August 23rd, 2021 | Sterling

4 Ways to Maximize Productivity and Optimize Your Contingent Workforce Background Check Program

Contingent Workforce

A decade ago, the concept of working a “gig” might bring to mind musicians staging a show at a local venue. Thanks in great part to digital technologies like ride-sharing apps and freelancing platforms, however, we’ve seen a huge shift from traditional, full-time employment to freelance and contract work across many industries. It’s a significant enough change, in fact, to earn its status as the gig economy – and by 2022 it’s predicted that 7.25 million people will work this way in the UK alone. While organisations benefit from the flexibility of bringing on contingent workers to address skills gaps or fulfill increased demand, an inefficient hiring process can detract from the value. If your process is due for a tune up, implementing these four best practices for screening contingent workers can help.

1. Start with Identity

When the global pandemic struck, some companies had to quickly pivot to remote work — and remote hiring. Others needed to quickly bring on large numbers of frontline or essential workers to meet spiking demand for everything from nurses and other healthcare professionals to legions of warehouse workers and delivery drivers. At the same time, a 2020 global survey revealed that 29% of respondents reported a significant increase in identity theft risk, with a further 43% anticipating a surge over the 12 months following the survey. This is further supported by 2020 research which found that, “Almost one in five organisations have experienced instances of employee or candidate identity fraud.” It’s an array of challenges that has pushed the importance of identity verification within the onboarding process helping employers make more informed, timely decisions on new hires.

Consider, for example, the huge demand for contingent workers such as couriers during the initial stages of the pandemic  – which we previously documented. And with the gig workforce showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, the HR departments and staffing firms have their hands full — especially when they’re looking to onboard hundreds or even thousands of contingent workers in a very short time. Even when hiring needs aren’t at that scale, the process for identity verification needs to be reimagined. With the tectonic shift to remote working in recent years, accelerated by the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the entire hiring process may take place without ever having an in-person meeting. What do you do when you can’t compare an approved photo ID with a prospective hire through traditional face-to-face interactions?

Digital ID verification technology offers both greater flexibility and accuracy. Our UK Right to Work Verification illustrates just one example of how this can be done to great effect.  And the benefits aren’t only felt by employers. Through simple, and mobile-friendly experiences, digital ID verification platforms empower gig workers by giving them a secure way to quickly prove their identity and easily share their Right to Work documents. It’s a win-win. Employers can make decisions faster, without sacrificing the trust and safety of employees and customers; while contingent employees are given a positive, streamlined experience, which speeds up screening and hiring.

2. Maintain consistent screening practices

The pressure to facilitate fast hiring comes at a time when resources are stretched thin, but cutting corners isn’t the answer. Whether organisations need to screen one applicant or one thousand, maintaining consistent screening practices helps to ensure the well-being and safety of one of the most important assets any company has — people. What practices are must-haves?

  • Know the regulations around screening. Compliance in hiring is a moving target. Regional, national, and even local laws change; sometimes they may even conflict, for example in the US with state-level legalization of marijuana, while it remains illegal at the federal level. Organisations that don’t have in-house expertise on regulations related to screening should consider working with a background check provider that not only understands current requirements to meet fair hiring standards, but also keeps a close eye on regulatory trends that could have an impact down the line.
  • Don’t limit screening to full-time staff. Contractors and contingent workers should undergo screening too. Many temporary hires receive the same access to organisational tools and proprietary information a regular full-time employee uses. Likewise, they may have public visibility; the wrong hire — even to fill a short-term need — can lead to long-term negative consequences, including reputational damage to the employer’s brand.
  • Set a policy for handling complicated background records. Identifying next steps when a background check flags an issue can improve decisions while also helping individuals who have paid their debt to society find jobs where they can thrive.

3. Streamline your workflows

One valuable business lesson learned from the global pandemic is that organisations who have embraced digital transformation are observing measurable productivity gains.

Zoom-powered meetings replaced in-person ones. Collaboration tools helped teams stay on the same page, even if they weren’t in the same room.

Digital technologies can also transform organisations’ process for hiring. We’ve all experienced processes that were adapted over time and, became more complex. Conducting a process audit can help identify steps that are no longer in sync with organisational needs or gaps that have appeared due to changes in regulations. Where can the existing workflow be optimized? Integrating digital technologies to accelerate identity verification and background screening can help put organisations on the fast track to filling job openings with the right candidates.

When evaluating existing workflows, firms should consider integrating background screening within their hiring process with a staffing software. A pre-built integrated solution can maximize recruiter efficiencies and streamline your hiring process. Integrating background screening into your HR tech stack minimizes duplicate data entry and potential errors, provides greater transparency to recruiters about candidate status, enables data compliance, and ultimately enhances the recruiter and candidate experience.

4. Improve your candidate experience

While revisiting the screening process, consider it from the perspective of a potential job candidate too. Job hunts can be stressful. The process of getting a background check shouldn’t be a burden. Is the process easy to follow? Can candidates access, fill out, and submit required forms in a variety of ways?

Today’s leading consumer brands have carved out success by delivering convenient, efficient, and personalized experiences. They’ve also raised the bar in terms of what people expect — and that extends to the hiring process. If candidates feel like the hiring process is burdensome and slow, organisations could lose potentially great hires to more agile competitors. It can even impact future hires. One study found that 72% of applicants shared their bad candidate experiences with friends and family, as well as on social media and online career forums. Enough bad reviews and organisations could see the pool of high-quality candidates shrink. Ensure your organisation is doing everything it can to set the right tone when hiring — from the first interaction to the last.

The use of independent contractors and contingent workers is a growing trend which will likely to continue. Businesses should consider incorporating this tactic into their hiring strategy and do so in a way that strengthens trust and safety, protects corporate culture, and adheres to compliance standards.

An experienced team of professionals at Sterling will help manage your contingent workforce hiring program in this way, allowing you to focus on the goals and mission of your business.


This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.