Sunday, August 22, 2021

Discover why Background Checks on Volunteers are just as important as Screening New Hires!

Background checks on volunteers are just as important to your company as screening new hires!

Screening your Volunteers, just like you do potential employees, is simply good business. It helps promote increased workplace safety, productivity, and customer service ~ all essential to your business!

Volunteers are often critical to the success of many organizationsWith tight budgets to hire full or even part-time employees, along with a vast amount of job openings in our present market not yet being filled, volunteers take up the slack. They spend countless hours coaching youth sports, delivering meals to the needy, mentoring and tutoring children, and so many more things to help the community and businesses around them.

Volunteers do these things as a way to give back and help others. They believe in making a difference and in being a good citizen. Their goal is to help those around them, and that often includes our children, elderly, and disabled.  

However, there have also been horror stories about the danger some of these volunteers have posed. Reports of convicted abusers who are found volunteering as coaches or in child care are an obvious cause for concern.

Today, more than ever, organizations who use volunteers need to address this issue. Protecting the very people they are trying to help must be a priority. This is where screening volunteers comes in.

While conducting volunteer background checks is vital, these organizations do not want to alienate these volunteers in the process. Concerns that background checks will violate their privacy and that these organizations will not protect their personal information can arise.

This can be a delicate balancing act. Organizations are faced with the need to weed out unsafe volunteers without losing any of the loyal and dedicated volunteers they need. 

In the meantime, many states have passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation that mandates background checks on any one who comes in “direct contact” with our children or other members of our vulnerable populations.

But questions continue….

  • What exactly is “direct contact”? 
  • Does it cover anyone who is even in the same room as children, the elderly, or disabled? 
  • Or does it only pertain to those who have unsupervised contact?  
  • Who pays the fees associated with these background checks? 
  • Is it cost prohibitive for organizations, especially non-profits, to cover the cost? 
  • Or is it an undue burden on volunteers who are asked to pay for it themselves? 
  • What exactly should be checked? Since no standard exists, what is best practice?
  • What offenses should disqualify someone from volunteering?
  • What can be done to minimize a volunteer’s objections to a background check?    

This can all be very confusing for anyone who uses volunteers.  

In reality, most organizations run some type of background check on their volunteers. These background checks are run for the same reasons as they would be on any employee ~ to keep out anyone who is unsafe.  

But while there may be some who are wary of pre-employment background checks, volunteers are often even more put off by the idea.

Long-time volunteers may object to a new screening policy after years of giving their time and energy to an organization. While those considering volunteering for the first time might be turned off from even applying.

Many are understandably worried about their personal information being leaked. Volunteers may also believe that a new screening policy creates an atmosphere of distrust. 

But the bottom line is this ~ Volunteers who work with Children, the Elderly, or any vulnerable population need Background Checks.

Our top priority should be the Safety of our Children, the Elderly, and our Vulnerable! “Tweet This”

Organizations can take definite steps to achieve this goal. It is possible to provide a safe and productive environment for the population you serve while mitigating the concerns of your volunteers.

To do this, Organizations Need to:

Create a Written Volunteer Screening Policy ~ This policy should outline the screening procedures used and be included in your organization’s written policies. Make sure that everyone is fully informed of your policy and publish it both in your written materials and online for all to clearly see.

Provide Job Descriptions for Every Position within Your Organization ~ This should include exactly what is required of each volunteer who fills the position. Being clear on this up front sets expectations and boundaries. It is also a great way of determining what needs to be checked during screening by fitting the scope of the check to the job duties. Find out more  in  “One Size Does Not Fit All ~ Why You Need to Fit the BG Check to the Job!”.   

Identify the Background Check Fees & Who is Responsible for Paying Them State clearly whether these fees are to be paid fully by your organization, fully by the volunteer, or by a combination of the two. Being up front is the best way to avoid surprises.

Obtain an Application and Signed Release for All Volunteers The application should include the potential volunteer’s full name, any previous names used, addresses for the past 7 years, references, and a copy of their photo ID. It is important that you get this application from each volunteer and keep it in a secure file.

This also goes for a signed release form. This form both notifies a volunteer that a background check will be performed and documents their consent. Requiring this authorization helps protect your organization. 

