January 24th, 2023 | Joy Henry, US Head of Technology and Business Services

3 Critical Components of a Global Background Check Program

Critical Components of a Global Background Check Program

Traditionally, global background checks were necessary for international organizations, i.e. businesses with offices in more than one country. Therefore, offices in each country needed to conduct background checks when hiring candidates for their local office. However, this is no longer the case. With the global ease and appetite for travel rapidly increasing over the last two decades, it is common for individuals to live and work abroad, and sometimes return to their native country with a resume including years spent across different regions. Today global background check programs are frequently necessary for both international organizations as well as US organizations which hire a diverse set of candidates.

This can present a challenge for organizations not equipped to handle international background checks. When the situation presents itself, and a US-based organization needs to run a background check for a candidate who spent years outside the country, many HR professionals are left scrambling to quickly identify a partner that can accommodate a global background check and develop a program which includes all the necessary support.

Over the last ten years, we have worked with many companies to develop global programs. We’ve learned a lot from our customers, from our successes, and from our mistakes. Today, leveraging our relationships and experience, we continue to build out world-class global programs for our clients. With this in mind, here are three components we have identified as critical to a successful global screening program.

1. Create a Single Center of Excellence with Representation from Every Region

Over the years, we’ve seen the pendulum swing in two vastly different directions. First, global background check programs were very US-centric. They were driven by the US region who determined the requirements, the programs, and the process. Once defined, it was rolled out across all other regions.

Regions outside the US really struggled to meet the requirements and implement a program that was defined with only the US in mind. With major differences in every country from culture to local laws to languages, every region was struggling to adapt to the US-defined program. There was a lot of frustration among businesses, and regions pushed back on these compliance requirements.

This led to a geographic-centric model, where every region defined their own requirements along with their own process and programs. While this model provided autonomy in every region, with the ability of each region to develop a program that complied with their laws and requirements, this new arrangement also created its own set of challenges. Organizations did not have consistent policies across the globe and could not manage background checks at a global level.

Finally, the industry has settled on a hybrid background check model, which has been very effective across the globe. While there needs to be a consistent set of requirements and standards supported across the organization, they also need to be developed with an understanding of all the regions in which they will be implemented and supported.

Today Sterling works with our clients to develop a single center of excellence, where the requirements are defined globally; however, while the center of excellence is physically in one location, it also includes representatives from every region to ensure that every region’s nuances are accounted for.

2. Develop One Framework with Flexibility in Execution

While there are many differences in background checks across regions, there are many aspects that can be made consistent regardless of local laws or culture. It is important that an organization define a global program with a single framework by defining those attributes that remain the same, and implementing them effectively across all regions while managing globally. This includes: 

  • Goals and objectives aligned with corporate values regardless of region or location;
  • Common set of defined terminology to enable organizations to have the same language and promote conversation globally across the organization;
  • Consistent client and candidate experience – regardless of country, every hiring manager is following the same process, and every candidate is leveraging the same software. 

Conversely, there are many differences across regions within the program execution. That’s why the program must support flexible execution of the framework across regions.

For example, a single platform can be selected and rolled out globally. While every region is leveraging the same provider, software, and user interface, the interface can include variability in the candidate questions in each region, and the interface language can vary as well based on region.

Another example is that businesses must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is a regulation in European Union (EU) law covering data protection and privacy. While the US has sector-specific laws and state-level legislation around data protection, the GDPR was designed to harmonize data privacy across the whole of the European Union, allowing citizens to better control their data with a need for privacy by default and giving individuals the right to request the deletion of their data, with businesses facing significant fines if these obligations are not met.  However, regardless of the data collected, or the candidate questions asked, the experience remains consistent. The data (albeit different data) is presented in the same way, the same governance structures are defined around decision making, and the same terminology is used across teams.

Therefore, a global organization’s program, products, and technology all need to be flexible and dynamic to account for the cultural and legal differences within a consistent framework and experience.

3. Regional Support

To successfully support our clients’ global background check programs, Sterling mirrors client program models with client support. We look at the center of excellence (which includes representation from the varying regions) and develop a center of excellence in the same region while building ‘satellite’ support in each of the respective regions. The satellite support is critical, because by building out a team in every supported region, we develop in-market expertise that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. With this knowledge, not only is the team equipped to support the region in their language with an understanding of local laws and culture, but can also work to develop solutions and fulfillment directly supporting the regional market.

A Background Check Program Is Never ‘Set It and Forget It’

A global background check program is no different than any other aspect of a modern hiring program in that it constantly requires tweaking as legislation changes, technology advances, and new data becomes available. As a result, the Sterling Customer Success team partners closely with clients to provide regular guidance, best practices, and recommendations. We are continually learning and adapting, as well as adding new products to support our clients.

Are you ready to develop a global background check program, or review your existing program with a view to optimization? Contact us for more information.

Sterling is not a law firm. 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.