Background Verifications

If it glitters, be alert!

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Once upon a time there were two friends – Anil and Sunil. They were travelling by train from their village to the city. They both were planning to do a lot of shopping in the city malls and were discussing this. The first thing they wanted to buy was a wrist watch.

A very well dressed young man with impeccable manners was also travelling along with them. He overheard their conversation and politely asked if they would be interested in buying a couple of watches – that he had. He showed them the watches and the watches were stunning and glittered marvelously. He informed that these watches were imported and the straps were made of pure gold.

Anil liked the watches so much that he immediately agreed to buy one. Sunil however cautioned Anil not to take a hasty decision since they did not know for sure if the watch was made of pure gold. But Anil just loved the watch and wanted to buy it right away.

He paid a huge sum of money and bought the watch. It was indeed a beautiful watch and was the best in the village. Well, just for a few days, the watch stopped ticking and when Anil took it to a watch repairer; he was told that the watch was not made of gold and that he had been cheated.

It was not difficult to guess that, isn’t it?

Now that we have read the above story, consider the following situations:
A house help agency has many house helps. The agency says that they have done the background verification for all the house helps. You like one of the house helps. Plus you are in dire need of one.

What do you do?

You hire one of them, right!

Somewhere in Bangalore….
The family hired the help and she was great. She charged only Rs. 12000/- for 24 hours. The agency wanted the entire salary to be paid to them and they would pay the girl and her family, which looked okay to the family. They were very happy. It seemed that they won a jackpot.

After a few months, the girl committed suicide.

02mayAfter a lot of investigation, the facts came to light. The girl was an orphan and was a beggar. She was picked by this agency. They never paid a penny to her! The whole feel was extremely glittery. The house help was great, she charged so less and (as informed by the agency) already had her background verification done; the agency knew the family (as they were paying her salary to them). It was all good to go.

Hence, more the glitter, the more careful you need to be!

There are not one but many cases of house-helps fraud backgrounds, many from Bangalore. It is a busy city with more and more couples working, leaving behind old parents and small children in the house to be taken care off.
Apart from what happened, there were many more possibilities – theft, kidnapping or worse. She was a stranger to the agency and to the family. If she wanted to do harm to the family, she could have done that. She could have vanished in thin air without any trace left behind. She had no family or no one rather. Having said that, what happened was also equally bad!

It’s time to be more careful and take background verification more seriously. It is better not to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Employee Background Verification – Discrepancy Statistics for April 2017

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Here are the high level monthly discrepancy statistics for April 2017.

We observed that 3.3% of the overall number of cases had discrepancies (could be major or minor).1

Next, let us look at the breakup of the discrepancies to identify further which types of components (checks) were the source of these discrepancies. These discrepancies were in education, address and employment checks, with employment verification accounting for 62.5% of the total discrepancies. Education verification accounted for 25% and address check accounted for 12.5% of the total discrepancies.
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Background Verification – Being Prepared

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A wild boar was rubbing his tusks against a tree.

A fox passing by asked him what he was doing.

“My tusks are my weapons,” said the boar. “I’m sharpening them.”

“Why waste time sharpening your weapons when there’s no danger in sight?” said the fox. “You’re being foolish.”

Just then a hunter appeared on the scene. Frightened by the boar’s sharpened tusks, he turned on the fox instead and shot him dead.

You have to be prepared; isn’t it!

Imagine a situation where the human resource department has to do bulk recruitment or just one recruitment but they have a strict time constraint. Within that time span they need to advertise, do initial screening, fix an interview and then complete the final HR round. After all these steps; there is one more step before handing over the offer letter and that is – background verification.

To get the work done on time and to fasten the process, these companies could hire a third party vender – companies that provide background verifications at a zooming speed. But then, apart from the time constraint, there is one more constraint the HR department faces and that is budget.

Now, background verification is a new addition to various recruitment steps. It still needs to get the importance – it holds. It is a step that – people usually take lightly. Considering own experience and the very important, face value, candidates are hired.

What happens when the initial preparation is not done properly?