Establish Procedures to Review the Volunteer’s Application ~ In reviewing the application, look for inconsistencies in the information listed. Check references and try to develop references not listed. Any questionable information found during this process needs to be documented. It is also important to be clear that false statements on the application is cause for disqualification as a volunteer. Taking the time necessary to be diligent here is an important step in making sure you identify possibly problematic volunteers.  

Clearly Identify Which Criminal Offenses Would Disqualify a Volunteer ~ While it is important that each organization determine for themselves what offenses will prohibit someone from volunteering, the following criminal offenses should be taken seriously and result in automatic  disqualification:

  • Child, Elderly, or other types of Abuse or Domestic Violence Convictions
  • Sex Offenses & Sexual Misconduct Convictions
  • Violent Felony Convictions

Although the following offenses may not be grounds for immediate disqualification ~ Pending Criminal Cases, Arrests, and Misdemeanors within the past 7 years ~ they should also be noted.

Document All Information Obtained During the Screening Process & All Actions Taken ~ Be sure to keep a written log documenting what was checked, when it was checked, and what action was taken because of the information obtained. It is important to keep a clear and concise record of any decision you make regarding each of your volunteers.

Create a Privacy and Personal Information Policy ~ Protection of sensitive, personal information should be a priority. All the information obtained on each volunteer, from the application, application review, and the criminal background check, must be kept completely confidential. It is good practice to keep the application review results and criminal check histories separate from the general volunteer files. These should only be accessible to authorized personnel.    

We need to remember that Volunteers are important. They provide much needed man power to many organizations and their contributions cannot be minimized. However, that does not mean that you should take any volunteer into your organization blindly. 

Making sure they do not pose a potential problem to those you serve is priority number one. And putting sound screening procedures in place is a great start. Making sure your volunteers understand why these checks are necessary is key.   

Contact API today! We can help you create a sound background check policy and provide the services you need to hire safely and effectively!


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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Learn How You can use Your Existing Employees to Help you Hire

Having the right employees is crucial to the success of your business.

They help keep your business running smoothly and your customers happy.

But did you know that they can also be an important tool when it comes time for you to hire?

Using your existing workforce as a resource simply makes good business sense. They are intimately aware of what is needed to do the jobs within your company and they also understand the inner workings of the team.

So how exactly can they help you find and train the new hire you need?

Here are some tips to help ~

  • Reach out to your employees, especially your best and brightest. Talk to them. Find out more about what skills and talents are needed to help your company grow and succeed. Learn where your workforce is lacking and where it needs help.
  • Really listen to what they have to say. Their input will be invaluable not only in recruiting but when it comes time to make a job offer.
  • Ask them to refer other like-minded, smart and hard-working individuals to the business to supplement your recruiting efforts. Sometimes your current employees are your best resource for finding qualified candidates who can help improve your business.


Employee Referrals

Does your company have an Employee Referral Program? If not, that is a change you should definitely consider making!

Employee Referral programs are good for your business and especially for finding great new hires. Your employees are intimately aware of the inner working of your company and your company’s needs. They also know the company culture and who will fit in and who will not. 

When it comes to getting the best referrals, start by asking your best and most skilled employees. Most likely they will have among their friends and acquaintances others who possess the same qualities that make these employees so valuable.

Getting referrals from your existing employees has multiple benefits. It is a great way to both reward your employees for their viable referrals and keep them happy with your new hires. And it will also help you find the right person for the job.

Discover more hiring tips in “Is it Time to Change your Hiring Practices”.

Engaged and Appreciated Employees are your best Company Ambassadors! “Tweet This”!

You should also encourage your employees to “talk up” your businessRecommend that they share information about their job and your company with their family, friends, and even acquaintances. Any time your employees are at social events it presents an opportunity. 

This doesn’t mean you want them sharing false praises or that you expect them to endlessly talk about their jobs. It simply means that if your employees are happy then they will want to help spread the word!

Another way your employees can help you hire is to regularly engage with your brand on social media.

Encourage them to:

  • Like and Follow your social accounts, including your blog.
  • Ask others in their circle to also Like and Follow your accounts
  • Like, Share, Retweet, and Comment on your company posts
  • Post reviews and comments on your social sites

If you have a blog, you may even consider asking your employees to write a guest post. It can be on anything from their job, a company event, or even an upcoming product or service release. The key is for them to be a part of creating content and to provide them the pride of authorship. You may also consider a regular series of articles that highlight your staff.

