Americans Much in Favor of Background Checks

Granted, the company announcing this research has some “skin in the game,” as we sometimes say around here, but this study — which 502005532 -- criminal backgroundwas explained to me in some detail at the recent SHRM16 conference in Washington — bears sharing.

It’s so counterintuitive to so much of what we’ve been hearing when it comes to the popularity, or lack thereof, of background screening, I thought it might pique some interest.

The study (registration required) was commissioned by Sterling Talent Solutions, the entity created from the recent acquisition by SterlingBackcheck of EmployeeScreenIQ. (Kelton Global conducted the research.)

And here’s the statistic that compels me to share: It finds 95 percent of the 1,077 Americans over the age of 18 polled think background checks should be mandatory to determine whether a person has a criminal past before he or she takes on the responsibilities of a job.

As Nick Fishman, the company’s communications vice president, explained to me, “we’ve all heard a lot about background checks, and how they are negatively perceived, and negatively affect job candidates [indeed, here’s just a sampling of such content we’ve posted on HREOnline and HRE Daily, along with guidelines and regulations employers now need to be aware of], but no one’s gone out and asked the general public what they actually think about them. Well, we did.”

For so long, it’s been assumed employers take the safety of their workplaces more seriously than employees, Fishman said. “Now we see employees care as much, if not more.”

The poll also found 81 percent of Americans believe feeling safe at all times is their right and the workplace is one of the top two locations where they expect to feel safe. What’s more, 68 percent indicated they are willing to undergo background checks themselves; in other words, it’s not just something they believe should be in place for others.

“For too long, the debate about background checks has failed to take into account how everyday Americans actually feel about the role background checks play in their daily lives — namely to keep them safe — and has instead focused on issues promoted by [governmental agencies and advocacy groups],” says Clare Hart, chief executive officer of Sterling. (Think ban-the-box legislation currently spreading through the country at city, county and state levels.) Hart continues:

“[This explains] why Americans depend on employers to look into the backgrounds and criminal histories of job candidates. Importantly, contrary to much of what’s been reported in the media, only 14 percent of Americans consider background checks to be an invasion of privacy.”

So what are you/we to do with this?

Obviously, background-check providers would love the door to open ever-wider to the need for their services. But there’s more to this, I think, yet another reminder that we don’t always know what’s in the hearts and minds of the people working for us, and we should not pretend to know without asking them.

(Employee-satisfaction-survey providers would no doubt have some thoughts on this as well.)