In these challenging times, organizations facing change and uncertainty must reevaluate their spending, and the budget for background screening is no exception. As you move through the budget planning process, you may need to reconsider certain screening activities. You’ll also need to factor in anticipated staffing levels, changes in the types of positions you fill, and the efficiency of your screening provider’s processes. Though you may make some changes, you don’t want to compromise on compliance or quality.

Corporate Screening recently surveyed healthcare HR professionals and found budget reductions to be the second greatest concern during COVID-19, after concerns about staffing uncertainties. Working with a tight budget has its challenges, and it will require you to take a novel approach to running a compliant and efficient background screening program. Follow these tips to help you find success in background screening while on a limited HR budget.

The Importance of Compliance in Background Screening

Compliance is at the heart of responsible background screening. Without it, your organization is at risk for fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage. Your background screening program must stay compliant in the following areas:

Given the many regulations governing background screening, you can’t afford to let compliance take a backseat in your hiring and talent management processes. Despite a limited HR budget, you can build greater compliance into your background screening program and make the most of every dollar.

How to Maintain Compliance on a Tight HR Budget

Managing the hiring and screening process on a limited HR budget doesn’t mean you have to lower your expectations for compliant background checks. In fact, when budgets are tight and every hire counts, it’s critical for your screening program to help you make the best possible hiring decisions. 

Here are six actions you can take to effectively budget for background screening:

Anticipate hiring needs for the coming year.

Before you decide on a budget for background checks, it’s a good idea to think about how your hiring plans and workforce planning activities will impact the scope and size of your background check program. 

The number of hires, and types of background checks you need to screen them, will impact how much you need to spend. Therefore, consider how the following activities could impact your background check budget:

  • Merger or acquisition: A merger or acquisition may require a different approach to background screening. Moreover, since two entities may conduct background screening differently, you may also need to budget for a review of the respective background check policies.
  • Company expansion or downsizing: More or fewer hires will impact your total spend.
  • Recruitment in new job categories: A change in the job types you hire may impact the type of background check products you utilize. For example, if you are hiring licensed individuals for the first time, you may need to add license verifications to your existing screening program.
  • Department or job-specific changes: Changes in the responsibilities or risk profile of certain job categories can impact screening requirements. For example, hospital assistants or runners who have new responsibilities for transporting patients or medical equipment will need driving history and license checks.

Evaluate your current background check process.

Though your budget may be less generous than before, you can still identify opportunities for greater efficiency. Improvements in your background check program don’t always equate to an increase in cost. 

In fact, there may be aspects of your existing background check program where you can make improvements and realize cost savings. For example, instead of following a monthly or quarterly process to check for healthcare employment sanctions and employee license statuses, you may be able to save money and improve compliance with Office of Inspector General (OIG) requirements by using continuous monitoring.

A great way to assess your current screening process is to conduct an audit of your program. In partnership with your screening provider, you can learn about new best practices for screening and how to incorporate them into your program. An audit of your program can also help you identify the following benefits: 

  • Available integrations you may not currently be using
  • Opportunities to improve workflows for greater efficiency
  • Updates on new compliance requirements

Understand the total cost of ownership.

It can be tempting to think about background checks as one lump-sum fee. In reality, your total investment covers more than the cost of conducting background checks. It also includes the assurance of a more compliant hiring process and reliable data to help you make informed hiring decisions. 

Investing in background screening helps you accomplish the following:

  • Avoid the costs of fines or lawsuits you could encounter by working with the lowest-cost provider
  • Improve the quality of hires 
  • Stay in good standing with accreditation bodies and avoid negative external audit findings

Effective budgeting for background screening requires more than looking at your total dollar spend. Instead, you should evaluate what you get in exchange for your investment and how you can maximize the value of background screening services even more.

Avoid product bundles.

Background check product bundling is designed to convince you that you’re getting more value for products than if they were purchased individually. Though it may seem counterintuitive, product bundles can actually be more costly,, especially if the services in the bundle are not necessary for your organization or don’t contribute to giving you more accurate or complete results. 

While a bundle could look less expensive on the surface, it may be a watered-down version of available background screening products. For example, including a social security number (SSN) trace in a product bundle is not worth much if the screening provider doesn’t do anything with the additional names sourced from the trace. Ideally, the screening provider should conduct a background check on each name sourced from the SSN trace, not just on the name provided by the candidate.

Separate your organization’s needs from wants.

Whether you have a limited budget or you just want to save, you should differentiate between the background screening services your organization needs and which are nice-to-have. It’s likely your must-have screening needs will include the following core background screening activities:

  • Identity verification
  • Criminal background search
  • Exclusion list search
  • Employment, license, and education verification
  • Drug screening

When operating on a tight HR budget, you may decide to forgo some of the “extras” you may have included in your program in previous years. Upon closer examination, you may find those needs are actually wants, and may not be totally necessary. Those wants may include:

  • Registry searches such as sex offender registries
  • Background screening for previous roles other than the one for which an individual is applying, for example, screening a dietitian who used to have a nursing career
  • Physical court record searches
  • Fingerprint-based criminal checks

Conduct quarterly business reviews with your screening partner.

Involving your background screening partner in the budgeting process is a great way to understand spending trends and identify opportunities for savings. By working with your background screening partner on finding the products that are right for you, you can understand costs upfront and make sure they’re not a surprise later.

Your screening company can also educate you about new product and technology enhancements to reduce your costs, for example:

  • Tools to automate the disclosure and authorization process, so your compliance forms are always up-to-date
  • Mobile drug screening to make it easier for candidates to find testing locations and get tested
  • Electronic I-9 services to enable more streamlined new hire onboarding

Maintain Screening Compliance and Improve Your Overall Program

When you’re working with a tight HR budget, you have to make tough calls on which activities to continue or pause. By reviewing your existing background screening program and carefully considering your needs, you can take steps to save costs without sacrificing compliance or quality. A great background screening provider can help you achieve those goals.

Selecting the ideal screening partner requires looking beyond price and toward creative solutions to fit your budget. To help you identify a partner who can help you improve your screening program and maintain compliance, use our handy RFP Scorecard and Checklist.

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