News 1:
Shyam worked in Hewlett Packard’s (HP) Bangalore office for three years without any issues. And then, he quit. A few months later, Shankar joined the company and when he was in the canteen one day, some employees were surprised that he looked exactly like Shyam. Of course, Shankar denied any knowledge of Shyam. However, in the HR verification, it turned out that Shankar was indeed Shyam.

What transpired was that Shankar had failed to get his college degree. So, his girlfriend, who worked in the company, used her brother Shyam’s degree to get Shankar a job. In the course on three years, at the company, Shankar passed and got his own degree. So, he re-applied, this time with his own degree, and got in. This time with real identity.

18th aprilNews 2:
The Uber rape case in New Delhi has revealed the murky underbelly of slapdash background checks in India.

There are many more stories which tells us that we are not giving much time for preparation. And who is at the loss! Cost of background check for one employee is actually not a cost, it is the much needed preparation. A company’s goodwill is at stake! So, it high time we take background verification more seriously and are prepared! After all, you can’t buy back your goodwill, you can just earn it!

Be careful not to be penny wise, pound foolish – Invest in background screening!

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Blog ImageTake care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves! Never have truer words been said. Sometimes we focus on the pennies we save; little realizing, cutting corners now, may cost us a lot more in due course of time. Well, that’s a lesson we all learn somewhere down the road.

Uber learnt this lesson the hard way, when they had to fire their Senior Vice President of Engineering, Amit Singhal. The aforementioned employee did not disclose the reason for him leaving Google in his application – sexual harassment charges were levied against him at Google. Infosys has terminated the employment of hundreds of employees due to discrepancies in their resumes. TCS has fired several employees when their resumes were found to be fudged. I’m already trying to approximately evaluate how much this must have cost these employers per candidate that they released.

Just last month, two startups faced a severe setback here in India. The founder of Viral fever’s sexual harassment charges came to light. The controversial shutdown of Stayzilla was in the news last month following the arrest of the co-founder and CEO. Both these startups were backed up by prestigious investor firms. Now, even investors will work out the due diligence before backing entrepreneurs.

We have to understand that carrying out background checks is not merely a routine HR practice but forms a significant part of pre-employment screening. This cannot be done by just anyone; it has to be entrusted to professionals who specialize in background screening. HR professionals often feel the need to get these checks done only for their permanent employees and probationers. Why leave out the trainees, fixed term contract staff, vendors, job contract workers, labor contract workers and others whom we work with.

I feel we don’t take these checks very seriously, as there is no statutory requirement of background screening in our Indian laws. However, the Indian association of professional background screeners lists the below mentioned checks to be carried out to authenticate the antecedents of a candidate:-

1. Address verification
2. Employment verification
3. Education verification
4. Reference checks
5. Global data base check
6. Criminal background check
7. Drug testing and
8. Credit checks

Did you know – the RBI issued notices to banks requiring them to conduct background checks of all the personnel recruited as dealers? The legal profession has also clearly stated in Section 24A of the Advocates Act, 1961 that no person shall be admitted as an advocate on a state roll if he is convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude.

Furthermore, background screening is mandatory for Indian companies to get an ISO 27001 certification. According to a study done by the US Small Business Administration, for every dollar an employer invests in employment screening, the return on investment ranges from $5-16, resulting from improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, lower turnover and decreased employer liability.

Generally, the most common reason among organizations for not conducting background checks is cost. However, the cost of background checks represents a fraction of the cost of – terminating an employee’s service, re-recruiting, re-hiring and re-training.

So let’s be penny wise and save our pounds! After all, a stitch in time saves nine

Employee Background Verification – Discrepancy Statistics for March 2017

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Here are the high level monthly discrepancy statistics for March 2017.

We observed that 1.7% of the overall number of cases had discrepancies (could be major or minor).
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Next, let us look at the breakup of the discrepancies to identify further which types of components (checks) were the source of these discrepancies. These discrepancies were in education and employment checks, with education and employment discrepancies accounting for 50% each of the total discrepancies.

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Time for a big Change – Aadhaar e-verification

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Long ago, people lived happily under the rule of a king. The people of the kingdom were very happy as they led a very prosperous life with an abundance of wealth and no misfortunes.

