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12 October 2023

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When the government changed the way ID verification is managed for new hires in the UK at the end of last year, it signified a major shift in the way organisations would need to work. It went from being a manual to an optional digital process. 

Making the right hiring decisions cannot be left to chance and companies need to ensure they have the right vetting in place to protect themselves from unnecessary risk. 

With digitisation at the forefront of change, the challenge is how to make the most of faster, more efficient screening and recruitment technology while maintaining a personal touch and recognising that the modern, more human-centred way of working needs to be at the core of everything you do. 

In this article, Director of Reed Screening, Keith Rosser, talks about how organisations can embrace the digital era and futureproof their screening and vetting processes. 

Q: How important is screening as part of the overall recruitment process and at what stages is it needed? 

A: Screening is a really important part of the recruitment stage because you need to actually ensure that who you are recruiting is who they say they are. And, they've got the qualifications they’ve claimed on their CV, they've got the work history that they've said that they've got, and therefore the experiences. 

Pre-employment screening is really important to make sure the person you recruited is the right candidate. It should happen as soon as a selection decision has been made so the process can happen as quickly as possible, and the person can start in work.   

Q: How can employers use digital technologies to verify the identity and background of prospective employees in a remote and secure way? 

A: Digital technology is actually really important because it is actually better than the old-fashioned manual checks that humans performed at spotting fake documents, fraudulent documents or things that maybe seem amiss. 

We've seen trends that tell us that more people who have got fake or fraudulent documents are actually targeting companies that aren’t using digital technology because they know that they can't get through digital identity checks. 

Companies that aren't doing these checks digitally are actually exposing themselves to greater risk at the moment. As an example, Reed operate Assured ID, which is our digital identity and right to work system that launched before the Home Office rule change came in last year. We found that out of 70,000 candidates, 58,000 wanted to go through the digital route, and they did that in a matter of minutes, whereas previously businesses had to ask candidates to come into an office, have someone meet them and see the documents, which would have taken weeks. 

And so, not only is it more secure, but actually it's so much faster too. 

Q: How should companies assess what levels of vetting are needed for various roles within their organisation? 

A: This is quite a tricky one, because it depends on the rules of their industry. It depends on the risk of their organisation. 

And actually, taking a broader strategic view is really important here. At Reed we've been supporting the work of the Better Hiring Institute for a couple of years, who are working with government and industry to create best practice hiring and screening guides for employers. It's not to say an organisation has to choose the best practice of their industry, but it gives them an idea of what best practice in their industry looks like and they can choose to deviate in one way or another. 

Of course, if you have a bit too much of a light approach for industry, you could become a target for people who are trying to get into that sector. And, obviously at the same time, you probably don't want to do too much and make it a longer onboarding journey. 

Using standardised industry-level best practices is really important. And that's why, at Reed, we've done a lot of work with government and other organisations to help set those standards. 

Q: How can organisations keep on top of any rule/law changes when it comes to screening? 

A: Things are happening quickly in this space, particularly since the pandemic where the government are committed to help employers recruit and hire more quickly and remotely. And especially through the last few years, where there's been high number of vacancies and not enough people with the right skill set to do those jobs. 

There's lots of organisations out there that can help you interpret what's happening. But what I'd say is that at organisations like Reed we’re actually involved in influencing and making those changes. We were included in the press release by the Home Office regarding the digital right to work change. We chair the trade body for the criminal record checking agencies. We sit on the ECHO Home Office Committee for right to work. We're part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to make UK hiring the fastest globally, which is being worked on by ministers and MPs. 

What we're really doing is influencing the future changes and helping organisations to understand that. We have lots of free webinars that people can attend, usually with people from government so they can hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were, rather than looking at interpretations of what's out there. 

I would also say that our work that we've done over the last few years with the Better Hiring Institute, has made them probably the best single source of free information for employers as well. They're a great resource for employees to go to see not just what's happened, but what is the direction of travel. 

Q: What challenges will organisations face in the next few years when screening potential employees? 

A: The world of work is changing at lightning speed. People have always talked about change and change being fast, but right now I think it's been faster than we've ever seen it before. 

There's so many different things at play here, whether it's high levels of vacancies causing activity by government and industry to work out how to better connect with people who are outside the labour market, whether it's skill shortages or whether it's an issue of speed, meaning that our waiting lists and workloads are going up because we can't get people in quickly enough. 

All those things come together to mean that the pace of change now is faster than ever. What's really important to note about the future of employee screening, is that it's going to be more digital. It's become digital, digital hirings here, we changed the right to work rules to make it more digital. We spoke in Parliament in front of the commons committee about the digital information bill, about how digital identity will move in future. We're working closely with the criminal record check agencies, but actually we're just at the start really of the digital journey, so it will become more digital. 

We have to think about the way that candidates will work with a more digital system in future. Both in terms of what do we do with people who are in digital poverty, but also how do we deal with people who have got greater expectations for how they can apply and get jobs quickly and remotely in future. 

So more digital, more heightened candidate expectations about the sort of smoothness and digitisation of that journey. Then I think also, more types of information that can be shared online and what's the ownership rules around that? At what point do we get to a stage where 16-year-olds are given a digital identity, their right to work, their school qualifications in a digital wallet before they finish school, and they use that to find a job after they leave school. 

What will the future of staff passports look like where people collect a lot of this digital data on themselves, and that's used, and follows them through their journey. 

There will be more digitisation, a greater degree of ownership, but also inclusion. We mustn't forget inclusion. While digital is great and speed is great, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that there's lots of people in society that may need supported or assisted ways of applying for work and going through digital journeys. 

We should never forget that as much as the digital speed journeys are very positive, we mustn’t lose sight of inclusion too. 

Get in touch with one of our experts today if you're looking for help and advice on screening. 

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