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Corporate scandals today are no longer just a PR or communications issue. According to the Aon Global Risk Management Survey, CEOs have ranked brand and reputational damage as the #1 risk to companies for two years running. That means that as companies continue losing top talent, loyal customers, and market share over workplace issues such as sexual harassment or discrimination, bad headlines are now a company-wide issue. To keep their companies protected, HR leaders need to stay ahead of the issues and figure out how to stop high-risk individuals from inflicting damage on the organization.

As HR leaders search for ways to protect the company brand, they’re finding that traditional background checks are missing important information. With the growing amount of job-relevant information online, the cost of culture risks increasing, and the cost of bad hires becoming more measurable, HR leaders and business partners are looking online to learn more. Those who can implement an effective digital media screening policy will help their organizations get ahead of a new wave of hiring risk and make a meaningful impact on the company brand.

This post offers a simple two-step method to help you develop an online screening policy in line with your organization’s goals and create a business case internally. Feel free to leverage our resources on the cost of toxic workplace behavior to build your case. From there, all you need to do is work through the exercise below. After doing so, you will be able to frame strategic priorities in terms of hiring risk and build a plan that helps solve your company’s unique challenges.

Step 1: What are your company’s top areas of risk?

It’s hard to get a CEO’s attention when proposing an online screening policy unless you can show how your policy directly impacts their strategic goals. So the first question you need to ask is: where are the risks and how can you help identify those risks through your screening process?

To determine your company’s top areas of risk, you need to understand your organization’s mission, values, and broader objectives. After consulting within your organization and getting a solid grasp of your strategic goals, think about which of the following risks might be highest priority.

  • Legal risk — Companies dealing with high expenditures on employment insurance or lawsuits might include legal risk in their company’s top risks. If your company or industry is seeing potential or existing litigation, this may be your top category.

  • Data/IP risk — If your company depends heavily on data or information, data and IP risk may be a chief concern. Finance, tech, and healthcare companies are particularly vulnerable, with high cost to their business when data is leaked.

  • Culture risk — How much are you paying in turnover expenses, reduced morale, and lowered productivity to poor culture or bad hires? If culture issues are sidetracking your company from achieving its goals, this may be your company’s top priority.

  • Performance Risk — Beyond the existing costs of a bad hire, some roles have particularly high stakes. If your hire is responsible for handling large accounts or core product function, for example, this may be a category that you want to screen for.

  • Brand Risk — Consumers today are presented with more purchasing choices than ever. If toxic behavior or careless tweets in your organization lead to bad press and turn fans and customers elsewhere, reducing brand risk and keeping your company out of the headlines will be key.

Action: After identifying which areas are of greatest importance or consequence, choose your organization’s Top 2 risks from the list above. Then move to the next step, where you’ll specify how different employees may manifest this risk in their online behavior.

Step 2: What kinds of behaviors will you look for?

For your screening policy to be effective, the behaviors you screen for should align with your top risks. While some companies might be more interested in identifying criminal activity to prevent IP risk, all companies should look for critical, toxic behaviors like bigotry, sexism, and violence. These issues can derail organizations in all industries and should be in your screening criteria no matter how your risks stack up. After making a list of risky behaviors per the instructions above, consider adding these screening criteria:

  • Seniority Differences Sometimes crude language is less critical for junior recruits, but more important for executives due to their impact on company morale and reputation. How does risk manifest when you consider seniority or team?

  • Industry Specific Topics — There is no one size fits all online screening policy. If there is any information specific to your company, industry, or role that you want to look for, customize your plan accordingly and add any relevant topics to your screening criteria.

  • Positive Behaviors — Who we are online often reflects how we think and act offline. If you’re looking for specific indicators of cultural fit, consider looking for positive behaviors such as commitment to a particular cause or active protection of others.

(Need help figuring out what kinds of behaviors to look for, or understanding the full range of risky behaviors? Download our research on the cost of a toxic hire to understand some of the key behaviors that can derail company performance, and consider which ones you might add to your screening policy.)

Action: Create a spreadsheet with seniority running down the left hand column, and departments running across the top. Within each cell or role, reference the appropriate hiring team and your company’s top risks to create a list of behaviors you will screen for online.

The key to getting executive buy-in is to show how finding risky behaviors through online screening can safeguard your company, then sharing the steps you’ll take to make that happen. Questions about who is responsible for screening or how quickly reports need to get done may arise upon implementation. However, by putting together a screening policy tailored to your company’s goals, you will be able to make a solid case for online screening and move your company closer to lasting corporate change.

Want to learn more about implementing an online screening process into your organization? Feel free to schedule a call with our team or reach out to us via our contact form, and we will help you get set up.

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