The COVID-19 has resulted in an exponential growth in connectivity between people around the globe. As the workforce of many organisations continues to work from home it also becomes more globalised. However new challenges have risen in maintaining an effective and compliant employment background screening program.
To measure the pulse of human resources during a challenging time in business worldwide, we conducted a survey that revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting human resources at respondents’ companies. There are also concerns about fraud, and the protection of confidential information as a large percentage of the workforce has gone virtual in work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.
Few in the HR world are untouched by COVID-19: more than 88 per cent of respondents said that the pandemic is having an impact on their HR operations, and 65 per cent are considering new ways to retain employees during the crisis.
When asked if all of the employees who are authorised to access sensitive information (e.g., IT department) have been screened from criminal, media, employment history perspective prior to any work-from-home arrangement, 54 per cent answered that they were not.
On the other hand, most companies do conduct background screening of some type. In fact, 85 per cent do so, which is important because many companies have learned that trust can be misplaced. While an overwhelming 92 per cent said they trust their employees with confidential data, background screening can help verify that your employees aren’t hiding anything in their backgrounds that might put your company at risk.
Background checks are essentially an investigation into a person’s character – inside and outside of their professional lives. At CRI Group, we provide a full in-depth background
screening service for candidates and employees at all levels across the globe. Working with different cultures in different geographies possess some background screening challenges which should be considered when conducting a thorough background check. Neeyamo collated the list of main cultural barriers which we will discuss in this article.
Language is a vital element of any country and culture, and it plays an important part when conducting background screening as in several countries, the documentation is written in the local language. This requires a local presence and local knowledge. Neeyamo provides an example: “But why does language pose a significant challenge in the Asia-Pacific and Europe regions?
To put things into perspective, here’s an example. Verification in China requires the verifier to read Mandarin or Cantonese because all educational transcripts in China are made available in only one of these two languages. Failure to read or the inability to translate these documents would result in an increase in the turnaround time for completing the background screening process.”
The same goes for other locations. Europe is often found challenging being a home of multiple different official languages. This language barrier could result in delays and data accuracy. This is why CRI Group has implemented ‘boots on the ground’ strategy and employs local experts in remote areas in the world, who are equipped with not only technical skills but with local knowledge and understand the cultural subtleties
2. Social behaviour
Based on a ‘cultural index’ that details the different cultural barriers and its impact on various regions (measured on a scale of 1 (“not a challenge” ) to 5 (“highly challenging”), “social behaviour was rated as 3 across countries in APAC and the Middle East as was rated as 2 across other regions”. What could be considered as the normal practice in some areas, it might come across as disrespectful or offensive in other. Trust your local team – their understanding of local cultures will ensure a seamless process.
3. Natural calamities and time differences
The climate varies from one geography to another. Some natural disasters such as earthquakes or typhoons in certain regions might have an impact on the speed of conducting a background screening. The time difference is also an important thing to consider. Did know that the working week also differs across regions? While the working week in Europe is usually considered to be Monday to Friday, the offices in UAE shut down their doors earlier – the weekend starts on Fridays and the 5-day working week begins on Sunday.
4. Celebration of local festivals
National celebrations also play a huge part in cultural life. For example, responses from employees, employers, education institutions and even government might potentially slow down during Christmas in the Western world, Ramadan in the Middle East region, or Lunar New Year in Asia. Have the national holidays in mind when hiring or screening your candidates.
5. Political Instability
Neeyamo ‘s “cultural barrier index shows Africa and Middle East regions having unrest due to political instability as a significant challenge.
In Africa, government officials or local authorities primarily focus on maintaining law and order. Verification is found to be, only of secondary importance to them. Consider Syria and Venezuela, where the socio-economic conditions are worse than what was witnessed during the Great Depression of 1929. Performing verification in these geographies is backbreaking and will impact the turnaround time.”