No matter what you choose, including your employees on your company blog and encouraging them to engage with your company social media simply increases your reach and online visibility ~ all which can make your business attractive to potential new hires.

But before you expect your employees to help you advertise your company and find new hires, you need to take a good look at how they truly feel about you and your company. How effective and interested your employees are in helping you find quality hires all hinges on how you treat them in the first place!

That is why it is so important that your first goal should be on training, encouraging, and retaining your best existing employees.

5 Retention Tips for Keeping Top Talent

Help Your New Employee Define and Reach Their GoalsHelp them to identify where they want to go and what steps are necessary to get them there. Just determining their goals is not enough. You need to provide them with a realistic set of steps to help them achieve those goals. The best employees are never satisfied. This is what makes them high achievers.

Create an Environment that Encourages SuccessMake sure your company is a place that helps them reach their goals or is a significant stop along the way. Be the place where they are able to achieve a major milestone in their career. Be the company that discovered their talents and nurtured those talents.  This will bring success to them and to your company.

Enable Your Employees to Develop New and Marketable Skills ~ Encourage your team to share their own abilities and allow them to learn from each other. This helps you create well-rounded and skilled employees. It also promotes a greater sense of “team” and a more productive work environment.  Also provide opportunities to attend interesting and informative workshops and conferences. The chance to absorb industry knowledge and network is invaluable.

Set Specific GoalsLay out an action plan with a specific time frame for completion. Provide them with all the resources necessary to achieve those action plan goals. Make sure you evaluate their progress and increase their responsibility upon successful completion. Your performance reviews should provide REAL FEEDBACK. Discuss where they are, where they need to head, and how they can get there. This keeps your workforce constantly improving and growing.

Provide Real Opportunity to AdvanceGive your employees the chance to EARN high level duties and even allow them to outgrow your company if necessary! Your valuable employees need to know you promote from within.  They need to feel they have a real future at your company.  However, if they have truly achieved their highest potential with you, provide them with the positive, helpful references they have earned and deserve. Remember, it is good to “Pay it Forward!”.

Find more tips on employee retention here!

It is also important that your employees are engaged and invested in your business. Make sure you really listen to their suggestions, problems, and concerns. Create an open line of communication where they feel comfortable approaching you and their opinion is valued.

Hold open brainstorming sessions to deal with, or even better, to prevent problems. Ask them for ideas and listen without judgment, while honing in on and fine tuning their best suggestions. Then it is important that you act on them. This will help your employees feel valued, appreciated, and truly part of a team.

The bottom line is this ~ if you’re going to depend on your employees to help you find and retain good hires, then they have to be invested in your company. And if you treat them well they will be happy to help your business thrive.


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Sunday, June 27, 2021

We are finding Special Meaning in this Independence Day!


 What are you celebrating this Independence Day?

While the traditional reason behind July 4th is still something to honor, this year we all have more reasons that ever to celebrate.

We have come through a very trying and difficult time. Not only our nation, but the entire world, has faced many hardships, sorrows, and divisions. We have lost loved ones. We have been separated from family and friends. And we have seen the difficulties that came from businesses downsizing and even shutting their doors for good.

At Access Profiles, we have also felt the profound effects of the pandemic, so we understand. We saw the struggles our clients faced and offered sympathy and support sympathize while we dealt with our own.

But despite these hardships, many of us are finally seeing a way out and shifting our focus on the days ahead! We are finding a new Independence!

People are visiting their family and friends. Travel is exploding as we are all more than ready to take the trips we postponed and find new places to explore. 

Many businesses are also finding their way back. After long months of safety restrictions and modified hours, they are slowly moving forward and back towards their “normal”.  

As customers, we are responding. People are no longer only relying on take-out to keep their favorite restaurants afloat. We are once again eating inside. Entertainment and sports venues are seeing increased attendance. And many other businesses, such as retail, are feeling more hopeful than they have in a long time.

And we are all more than ready!

So this July 4th, and for many to come, we all should reflect on what has passed and rejoice at what has yet to come. We know we will! Happy Independence Day to all!


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Sunday, June 20, 2021

What is “Provisional” Employment and how can You use it in your Small Business?

Have you ever hired an employee on a “conditional” basis? Do you even know what that means? 

Here we will try to shed some light on hiring a “provisional” or “conditional” employee and how it can make sense for your business!

Provisional employment, or “conditional employment”, is when a new employee is offered a job contingent upon the successful completion of certain pre-determined criteria.

