta, Ga.-based HR research firm Sierra-Cedar. “With more organizations leveraging machine learning next year, there’ll be more data and examples on how any biases might be showing up.”

Sarah Brennan, founder and chief advisor of Milwaukee, Wis.-based HR consulting and research firm Accelir, said it’s important that buyers of AI tools look beyond vendor promises to ensure they’re getting products that do what they claim they can do.

“Don’t get caught up in the marketing hype,” Brennan said. “Make sure you ask vendors about their validation studies and use cases, because those with legitimate AI applications won’t hesitate to provide them.”

Sea Change in Engagement Measurement

Organizations are transforming how they measure employee engagement, and technology will continue to evolve to support that shift, experts say.

“We expect 2019 to be the first year that more organizations use nontraditional, technology-based listening techniques than they do the companywide annual survey to measure engagement,” said Brian Kropp, group vice president of the HR practice at research and advisory firm Gartner.

That development represents a significant change from just three years ago. In 2015 a Gartner study found 89 percent of medium-to-large organizations were using an enterprisewide annual survey to assess engagement, while only 30 percent were using nontraditional methods like analyzing employee movement data—tracking where employees spend their time via technology embedded in ID badges—or computer usage data that tracks how employees use e-mail, internal collaboration networks, websites and more.

“Companies have become more comfortable with scraping across employees’ calendars and e-mails to get a better understanding of current sentiment and organizational culture with the goal of improving engagement levels,” Kropp said.

Brennan believes engagement platforms will see the highest adoption rates among all HR technology categories next year. “For the first time there are good engagement technologies available for companies of all sizes and at all price points,” she said.

Rise of ‘Nudge-based’ Technologies

Kropp said HR technologies that suggest certain behaviors will grow in popularity in 2019. One such technology can monitor employee activity at a computer workstation. “It might send a message saying, ‘You have been at your desk for X amount of time and it appears you’re losing focus, so now might be a good time to get up and go for a short walk,’ ” Kropp said.

An example is Cultivate, software works as a digital coach for managers. It analyzes data from e-mail, internal collaboration systems and calendars to assess how managers spend their time interacting with direct reports. The tool then uses machine learning to give managers suggestions for how they might improve their team’s performance, such as spending more time with certain employees.

Rachel Ernst, vice president of employee success at vendor Reflektive, said there’s also an ongoing movement to embed performance management within the flow of daily work.

“The technology can now send automatic nudges to managers to remind them to give feedback to employees as well as deliver short videos to provide guidance on how to conduct review discussions or give effective recognition,” she said. “This keeps HR from having to send regular e-mail to managers to remind them of these essential tasks.”

Growing Importance of the HRIT Role

Sierra-Cedar’s 2018-2019 HR Systems industry survey found the role of the human resource information technology (HRIT) specialist is growing in strategic importance and Harris expects that trend to continue. In cloud environments these roles are 1.5 times more likely to be responsible for data security and technology configuration decisions than IT or functional roles, the survey found.

Harris said that it’s important for the HR staff to have specialized IT roles, even as other functions like finance or marketing don’t, “because HR touches everyone in a company and HR deals with more data privacy and integration issues than most other disciplines in the company.”

Faster Migration of Core HR Systems to the Cloud

A 2018 study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 75 percent of surveyed companies now have at least one HR process in the cloud. Forty percent have core HR systems like an HR management system there, said Dan Staley, a global HR technology leader with PwC. Another 26 percent of respondents said they planned to move a core system to the cloud in the next one to three years.

“Moving a core system to the cloud is a barometer of how serious organizations are about that technology,” Staley said. “Large organizations with complex requirements like international payroll or union populations have resisted moving core systems to the cloud in the past because they felt the technology wasn’t mature enough. But with cloud products having proven themselves over the past decade, companies are now moving there en masse.”

Renewed Interest in ‘Point’ Solutions

More organizations will consider adding “point” or specialized technology solutions to their portfolios in 2019. These systems address individual areas of HR like recruiting, performance management or engagement and are often the target of innovation from small or emerging vendors. Brennan believes popular ones will be talent acquisition systems, chatbot applications for recruiting and answering employees’ HR-related questions, and engagement platforms.

“Few of the full-suite vendors have invested in the talent acquisition portion of their suites in the same manner as point system providers,” she said.

