Category Archives: screening

CEB Expands Its Footprint

After a bit of a lull in M&A activity, two major vendors kicked off this holiday week by announcing they will be joining forces.

Late this afternoon member-based advisory firm Corporate Executive Board Co. (NYSE: EXBD) said it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire U.K.-headquartered SHL, a leader in assessments for pre-hire and leadership assessments, for $600 million.

SHL, which purchased assessment provider PreVisor in 2011, currently has operations in Europe, Asia and the U.S.  and serves more than 10,000 clients in 111 countries.

Here’s what Tom Monahan, chairman and CEO of CEB, said about the acquisition:

 “The combination of these enterprises creates a uniquely valuable resource to help executives apply predictive analysis to the selection, development and management of talent. SHL’s established global customer base and rich talent analytics, its leadership position in corporate talent measurement and its proven business model … make it a compelling strategic and financial fit for CEB.”

Analyst Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates (who admittedly also competes, in certain respects, with CEB) described the move as the latest in a series by CEB to become more of a data-driven provider of HR services. “It’s similar to what it did earlier in the year with its purchase of Valtera,” a workforce engagement firm.

Like it did Valtera, Bersin expected CEB to keep the SHL brand independent.

Bersin added that CEB picks up a “very profitable, high-margin business” at a time when its stock price has been struggling.


Making the Sandusky/Screening Connection

With the Jerry Sandusky trial under way in Bellefonte, Pa., this week, it’s been impossible to avoid (even if you wanted to) news reports about testimony and other court proceedings — including yesterday’s airing for jurors of the videotape of Sandusky’s interview with Bob Costas in November.

Most pundits agree that the most horrific and damaging moment of that interview was Sandusky’s hesitant, repetitive response to Costas’ question, “Are you sexually attracted to young boys?”

Weighing in on that very issue today is the SingleSource Services Corp., in this release about an online assessment tool called the Diana Screen, a tool it claims can scientifically evaluate “those individuals at high risk to violate sexual boundaries with children and teens.”

As Donald J. Dymer, president and chief operating officer of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based background-screening company, puts it:

Child sexual abuse by those individuals entrusted with their care has once again taken center stage as the Sandusky trial unfolds. And yes, we are taking that opportunity to remind the public that a powerful prevention tool is available that would most likely have prevented Sandusky from being hired. An assessment that identifies those adults who do not recognize the appropriate sexual boundaries that should exist between adults and children.”

He cites studies from the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute showing 6 percent of adults are sexually attracted to children. “You won’t be able to recognize them without the Diana Screen,” says Dymer, “but they will recognize your children … .”

The release says the screen — consisting of 120 questions — is already being used by departments of juvenile justice, church diocese, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, mentoring agencies and residential homes for youths. Companies and organizations that put any adults into positions of trust with children and youths are encouraged to consider its use.

Dymer, a background-screening professional and longtime law enforcer, says it fills the void left by criminal background checks because it measures behavioral likelihood (such as a lack of sufficient social boundaries), as opposed to relying on past events.

We’ve been reporting for some time now on the changing face of the screening and assessment industry, whereby companies can now measure — through behavioral and psychological assessments — likelihoods that certain job candidates will succeed, learn quickly, be committed, be ethical and honest, present threats to a workforce, etc. etc.

Should a screen such as Diana join those ranks and become as widespread as Dymer hopes, my only concern would be that its accuracy is as failsafe as he says it is and that none of those 120 questions leaves room for doubt or interpretation.



All Eyes on EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance

To mix a couple metaphors, the fallout from today’s updated enforcement guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — specific to employers’ use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — has just left the gate.

The EEOC voted 4-1 today to approve the guidance document and also issued a question-and-answer document about it. Both documents can be found here.

“We had excellent testimony from two public meetings and hundreds of written comments submitted by a diverse group of commenters to inform our deliberations concerning the new guidance,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien in announcing the vote. “The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC’s long-standing policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employees, employers and many other agency stakeholders.”

The guidance appears to have many supporters, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. In a letter to the EEOC prior to the vote, the Conference, joined by 54 other organizations, said that “due in part to racial profiling and discriminatory sentencing schemes, racial and ethnic disparities persist at all stages of the criminal justice system. … These inequities in the criminal justice system only magnify the discriminatory barriers already experienced by minorities and low-income individuals living in the United States.” (The link includes the full letter if you scroll down.)

I’m still waiting for a flood of legal alerts about today’s decision to balance out the applause and kudos. I’m sure they’ll be coming. In the meantime, advice issued Thursday by White Plains, N.Y.-based employment law firm Jackson Lewis gets to the heart of what employers might expect and should be doing in light of the new guidance.