Once, the king decided to go visiting places of historical importance and pilgrim centres at distant places. He decided to travel by foot to interact with his people. People of distant places were very happy to have a conversation with their king. They were proud that their king had a kind heart.

After several weeks of travel, the king returned to the palace. He was quite happy that he had visited many pilgrim centres and witnessed his people leading a prosperous life. However, he had one regret.

He had intolerable pain in his feet as it was his first trip by foot covering a long distance. He complained to his ministers that the roads weren’t comfortable and that they were very stony. He could not tolerate the pain. He said that he was very worried about the people who had to walk along those roads as it would be painful for them too!
Considering all this, he ordered his servants to cover the roads in the whole country with leather so that the people of his kingdom can walk comfortably.

The king’s ministers were stunned to hear his order as it would mean that thousands of animals would have to be slaughtered in order to get sufficient quantity of leather. It would cost a huge amount of money also.
Finally, a wise man from the ministry came to the king and said that he had another idea. The king asked what the alternative was. The minister said, “Instead of covering the roads with leather, why don’t you just have a piece of leather cut in appropriate shape to cover your feet?”

The king was very surprised by his suggestion and applauded the wisdom of the minister. He ordered a pair of leather shoes for himself and requested all his countrymen also to wear shoes.

29th marchThere are few changes which are revolutionary in nature and happen for the good. Aadhaar card is one such initiative. In a country like India, where people belong to organized and unorganized sectors, are from rural and urban areas, there are many who don’t have a valid PAN card or passport. They don’t need it. They don’t pay taxes and for other things they need their ration cards. Ration card is not a valid address proof, which leaves just a permanent address or rent agreement. Many don’t have either.

In such a cases, having an Aadhaar card is a ray of hope – of having a genuine identity proof, for everyone, irrespective of age, gender, working class sector, financial sector or place one lives. It is mandatory for all.

At present, there are 105 crore registered people in the Aadhaar database. An, almost, instant validation of an individual, is a feather in the cap of Janta-khoj. Any individual can get their or their employees’ Aadhaar e-verification done, almost instantly. Be it a driver, a house help, a blue collar employee or a white collar employee or just a would-be groom, everyone can get verified instantly.

With Aadhaar, demographic and biometric details are attached. Going by a simple daily life example, if we need to hire a house help or a driver and they come with a valid Aadhaar card and specifies all her demographic details, it can be verified instantly through Aadhaar e-verification. Once the Aadhaar verification is successfully completed, they can be hired but if in any case, they commit any foul/fraud, we not only have their photo but also their demographic details with us, as we have their validated Aadhaar card number. Makes life easier and safer, isn’t it! So Aadhaar e-verification is a big change and it is here to stay! Let’s be safe and verified!

Another arrow in our quiver – Aadhaar e-verification

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The government of India embarked on an ambitious journey of delivering a grand project to the citizens of the country. The endeavour was of providing a unique identity to the residents of India. With more than a billion people already enrolled in the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) – Aadhaar is increasingly becoming a standard resident authentication and e-KYC. It has been touted as India’s biggest welfare legislation. Aadhaar number is to India what social security number is to the US.
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The government is already making Aadhaar a de facto resident identification means and has already made it essential for availing many of its services.

Aadhaar aims to give a 12-digit unique identity number to all the residents by collecting their fingerprint and iris scans. Our Aadhaar number is a unique 12-digit random number issued to the residents of India after adhering to the verification process laid down by the Authority. Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enroll to obtain an Aadhaar number. I too patiently stood in the long queues when the process of issuance had commenced.

As of September 2017, its database, maintained by the Unique Identification Authority of India, held the names, addresses and biometric information of more than 105 crore people.

Today Aadhaar verification is proving to be a vital tool in the process of verification. In fact not only corporate but even individuals can avail of this instant service – Aadhaar e-verification. It can also be used for the domestic help segment (maids, cooks, drivers and guards). In fact Aadhaar verification can also be used to verify tutors, hobby teachers and gym instructors. We can verify almost any individual weather a corporate worker or a household worker based on his/her Aadhaar card number.

Technology enables us in so many varied ways; today you can instantly verify via e-verification with JantaKhoj InfoServices. The turnaround time for this service is instant. We instantly confirm the validity of the Aadhaar card details entered.