Point systems can now be more quickly integrated with broader talent management suites by using application programming interfaces (APIs). “Integrations that used to take six to nine months now take six to nine days with the right APIs,” Brennan said.

‘Push’ Recommendations from AI

The accelerating application of AI to workforce data will allow relevant information to “find” employees at the point of need, experts say. Cristina Goldt, vice president of HCM products at Workday, said AI will enable simpler navigation of learning and development options as well as easier execution of tasks like onboarding, benefits selection and IT service ticketing.

For example, Goldt said, a newly-promoted sales manager might benefit from this type of AI by being “pushed” recommended learning content for leadership training, suggested workplace connections and a list of potential mentors that went through similar transitions; a set of onboarding tasks that direct her to set up sales targets, enter forecasts and review the pipeline in a customer relationship management system; and a snapshot of team members to help her get to know them better.

Learning, Performance and Career Planning Converge

Vendors in the learning, performance management and career planning markets will “play more in each other’s spaces,” said Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst of Red Thread Research, a HR research and advisory firm in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We’re seeing more learning vendors get into performance and more performance and career vendors operate in the learning market,” Johnson said. “One reason for the convergence is it’s hard to develop someone effectively unless you already know where they stand in regard to their performance and career plans.”

Johnson said there’s also a growing number of content-based point solutions in the learning market designed to integrate with internal communication platforms like Slack. “It’s about taking learning to employees rather than make them come to the learning,” she said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

Handling Candidate Data Will Be Under the Spotlight in 2019

Employment screening will benefit from AI, but the technology is not ready yet

By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online – January 31, 2019

This is the second article in a two-part series. The first installment detailed the growing trends of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring, as well as the emerging acceptance of job candidates with criminal backgrounds.

 

Employers that conduct employment background checks will continue to feel the pressure to safeguard applicant and employee data in 2019. HR professionals will also be interested in how artificial intelligence (AI) technology will improve the screening experience, according to experts.

Data-Breach Concerns Lead to Increased Focus on Security

Data-breach protection, information security and compliance with privacy laws will be top of mind for those managing employment screening in 2019.

“The massive data breach suffered by nationwide credit reporting agency Equifax in September 2017 that impacted more than 145 million Americans—almost half of the country—was a wake-up call for all industries to improve their information security,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif. “The need for background-screening firms that handle the personal data of job applicants to ensure information security has become mission critical.”

[Visit SHRM’s resource page on background checks.]

Montserrat Miller, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory and co-chair of the firm’s privacy and consumer regulatory practice, advised HR professionals to ask their screening partners how they are safeguarding personal data and what their notification protocols are in case of a breach.

“In addition to following the Federal Trade Commission guidance on the proper data-security practices, businesses that utilize a consumer reporting agency for their background-screening services should be sure to partner with one that has achieved accreditation with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Rosen said that employers should also consider using background-check firms that undergo an annual Service Organization Control, or SOC 2, audit from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to ensure high standards for the protection of privacy, security and confidentiality of consumer information used for background checks.

Miller added that “if HR prints the background-check reports for whatever reason, [the printouts] should be maintained in a confidential manner and not shared with anyone outside of the appropriate decision-makers.” She added that in accordance with the company’s data-retention policy, background-check reports must be disposed of properly, by destroying or erasing electronic files or shredding, burning or pulverizing paper documents.

Organizations conducting background screens of citizens of the European Union (EU) will also have to be mindful of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018. The law requires that employers receive consent to process a subject’s data, ensure that collected data is made anonymous to protect privacy, make data-breach notifications, safely handle the transfer of data across borders, and in some cases, appoint a data protection officer to oversee compliance.

“If an employer in the U.S. has international operations, and if there is going to be any exchange of personal data from employees in the EU to the U.S., then it needs to be aware of GDPR and needs to make sure it is in compliance with it and that its vendors are in compliance with it,” Miller said.

The maximum penalty for noncompliance is up to 4 percent of an organization’s annual global revenue or 20 million euros—whichever is greater.

AI Improves Background Checks But …

The use of technologies such as AI, machine learning and automation will enhance background checks in 2019, but humans still need to be involved due to discrimination concerns.