6. Regulatory policies
International Background Screening requires compliance with personal data protection regulations across regions where it is conducted. In every region and jurisdiction in the world, there are different regulations that govern what background screeners can and can’t do in regards to providing pre- and post-employment screening services. The laws in the United States, for example, are not the same as those that affect investigations in the Middle East. The concern over individual privacy and data protection are hot discussion items globally. In Europe it’s GDPR which came into force in 2018. If you need more information on how to establish GDPR procedures in your organisation, read our guide on how to maintain GDPR compliance.
While reputable screening firms in the U.S. comply closely with the Fair Credit Reporting Act to conduct domestic background investigations, foreign investigations are much more complex. Middle East countries have no prohibitive legislation that governs the employment screening process. At the same time, there is no cooperative legislation and regulation to support background screening services for employee due diligence. However, background screening industry professionals must adhere to strict data protection requirements (such as the GDPR, local Data Protection regimes specifically DIFC Data Protection, ADGM Data Protection and QFC Data Protection regulations) to process consensually based personal information.
In UAE, local police departments provide “Good Conduct Certificates” for employees for immigration purposes, while Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Data Protection standards allow for the processing of sensitive personal information, such as criminal history, with signed consent from the data subject for employee due diligence requirements. Read more about compliance with privacy laws in the UAE.
7. Technology gap
The technology gap is another challenge which should be tackled and it reflects the culture of how the business is being conducted in different parts of the world.
Earlier we wrote that, for example, in the United States, investigators have a web of databases at their disposal and a vast network of local resources that provide a wealth of information at the mere click of a mouse. It’s a different world in the Middle East. Technology is limited in many parts of the region. Privacy legislation varies from country to country and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Cultural differences can impact the flow of information.
8. Local Practices
The verification methodology might differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, successful background investigators in the Middle East are often required to work deep in the field, travelling to remote destinations to conduct interviews, develop resources and enlist local assistance to verify information. Leading background screening firms will conduct investigations that regularly involve a thorough review of local press records, using online and proprietary databases augmented by manual field research to locate the appropriate public records.
While “in South Africa, the process would require the candidate’s fingerprints, while in the US, this would not be required as the data is digitised and made available into authorised sources. Whereas in Australia, one must go through the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). Similar complexities could be evidenced for other types of verifications as well”.
How to Locate Reputable Screening Firms
The following checklist will help in securing a reputable background screening service:
1. To begin, research the listing of expatriate background screening firms provided by the Professional Background Screening Association https://thepbsa.org/.
2. Ask your provider how they comply with local and regional laws governing individual privacy protection and the methods they utilise in protecting information.
3. Make sure your service provider’s physical address is in the region they’re conducting investigations. If not, they could be simply outsourcing their cases to a third party.
4. Ask about the manner in which your service provider conducts investigations. Avoid firms that investigate exclusively through media searches.
5. Inquire about the internal policies and procedures the service provider uses to monitor the protection of data, and if it conducts regular audits to ensure compliance with regional privacy mandates. Specifically, the provider should be in compliance with GDPR and must maintain Information Security Management System ISMS (ISO27001).
6. Don’t settle for firms that say they specialise in providing checks of the International Terrorist Watch List and the OFAC watch list. Those lists are available online to anyone at no cost.
7. Avoid firms that won’t supply you with the source of the records they obtain, where available from public record resources. Also, be sure to ask how old the information collected is.
8. Reputable firms will combine in-depth field investigations with routine public records searches. Make sure your provider is doing both. Background checks involve investigative research and not just press-clippings.
9. Service delivery is critical in foreign investigations. Ask about average turnaround times and get commitments for delivery in advance of the investigation.
10. Find out what other U.S. companies use the service provider. Ask for references.
As the world economy shrinks and the pool of foreign job applicants expands, a partnership with a reputable international background screening service provider to conduct investigations abroad is essential for maintaining a safe hiring program for your clients. To ensure you’re using the best providers available, a little investigating of your own will result in big benefits down the road.
Don’t leave hiring to chance. Take a proactive stance with the highest level of background screening as a part of your essential business strategy. Contact us today to learn more about our full range of services to help your organisation stay protected.