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From a young age, we’re taught to go to the doctor regularly to catch potential health issues before they arise. But as we all know, many people wait until something goes wrong before they seek help. Rather than work to stay ahead of potential illness, people fall into the trap of thinking they’re invincible. Unfortunately, we see many companies make this same mistake. When it comes to managing their workforce, companies are notorious for choosing the emergency room when regular, preventative care could have done the trick.

Now that employee conduct and culture are becoming increasingly tied to a company’s reputation, we're seeing that those who limit their risk detection to only pre-hire screening could be missing a wealth of critical information about their employee base. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee has a tenure of 4 to 10 years, meaning that companies who rely exclusively on pre-employment screening methods may be missing up to 10 years of important job-related issues per employee.

There’s a lot that can happen after an employee is hired. A senior level director may play nice during the interview but later take to the internet to publicly shame a fellow employee. A customer service rep may clear the background check and later embezzle funds from customers. A government employee may pass a 12-step interview process and security clearance and still be found to have engaged with terrorist activity. In each case, the employee displayed red flags that could have alerted the employer and helped them stop the issue. Instead, the employer missed the signs and was left asking, "How did we miss this?"

As companies realize the importance of knowing not just who they’re hiring but who they’ve hired, they have begun seeking proactive, data-driven approaches to workforce management. Today, more than 70 percent of companies are turning to online data. They’re seeing that a person’s digital footprint can tell you a lot about their work performance and that a piece of online content, if not detected and dealt with early on, can result in brand damage costing in the millions. But how does an employee’s tweet or online interaction cost companies so much, and why is it so important to monitor on an ongoing basis?

1) When employees alienate your customers, they can damage your brand

Whether it’s an associate at Subway who’s been employed for a matter of months or an executive who has been around for nearly a decade, all it takes is 140 characters to drive customers out the door. After a CrossFit gym in Indianapolis canceled a LGBTQ Pride-themed workout, the company’s Chief Knowledge Officer and spokesperson publicly applauded the cancellation on social media. With a substantial LGBTQ customer base, CrossFit customers and employees quit in droves, leading the entire location to shut down and the executive to be fired in a matter of hours. The executive’s social media suggests that he might have posted such a message well before the incident occurred. Had the company better understood the mismatch between his online content and a major segment of the company’s customer base, they might have addressed his messaging and prevented the controversy. When employees denigrate customers, they can cause painful levels of brand damage and customer churn.

2) When employees don’t like your company, they can damage your brand

While employee desperation can lead to theft, a disgruntled employee can resort to outright slander and defamation. Yelp has dealt with a number of “open letters” on the internet written by disgruntled workers. Even more intense are the legal and PR battles happening at Tesla, who is suing and being sued by an allegedly disgruntled employee for defamation. The employee had allegedly revealed sensitive information to the media and posted pictures on Twitter claiming the company knowingly misled the public about their production and manufacturing, thus deeply threatening the brand’s credibility. Now, Tesla is being sidetracked by this difficult and expensive case while they attempt to build a new market category. Unless you have a proactive approach to understanding your talent, your employees can become disgruntled and vent their frustrations online—or worse, leak private or sensitive information.

3) Even off the clock, employee actions can come back to bite you...and damage your brand!

Your employees can get you in trouble even when they’re off the clock. When a mortgage loan services officer posted a racial slur on public social media, her content was picked up by the public, who then identified her association with a credit union and proceeded to accuse the company of enabling discrimination. The credit union’s ratings on Facebook dropped to a 3.6 out of 5, with one-third of all reviewers giving them a one-star rating. Two years after the incident, the credit union’s score has only increased by to 3.9 and critical reviews of the scandal remain. To some degree, everyone you hire represents your company. If you’re not staying on top of the issues, you’ll hear about them from consumers who will speak with their reviews and their dollars.

While it’s great to conduct an initial audit, one-and-done background checks are no longer enough. If you want to protect your company’s reputation and health, you need a proactive rather than reactive approach to understanding your talent. Being proactive can take many forms, whether it’s having a press release at the ready or getting a complete picture of your workforce. That said, being proactive is impossible without frequent and recent checkups. It’s time for companies to find new methods of preventative care to ensure their workforce stays healthy and free of toxic behavior.

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