“It is expected that the EEOC’s new guidance will substantially modify existing EEOC guidance on criminal background checks, which has been in existence since 1987,” the Jackson Lewis post reads. “Employers seeking to avoid Title VII litigation risks anticipated from the new guidelines may have to reconsider and refine their use of criminal background checks in making employment decisions, and individuals posing increased risk to co-workers, customers and the public, and to employers, may be hired or retained.

“Employers should review and modify, as necessary, their current criminal background-check practices once the new guidance is made known,” it reads.

That’s today, folks. Let the reviewing begin.





To Catch a Thief

Guess it’s time for me to stop asking colleagues to “come by my office.”

According to Tom Phillipson, risk manager for Zurich-based Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and one of the presenters at this week’s Risk and Insurance Management Society Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, that particular phrase is one of many that could set off employer alarms.

Phillipson, speaking earlier today at a session titled “Fighting Crime in the Workplace,” noted that there wasn’t a whole lot new in the world of crime detection and prevention, with the exception of linguistic software that can scan emails to identify employees who might be up to no good. “It’s the only real innovation that’s come in the last few years.”

Phillipson advised attendees to check out a February 2012 Economist article that provides a good overview on how the software works:

To find employees with the opportunity to steal, the software looks for what snoops call ‘out of band’ events: messages such as ‘call my mobile’ or ‘come by my office’ suggest a desire to talk without being overheard. E-mails between an employee and an outsider that contain the words ‘beer,’ ‘Facebook’ or ‘evening’ can suggest a personal relationship.

Several vendors are mentioned in the piece, including a unit of Ernst & Young, Fast Tracking Technologies and NICE Actimize.

I followed up the RIMS session with a quick phone call to one of the sources quoted in the Economist article, Alton Sizemore, a former fraud detective at the FBI who now serves as director of investigations with Forensic/Strategic Solutions, an anti-fraud consultancy based in Birmingham, Ala.

Though he doesn’t consider himself an expert in the area of linguistics software, Sizemore says he could certainly see a positive advantage to using such technology. Though it’s hardly proof of wrongdoing, he points out, “You might be able to pick up an indication that someone might be up to something and that it might make sense to do a further review.”

That said, Sizemore suggests employers ought to tread carefully. Among other things, he explains, that means making sure your processes fully factor in privacy considerations.

The software obviously isn’t for everyone. Phillipson notes that a scan of a 10,000-employee organization costs about $45,000, and the Economist article mentioned mostly financial firms as clients. But I also recall a time when only a handful of companies tracked the Web browsing activity of employees.  So I suppose you never know.

HR Bloggy Goodness

For some post-candy, pre-turkey goodness, we’ve got a lot of interesting — let’s even say, colorful, since we still have some beautiful fall foliage here in the East — blog posts for you to read from this, our first hosting of the Carnival of HR.

I was putting this together while listening to tunes on my iPod, thus the subheads, which are all songs — although only one of them is on my playlist (and it’s probably the one few of you know; hint: it’s by Randy Newman).

Since this is the season, I guess the first post should be about the flu. Nancy Saperstone of Insight Performance’s Workplace of Choice Blog points out HR’s vital role in keeping employees healthy and productive.

Speaking of vital roles, should HR be skilled at gathering information on competitors? Mark Stelzner at Inflexion Advisors offers up some thoughts — but no simple answers — on capturing competitive intelligence.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, like respect. John Hunter at Curious Cat Blog writes about practical ways to respect co-workers and colleagues, while Ian Welsh at HR Toolbox says employee relations is the key to HR success.

 Everybody’s Talking at Me

Tim Gardner at the HR Introvert explores the “cult” factor in a company’s culture and Doug Shaw at Stop Doing Dumb Things To Customers just wants to sing about work and not in a good way, as evidenced the title, Crap Engagement.

Maybe you’re not into singing your heart out, but still want to communicate? Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace suggests you take your communication cues from your audience and “meet people where they are.”

One critical skill, writes Trish McFarlane of HR Ringleader, is mastering the art of negotiation — and she offers some practical tips to successfully enhance that competency, while Jennifer V. Miller at The People Equation writes that HR’s role in the workplace is similar in ways to curating an art competition.

 Leader of the Pack

Moving from the art world to the workplace, Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership writes that managers must enjoy enabling workers — if they are to be effective at their jobs. Want much more detail? Tanmay Vora at QAspire Blog provides 25 ways to effectively facilitate business strategies.

To create high-performing organizations, Laura Schroeder at Working Girl offers a list of questions that HR should ponder before making any workforce decisions, and Jon Ingham at Strategic HCM writes about human-centric management.

Humans are not created equal, I guess, as Ben Eubanks at upstart HR looks at some gender preferences for male and female bosses.