“Background screeners haven’t fully adopted AI in the screening process yet, but we are seeing signs of it where screeners continue to automate their operations,” said Jason Morris, an employment-screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting, based in Cleveland. “In the past, we would simply throw people at processes and increase our labor for searches,” he said. “Now AI allows us to automate and put machines in places of seats, allowing for a faster and in some cases a more accurate background check. It’s exciting to see screeners innovate, and I’m confident you will see AI continue to grow in the industry.”

Conal Thompson, chief technology officer at background-screening company HireRight, said that AI will play a major role in the employee screening and recruitment processes by reducing the time to hire, improving quality of hire and improving the candidate experience.

“In today’s competitive labor market, in which a positive candidate experience in the screening process plays a major role in candidates’ decisions to accept job offers, utilizing AI to interact with job applicants faster and more effectively can make a real difference,” he said.

“Without a doubt, cutting-edge technology like AI plays a vital role in what we do to enable companies to outsource social media screening in a smarter, cost-effective and efficient way,” said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “Things like finding where people are creating content online and zooming in on places and types of content that could be risky for an employer are what AI is effectively delivering right now, which is a huge time and resource saver.”

Rosen added, “While there is no doubt AI technology and automation increase productivity, streamline processes and reduce turnaround time in the screening process, background checks still need a guiding human touch until sufficiently nonbiased AI algorithms can be created to ensure that discriminatory hiring decisions aren’t made.”

Since the AI buzz began, experts have been saying that “biased AI” can be created by algorithms shaped by human prejudices or insufficient data.

“Human augmentation is still incredibly important,” Thompson agreed. “Employers should keep in mind that most AI learns as it goes, which could present risks and have unintended consequences on the screening process. For example, if an AI application, after reviewing thousands of candidates for thousands of jobs, realizes that a significant number of candidates it has recommended has certain demographic attributes, it may bias its own algorithm with a preference for candidates who first meet those criteria.”

In addition, Lager cautioned HR buyers to be aware that just because a company markets itself as providing AI and machine learning doesn’t mean that it’s true. “Companies are taking giant liberties with those words as descriptions,” she said. “The key is to understand the limitations of that technology and how it affects the deliverable of the service or product you are buying. It is imperative to ask questions about consumer compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how data is acquired.”

3 Employment Screening Trends to Know Before You Hire in 2019

Roy Maurer
By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online
January 23, 2019

This is the first article in a two-part series. The next installment will examine how employers can ensure data security in the screening process and what to expect with forthcoming artificial intelligence technology.

Employers are ramping up their use of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring in 2019. And the demand for workers in a tight labor market will push more companies to consider applicants they may have once ignored: those with criminal records.

[SHRM resource page: Background Checks]

Social Media Checks

Employers have shown increasing interest in screening candidates’ online presence.

In 2019, more background-check providers will offer online and social media searches as part of their suite of products, but employers must ensure that these searches protect candidate privacy and don’t run afoul of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“Social media screening presents opportunities for recruiters to find candidates and to reduce risk, but at the same time, these searches can create a legal minefield of potential liability,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif.

Interest in social media screening has grown significantly over the last few years, said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “We now see almost daily news stories of someone getting into trouble with their employer over what they’ve written online,” she said. “Hiring companies know they can’t get away with ignoring social media as part of the background-screening process any longer, but the DIY approach is incredibly troubling for candidates in terms of privacy, accuracy and discrimination.”

If HR professionals are conducting their own online searches on job candidates, they need to stop, said Montserrat Miller, an attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory, based in Atlanta. “The potential for a discrimination claim far outweighs the cost of adding a social media screening option from a vendor.”

Rosen said that employers should be wary of discovering too much information—or “TMI”—on social media. ” ‘TMI’ means by looking at [an applicant’s] social media site or perhaps a photo or something that they have blogged about, you are going to learn all sorts of things as an employer you don’t want to know and [that] legally cannot be the basis of a decision,” he said. Job applicants can sue employers for discrimination if they believe they were not hired due to protected characteristics covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Even the appearance of a decision not to hire someone based on a negative impression related to race, gender, religion, or other protected classes could subject [employers] to a discrimination lawsuit,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Experts agree that if employers decide to screen an applicant through social media, the best way to reduce legal risk is by having a third-party vendor perform the search instead of doing it in-house. Background-check providers that perform social media screening must comply with the FCRA and produce accurate reports scrubbed of protected characteristics.

