May 8th, 2020 | Alla Schay, General Manager, Sterling - Industrials, Government & Education

Hiring Trends and Contractor Impact Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Across a range of industries and roles, companies grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic are turning to contract or contingent workers to perform various jobs. Oftentimes, these individuals are placed in positions of considerable trust, with access to sensitive locations or information. They may work in close collaboration with your other employees, interact with the public, and potentially impact perceptions of your brand and hard-earned reputation.

These arrangements, often supported by a placement agency, can represent the full spectrum of white-, grey-, blue-, and emerging green-collar positions. There are several reasons or opportunities for companies to utilize contractors, including:

  • Projects with specific scope or for limited duration
  • Within industries or locations where this is the historic norm and general expectation
  • When financial investments in full-time hires are not feasible
  • As part of a “trial-hire” or “temp to permanent hire” philosophy to ensure appropriate skill, cultural, and other fit before a full-time commitment is made
  • Roles with seasonality impacts
  • In times of uncertainty, when a job needs to be done but it is unclear if that position can be maintained

In this Contractor Screening Solution Sheet, we provide a quick overview of considerations and solutions for you. Our contractor screening experts are available to answer any questions you may have unique to your business needs. Start a conversation with us here.

Consistent Standards

Whatever the motivation for utilizing contract workers, employers should look at enabling a consistent standard for background checks, even during a crisis. A typical screening program includes a criminal background check, verification of education and employment, drug and health screenings, and other role-specific items. These elements work together to help maintain a safe workplace when applied across all types of hires. Gaps or inconsistencies in a screening methodology can lead to considerable and unnecessary risk.

Avoiding Pitfalls

What are some of the pitfalls of failing to offer a consistent, high quality background check for contractors?

  • Lack of Control and More Headaches for Your HR Department
    An important aspect of a thorough background check is uniform application of standards that you set. Will you only hire individuals without a single blemish on their criminal background check, or is there a certain threshold that can be tolerated? If an applicant’s employment history varies by a month compared to what is stated, is that acceptable, but more than three months is not? These key decisions need to be applied universally to maintain the integrity of your workforce. If you cede control to an agency’s standards, you may simply be “taking their word for it,” and potentially compromising your standards of workplace culture and safety. In addition, record-keeping and follow-ups can become a nightmare if you leverage multiple agencies, each of which may select their own background screener.
  • Important Details Can Be Missed
    A thorough background check will help mitigate organizational risk by providing key details. Take, for example, the recent case of a Sterling client, which uncovered the need for greater control of the screening process for contractors when an individual completed 500 hours of service over a three-month period. Here, an individual was in the process of transitioning from contractor status to full-time employment, and a criminal record from several years earlier was discovered. This second background check was much more comprehensive than the first one, the latter of which was performed by another company. Consequently, a full-time offer could not be made, time and effort were wasted, and the organization had been subjected to unnecessary risk.
  • Poor Candidate Experience
    Once you’ve identified the right person for the job, you may want that individual to start as quickly as possible. However, it is nearly impossible to set an expectation for an applicant for what they can expect, or how long it will take, when the start date answer may differ if the background screening process is not something that’s in your control. Cross-referencing an applicant back to the agency that sourced the contractor for you, for example, and then figuring out details from multiple background screening companies adds complexity with no incremental value for you.

Value of a Strong Contractor Screening Program
A strong background screening provider will be able to support your specific business needs with a robust screening program developed for contractors. A clear indicator of a strong contractor screening program is one that allows you to control, administer, and operate the program within your master background screening account. A consistent scoring approach, with easy access to the status of each check, enables you to quickly see an individual contractor’s eligibility to access your worksite. Another indicator is having the flexibility to determine role-based screening packages. Finally, in this time of uncertainty, having flexible payment options can be critical to your business continuity plans. These could include options wherein your contractor agency pays the screening fees directly, you pay the fees per candidate, or the fees are passed along from you to the contractor agency.

Now more than ever, companies are looking for simple yet cost-effective solutions that work for their unique business needs so they can protect brand standards and focus on their core mission. The careful decisions you’ve made in your background check requirements have helped ensure the safety of your direct-hire employees. By extending those same standards to your contingent worker population, you can realize process efficiencies while also protecting a safe environment for your employees and customers alike.

Contact us

To learn more about how we can help you simplify your hiring process while increasing safety and decreasing risk, read our comprehensive Contractor Screening Solution document. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.