There’s also a difference, writes Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership, between leaders and managers. And there’s a difference between good succession plans and bad ones, writes Lois Melbourne at Aquire Blog.

Lonely at the Top

Carol Morrison at i4cp’s TrendWatcher writes about leadership competencies — and if companies are taking aim at the right ones or missing the target altogether — while Mike Haberman at Omega HR Solutions explores five powerful leadership lessons.

One of those lessons, writes Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context, should point out the important reasons to engage in social media.

We can segue from there into HR technology, which is where Naomi Bloom at In Full Bloom puts on her turban and does an imitation of Carnac the Magnificent by providing answers to 2011’s unknown questions. (Full disclosure: I met Johnny Carson once and she doesn’t look anything like him!)

 On The Road Again

John Sumser at HR Examiner, on the other hand, did an imitation of a nonstop traveler, and even though it lasted only seven weeks, it pointed him to some insights about mobile recruiting.

The insights offered up by Paul Baribeau at Workplace Tribes Blog involve those impacting HR strategies at a game development start-up.

Paul Smith at Welcome to the Occupation says HR can do better when it comes to recruiting disabled job candidates; Joe Jones at The Rainmaker Group’s Maximize Possibility Blog says ditto about leveraging the sales-talent selection process; and Mike McCarty of Safe Hiring Solutions says ibid on adding value to employment background checks.

We will close out this section on recruiting with an infographic from Joseph Fung at Tribe HR, exploring whether job boards matter anymore to the recruiting process and we’ll close out this issue of Carnival of HR with a blog post by Lynn Dessert at Elephants at Work on the importance of saying thank you.

So, thanks to everyone who participated in this Carnival of HR — and to everyone reading this. I hope you find this HR bloggy goodness is something to sing about.

And while you’re here, please scroll around The Leader Board. Some of our recent posts include this report from The Conference Board’s Human Capital Metrics Conference; the induction of three new Fellows as well as the induction of IBM’s Randy MacDonald as a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources; and a bit of Romance, HR-Style.

EEOC Mulls Fairness of Criminal Background Screens

Attorneys, government officials and other experts met in Washington Tuesday (July 26) to testify before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the pros and cons, and fairness and safety concerns, of using arrest and conviction records when making hiring decisions.

Employers often refuse to hire people with criminal records, the commission was told, even years after they’ve completed their sentences, leading to recidivism and higher social-services costs.

“This major barrier to employment touches a broad swath of the U.S. population,” said Amy Solomon, senior adviser to the assistant attorney general of the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice. “According to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 92 million individuals have a criminal history on file in state criminal-history repositories.

“This figure is for year end 2008,” she testified, “and may include individuals with records in more than one state. That said, with about 14 million new arrests recorded annually, it is clear that a significant share of the nation’s adult population — estimated at about one in three or four adults — has a criminal record on file.

“Many arrests are for relatively minor crimes,” Solomon testified. “And what is often forgotten is that many people who have been arrested –and therefore technically have a criminal record that shows up on a background check — have never been convicted of a crime. This is true not only for those charged with minor crimes, but also for individuals arrested for serious offenses. A snapshot of felony filings in the 75 largest counties, for example, shows that one-third of felony arrests never lead to conviction.”

Barry A. Hartstein, a shareholder in the law firm of San Francisco-based Littler, testified on the confusing and often contradictory pressures on businesses when using these records for hiring purposes, including conflicting laws. He urged the EEOC to consider these constraints on businesses when developing guidance or when deciding when to sue companies or not.

“My basic premise,” said Hartstein, “is that any discussion of an individual’s criminal history in the employment setting must be put in the proper context. It is multi-dimensional, ever changing, with no easy answers or any standard formula, such as ‘one size fits all.’ ”

The EEOC provided me with this link to all details of the meeting, including a press release and full written testimony from all participants. The commission will hold the meeting record open for 15 days and is inviting members of the public to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed.

To Tell the Truth

Should we expect the next innovation in screening technology to come from, of all places, Russia?

A story appearing on today’s New York Times’ front page, entitled “Russia A.T.M. With an Ear for the Truth,” reports on how Russia’s biggest retail bank is testing the use of ATMs with voice-recognition software to determine whether or not someone is telling the truth.

The software, developed by the Speech Technology Center, analyzes “vibrations as shaped by the contours of an individual’s throat, larynx and other tissue involved in speech” to identify whether a person might be in the midst of telling a lie. Russian law-enforcement databases of people found to be lying were used to develop the software. (No doubt the voice-recognition technology is more sophisticated than some of the stuff I’ve encounter in my quest for customer-service help.)

Banks would use the analysis, along with other data collected by the ATM, to determine the truthfulness of applicants when they’re answering questions about whether they have a job or any outstanding loans.