“Social media reports won’t show whether or not someone is Muslim or gay or a military veteran, to protect the employer from a discrimination claim,” Miller said. “They will only provide instances of actionable, offensive information, for example relating to criminal activity, violent behavior or making racist comments.”

Cunneen added that employers need to be careful not to violate candidate privacy. Social media screens should be drawn only from user-generated, publicly available information and not from third-party content or password-protected sites. “If the applicant’s social media settings are set to public, that information is open for anyone, including potential future employers, to review,” she said. “However, if their profile is set to private, the employer cannot try to bypass those settings without risking exposure to potential liability down the road.”

Continuous Monitoring

New technology lets companies go beyond pre-employment checks and rescreens to real-time monitoring of current employees for warning signs of illegal or other concerning behavior.

“Employee monitoring is one of the biggest trends I’m seeing,” said Jason Morris, an employment screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting in the Cleveland area.

“Justifiably, employers will always want to know who is working for them—not just [during] hiring but throughout their employment relationship,” Cunneen said. “A current employee can engage in illegal behavior as much now as he or she could have before they were an employee.”

Uber announced plans last year for ongoing monitoring of arrest and conviction data on their drivers. “These tools have been around for a while, but end users are finally seeing the benefits, and the data is getting better,” Morris said.

Uber teamed with San Francisco-based screening firm Checkr to get continuous updates about drivers’ records, including new criminal violations and license suspensions. The technology will notify Uber, for example, when a driver is charged with driving under the influence.

“It is a subscription that listens to a candidate’s data over time, looking for and identifying changes in their background to mitigate risk for companies,” said Tomas Barreto, vice president of product and engineering at Checkr. If new information triggers a full background check, the worker is also notified, he said.

“While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea,” said Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. “Like any background-screening program, it’s important for employers to ensure they follow both federal and state law related to background screening—including following disclosure and authorization requirements before conducting a background check, as well as adverse action processes in the event that the results of the background check lead the employer to consider not hiring, promoting or retaining the individual.”

Hiring People with Criminal Records

Research shows a majority of HR professionals find little difference in quality of hire between applicants with and without a criminal record.

“The fact that employers cannot find workers due to the current labor shortage has caused them to turn to an untapped and underutilized source of labor: ex-offenders and [former] inmates from the approximately 20 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony,” Rosen said.

The Prison Policy Initiative calculated the ex-offender unemployment rate to be 27 percent, higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate at any time, including during the Great Depression.

Alonzo Martinez, associate counsel for compliance at background-screening company HireRight, said that with the number of unfilled positions now exceeding the labor pool, employers are recognizing the potential in this previously untapped group of candidates.

“While a criminal record should never be an automatic deal breaker—especially for candidates who have misdemeanors on their records, have served their time or have been rehabilitated—in the current market, employers are increasingly considering candidates with criminal records and redefining policies and requirements to lower some of the barriers to employment that ex-offenders face,” he said.

“Companies recognize that hiring from this population is the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” said Richard Bronson, the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs, the first for-profit job board specifically for job seekers with criminal records.

“Companies are motivated by the bottom line, and they recognize that unfilled jobs are costly. Every single company I talk to says they are facing a staffing shortage or they have trouble retaining their workers, particularly at the lower end of the wage scale. Perhaps they would not have been eager to consider this population before, but I think they generally recognize that they can ill afford to ignore any large pool of talent out there, and this is arguably one of the largest. One in three adults have a record of some kind.”

The industries most hospitable to people with criminal records have been call centers, construction, health care, manufacturing, retail, and transportation and warehousing. “The technology sector has been woefully reticent to take action,” Bronson said. “They talk a good game but don’t deliver when it comes to actually hiring.”

Martinez said HR must be cognizant of the challenges involved with screening the ex-offender population, such as a longer turnaround time to ensure a complete assessment.

“Companies should continue to perform thorough background checks and conduct individualized assessments of candidates with criminal history, per EEOC guidance,” he said. “It would also benefit companies to review their hiring requirements to determine the types and depth of screening that is necessary for each job position. This can reduce the volume of acceptable hires that are unnecessarily flagged for additional review for reasons that are not related to the role’s responsibilities.”