That criteria may include things like finalizing a degree or training, taking an entrance exam, or, most commonly, and the one we will focus on here, passing an employment background check.

The whole concept of “provisional” or conditional employment can be confusing.

In the United States, most workers are employed “at will”. Although this can vary by state, in general this means that employees can be fired for any reason. The exception is if the termination violates federal or state anti-discrimination laws. 

The same principle applies to job offers. Because of this, employers are free to expect prospective employees, or those given a conditional offer of employment, to fulfill certain requests, such as to pass background checks, undergo drug screenings, or any other requirements in order to get the job.

In order to decide if offering conditional employment would work for your business, it is important that you understand what hiring an employee on this basis really means.

First and foremost, hiring someone on a provisional basis means you really want them for the job. The candidate has the qualifications and skills you need and has impressed during their interview(s).

So, you may ask, why not simply hire them permanently right now?

The reality it that it may be best to wait on making that final job offer and hire them conditionally instead. Conditional offers of employment can actually work for your business. They allow you to hire quickly when needed, such as when you have a sudden influx of work, someone unexpectedly leaves, or you need a seasonal hire, all without waiting for the finalized background check.

Conditional job offers can also be beneficial to your applicants. It shows that you value what the skills they have to offer, gives them a measure of security to know that you want to hire them, and can even give them an edge when negotiating with other potential employers.

However, not all job candidates my look on a conditional offer as favorably. They might not agree with the conditions you have set or be unable to meet them. But, most often, a provisional offer simply does not give them the same sense of security as an “unconditional” job offer would.

When it comes to making conditional job offers it is important to do it right! "Tweet This"

It is critical that you are honest and concise as to what that conditional offer means and the criteria that you are expecting to be met. The clearer you are the more positive this experience will be for both you and the potential employee.

The first step is to make sure you craft the clearest provisional offer letter you can. And you need to make sure that this offer follows all the best practices when it comes to the background check!

Before sending your conditional offer letter or, ideally before you ever even decide to hire, you should make sure that your hiring practices are not violating EEOC guidelines, especially those concerning background check releases and disclosure forms.

Begin by ensuring that you are not guilty of committing these 4 Common Background Check Release Violations:

  • You (the Employer) don't Disclose that a Background Check will be Obtained
  • You don't obtain a Signed Authorization from your Applicants
  • Your Authorization Form is Not a Stand-Alone Document
  • Your Authorization Form includes a Release from Liability

Find out more about the steps you need to take in order to screen your employees in “Tips to Help Your Business fly under the EEOC Radar”!

When you are ready to make an offer of conditional employment, and all your best practices are in place, then your offer letter should do the following:

  • make it clear the applicant is being hired as a provisional / conditional employee
  • list exactly what criteria is expected to be satisfactorily completed ~ such as the employment background check, passing a drug test, or anything else required of new employees
  • state a definite start date and the time when it is expected that the criteria required will be completed
  • state that permanent employment will follow completion of the conditions, or seasonal employment if that is the original goal

The key to it all is clear and honest communication, and it all starts with you ~ the Employer!

The whole idea of a background check can be daunting for many ~ even if they have absolutely nothing to hide. That is why you need to be completely upfront, open, and honest with your applicant. 

Make sure you are completely clear about the following:

  • What You will Check
  • What You are looking for in the background check 
  • What Factors can Cause Delays in the Background Check 
  • What Errors can be encountered during the entire process 
  • What Rights are afforded to Your Applicant

All candidates who are undergoing an employment background check have rights. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates that employers must inform candidates in writing and get their written consent before conducting a credit check. In the event that the offer is revoked based on information discovered during the check, the FCRA requires employers to notify candidates and provide them with information on how to dispute the report

Learn more in “Ready to Hire? What your Applicant needs to know”!

As an employer, the tone you set from the beginning can have a lasting impact on the relationship you will have with your new employee. Being honest, responsive to questions, and keeping them apprised of their status, will go a long way towards making sure you leave your applicant with a good impression of you and your company.

And this is possible even when making a “provisional” hire!

Using conditional offers of employment can be good for your business. They can help you hire the talent you need without skipping any of the steps necessary to make sure they are a smart hire. 

Do you still have questions about Provisional Employment and Safe Hiring? We can help you navigate the world of employment background checks while keeping your bottom line firmly in mind.

Contact Us Today!


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