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Oct 23, 2015

School is in session and the holidays are quickly approaching.

Retail stores are hiring their much-needed holiday workforce. And, for many running volunteer programs, volunteers are knocking at the door, ready to lead Girl Scout troops, volunteer for the PTA, and serve food to the hungry at Thanksgiving.

What this hopefully also means is that background screening is in full swing. After all, screening each of these employees and volunteers is the only way you can protect your organization, your people, and your community from individuals that may mean more harm than good.

In light of the season, it’s a good time to review your background screening policy, making sure it is thorough and all-encompassing.

Your policy is what forms the foundation of your screening program as every background check you conduct will be based on it. Your background screening policy should define which employees and volunteers are screened, how they are screened, and the process for factoring background check results into the hiring/onboarding decision.

Many organizations – including nonprofit organizations – have considerable gaps that provide a window of opportunity for job seekers and potential volunteers. Let’s address some of the most common ones.

1. Who gets screened?

The first gap that can be identified in many organizations’ screening policies is simply who gets screened.

An alarming number of organizations limit their screening to employees. But all organizations should screen everyone that walks through the door – employees, volunteers, and beyond.

Think about your own program and consider the folks you aren’t screening:  keep in mind your extended workforce (comprised of contingent, contract, and temporary workers, many of whom have some level of access to your organization’s information, technology or assets) and, of course, your volunteers and unpaid workers. In order to feel secure, you need to ensure that your screening policy covers everyone from full-time salaried employees to temps, interns and volunteers.

2. Boards and directors are critical, too

Directors and board members are critical roles in for profit, nonprofit and volunteer organizations alike. Are you screening them too?

Organizations are more likely to screen entry-level staff than senior level staff, but when you think about which person could do more damage to your organization’s assets, brand, and reputation, you’ll notice that not screening these individuals is a gap in itself.

If you are giving your directors and board members a pass on the most thorough background checks, you’re leaving a glaring hole in your policy that could have catastrophic consequences.

3. Updates and rescreening need to be done

Lots of organizations view screening as a “one and done” item. They screen a volunteer or employee before bringing them onboard, and then conveniently check it off the list.

But just because these individuals had a clean criminal history when they came onboard, that doesn’t mean that it will always stay that way. A criminal record check depicts a moment in time and becomes outdated almost instantly.

The solution to closing this gap is through monthly updates and regular rescreening.  That way, you can rest assured that you are aware of an individual’s latest status and any new criminal history.

4. Annually review your screening policy

Finally, developing a comprehensive screening policy is also not a one-time event. It is vital to review your screening policy annually because there are constantly legislative changes occurring.

Best practice is to have a documented process for reviewing your policy to account for any legislative changes, industry best-practices or new technology that will improve the efficiency of screening.

Follow a pre-determined schedule, such as an annual review, and involve all key stakeholders to help identify areas that need improvement or updating. Be sure to consult legal counsel as part of the review to ensure local compliance regulations are clearly accounted for.

Take the time now to review your current screening policy for gaps, or to document a screening policy for the first time. Once you have an all-encompassing screening policy in place, stick to it – and ensure that everyone in your organization sticks to it as well.

You can enter the busy season confident that you are doing everything possible to protect your organization and its reputation and keep your people safe.