Of course, this has nothing to do with HR. But as I read the NYT’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder whether some day we might see technology like this make its way into the job-interviewing process, where more than a few candidates have been known to stretch the truth. Companies already do thorough background checks of job candidates. So how about a little voice analysis to boot?

I’ll be the first to admit that’s a scary thought. And I imagine legality and privacy concerns would present some serious stumbling blocks. But in this day and age, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibilities.

Another Court Upholds Bankruptcy Considerations

Yet another court — in this case, the U.S. Court of Appelas for the 11th Circuit — upheld a private employer’s right to deny employment to an applicant on the basis of his or her previous bankruptcy filing.

The ruling in the case of Myers vs. Toojay’s Management Corp. brings the number of states where private employers can consider bankruptcy filings when making hiring decisions to nine. They are: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. The ruling also now joins the 11th Circuit with the Third and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeal in approving this right.

Here’s a story we wrote on HREOnline™.com when the Third Circuit decided similarly in the case of Rea vs. Federated Investors. And here is an analysis by Ron Fliegel and William Simmons, shareholder and associate, respectively, in the San Francisco-based firm of Littler Mendelson, about that ruling.

In this more recent case, according to a synopsis from Claud L. McIver, senior partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips, Eric Myers, a Florida resident, had filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina in 2008 before subsequently moving to Florida to seek a fresh start.

Once in Florida, according to court records, he applied for a managerial position at Toojay’s Gourmet Deli and, as part of the application process, signed a background check release which permitted Toojay’s to conduct a “comprehensive review” of Myers’ background, including a review of his “credit history and reports.”  According to Toojay’s, Myers’ hiring was contingent on the background check.  Shortly thereafter, Toojay’s notified Myers that he would not be hired because of the previous bankruptcy filing that appeared in his credit report. 

Myers then sued Toojay’s, claiming that its refusal to hire because of his bankruptcy filing constituted a violation of the Bankruptcy Code.  The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, essentially finding that, if Congress had intended private employers to be prohibited from basing a hiring decision on this factor, as public employers were prohibited, it would have drafted the Bankruptcy Code to achieve that goal. 

(While the Bankruptcy Code prohibits government employers from refusing to hire an individual because that individual previously filed for bankruptcy, it does not contain language specifically prohibiting private employers from refusing to hire on that basis.)

“Although private employers in these [nine] states may engage in this practice,” writes McIver, “employers should ignore the temptation of distinguishing the different types of bankruptcy filings or of weighing the particular circumstances of an individual’s filing when making hiring decisions.

“Such a practice,” he writes, “is likely to lead to inconsistent results and undermine the very purpose for researching a job applicant’s credit history in the first place. If an employer considers bankruptcy filings to be an important predictor for an applicant’s suitability for a position, the better practice is to adopt a bright-line rule that prior bankruptcy filings automatically disqualify an applicant.”

Supreme Court Upholds Background Screening

In a unanimous decision issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (something they seem to do a lot) and rejected an attempt to set a stricter standard for employee background screening.

The court’s opinion (PDF) in NASA vs. Nelson is here.

“The Court rejects the argument that the Government has a constitutional burden to demonstrate that its employment background questions are “necessary” or the least restrictive means of furthering its interests. So exacting a standard runs directly contrary to [previous case law], writes Justice Samuel Alito, in the opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and  Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.

Here’s HREOnline’s round-up of the cases the High Court agreed to hear this year, including this one.

Here’s some analysis from Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, who blogs at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Next Up: Talent Assessments

Looks like the recent wave of HR-vendor M&A activity is continuing into the new year—this time in the talent-assessment space.

Earlier today, SHL and PreVisor announced they’ve joined forces, making the newly formed SHL Group the world’s largest employer of business psychologists outside of the public sector. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the combined, privately-held company claims to deliver more than 15 million assessments annually in over 150 countries and more than 30 languages.

London-headquartered SHL brings to the table its global experience, particularly in Europe, the U.K. and Asia Pacific, and its strength in post-hire assessments. Atlanta-based PreVisor, meanwhile, brings its U.S. client base and a strength in pre-hire assessments.

SHL CEO David Leigh, who will become CEO of the new entity, describes the merger as an “industry-defining moment.”

Certainly, the merger makes SHL Group a force to be reckoned with.

“Both SHL and PreVisor tend to be very aggressive,”  Josh Bersin, CEO of Bersin & Associates, told me earlier today. “This is a market where a lot of the companies tend to be very scientific [and therefore] passive [when it comes to sales]. So this is going to certainly have an impact.”

Together, the two companies report revenues of $200 million.

Bersin expects the new SHL Group will continue to acquire other players in the talent-assessment field to further solidify its position.

“We’re just in this funny cycle [of] money seeking opportunities [in talent management],” Bersin says.

So stay tuned.