Is Continuous Screening the Future Normal?

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer October 28, 2016

Most companies screen employees for red flags in their background once, at the prehire stage. In the near future, the new normal may call for continuous, post-hire monitoring, which can alert HR to potential risks from staff, reducing the prevalence of insider threats.

"Continuous screening provides employers with a valuable tool to best evaluate their risks and ensure they place their employees in the most appropriate positions," said Lucia Bone, the founder of the Sue Weaver CAUSE, an organization created to promote awareness of the importance of conducting ongoing criminal background checks on service workers, after Cathy Sue Weaver was murdered in 2001 by a worker who had not undergone a background check.

"Background check vendors do a good job with the past," said Raj Ananthanpillai, CEO and president of IDentrix, a cloud-based technology that combs publically available sources, including criminal and court records in real time. "But people are dynamic and so is the risk they pose to organizations. One-and-done background checks don't account for the dynamic nature of risk factors."

[SHRM members-only Toolkit: Conducting Background Investigations]

Ananthanpillai explained that the risk from an employee increases from their hire date, "whether they've been with the company for five days or five years … and you may not even know about it. An arrest, a lawsuit or alarming financial behavior can be warning signs, which many companies miss because they don't screen current employees or only rescreen periodically."

Post-hire insider threats range from embezzlement, fraud and theft to violent behavior. In addition, "an employer may discover post-employment that critical information was missed during the hiring process," said Les Rosen, an attorney and the CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background screening firm based in the San Francisco area. "For example, an employer may discover post-hire that a person is a registered sex offender or that a credential is faked. Employers shouldn't assume that passing a background check means there will never be issues with insider threats down the line."

Barry Boes, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Accio Data, a technology platform company that connects screening firms to data providers, said, "It's inevitable that [at least one] person who passes a background check will commit a crime after passing the screen." He cited automated, continuous monitoring as "becoming technologically feasible" and an important emerging screening tool.

Ananthanpillai said that advances in software mean that continuous, automated risk monitoring can be conducted in real time by analyzing public records. IDentrix assesses risk factors from criminal, financial and professional data sources to keep the employee's risk profile current.

"We scour the same thousands of data sources, all in the public domain, and we look at attributes that are relevant to the employer. Trucking industry employers need to know if their drivers got a DUI or aggravated driving incident. Health care employers need to know when their workers' licenses and certifications expire."

The software also monitors relevant employees' financial records for bankruptcies and missed payments, internal files workers have been accessing, and suspicious online activity on work-related devices.

Ananthanpillai said that a client with more than 30,000 employees and contractors uncovered 11 felony arrests, five drug-related arrests and one multiple sex offender during three months of monitoring.

"Because the [screening] technology performs continuous monitoring and is becoming available at a reasonable cost, the whole idea of what constitutes negligent hiring will change," Boes said. "Soon, it could be that if you're not performing continuous screening when it's available and an individual is exposed, that could fit into the new parameters of negligent hiring."

The inherent challenge is in predicting future behavior, Rosen said. "The key is initial screening, ongoing screening, and an environment of control and physical safety. To prevent surprises caused by missed information during pre-employment screening, employers should have policies, practices and procedures to carefully select employees in the first place."

Rosen added that job application forms should make it clear that any material falsehood or omission from the applicant can result in termination no matter when it is discovered. Employee handbooks should include language on what will happen if the employer discovers falsehoods or omissions post-hire.

"[Employers] should ensure background check releases have an evergreen clause to allow future screening if needed," he said. "Some firms include a policy that employees must self-report any arrest that can impact their ability to perform their jobs."

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