So, let’s put this new arrow in our quiver to good use; get your employees’ Aadhaar verification initiated!

Employee Background Verification – Discrepancy Statistics for February 2017

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Here are the high level monthly discrepancy statistics for February 2017.
We observed that 3.8% of the overall number of cases had discrepancies (could be major or minor).

Case-Feb2017

Next, let us look at the breakup of the discrepancies to identify further which types of components (checks) were the source of these discrepancies. These discrepancies were in education and employment checks, with employment discrepancies being the most significant and accounting for 63.6% of all discrepancies.

Component-Feb2017

Three mega projects revisited – Aadhaar, NAD, CCTNS

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It was more than six years ago that we had published this blog covering the three mega projects which had the potential to tranform background verifications in India.

Let’s review the status of these projects.

Aadhaar is now a mainstream identity platform, which is being used in a wide variety of processes and applications. In fact, Aadhaar is one of the largest such platforms in the world and shows no signs of stopping in terms of enrollments and usages. We have also released our offering for Aadhaar verification.

National Academic Depository was put on high priority by the current government and has been launched. More universities and records are being added to it. We continue to stay tuned for its enrollment for background verification providers.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems has been an ongoing project for quite some time. The project status sheet indicates that the State Citizen Portals for the project has been launched in various states. Once again, we continue to stay tuned for its availability for background verification providers.

In summary, the three mega projects have done quite well and with the inclusion of Aadhaar as a unique key across the three projects, it will become possible to have a unified view across different types of background checks.

 

Winds of change – HR Trends to watch out for in 2017

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The year 2016 has been quite eventful for us in the corporate sector. Here at home, we witnessed de-monetization; Tata Power acquiring Welspun Renewables Energy. We topped the ‘2016 Outsourcing Index’. We are the world’s biggest outsourcing destination in terms of financial attractiveness and business environment, according to a study published by a global management consulting firm.

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Globally we witnessed Microsoft swooping in to purchase LinkedIn, Ranstad acquired Monster.com, and Oracle bought Netsuite. These were the big ones in the mergers and acquisitions arena. Donald Trump being sworn in as the president of the United States is at the forefront. In today’s times, we no longer function in a vacuum. In the era of globalization and glocalization, events overseas affect us too. Business environment doesn’t have boundaries and is definitely not static. We have to keep our eyes and ears open to trends shaping up in the international market, as disruptive change is hardly a new phenomenon. We have to galvanize with the international emerging trends. Having said this let us briefly skim through a few of the HR trends analysts are talking about and try and incorporate it within our organization, workplaces and departments.

Gone are the days when HR management was considered a mere recruitment department. Over the years it has evolved to perform a wide array of functions. In recent times, HR departments have become one of the foundation pillars for a company’s growth.

The year gone by saw more pressure and stress in the workplace: more challenging work hours and job cuts. And it is just expected to increase. Human resource teams are trying to keep pace. The only way out is to keep reinventing and working around the already existing fundamentals of HR.

Hiring
LinkedIn’s annual Global Recruiting Trends 2017 states that there is definitely going to be an increased focus on diversity in hiring. Now, India being a diverse country, this is not new to us. We are also going to see the inclusion of more pre-hire assessments and innovative interviewing tools in the year 2017. The report states that ‘we will see technology replace a lot of traditional processes’.

We have already seen companies outsourcing their talent acquisition to third parties. A couple of months ago Tata Motors outsourced its talent acquisition (barring top management hiring) to a leading RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) company. Citigroup’s shared services centre in Pune moved to a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) in October. Others like Mahindra, Wipro, Honeywell, L&T Technology Services and HDFC Life are among an increasing number of companies in India that are embracing RPO to get an edge in securing top talent and in narrowing the challenges of replacement.

The younger generation a.k.a the millennials/ generation Y are going to make use of their smart phones more when it comes to seeking jobs and engaging with recruiters. Also, 2017 is going to see the launch of iPhone 8, which will certainly shake up the smart phone industry. As per reports, in 2017 globally 75% of internet usage will be on a mobile phone, which means more employees will use mobile devices to manage their time, check and respond to emails, check their benefits, manage their trainings, communicate with HR, look for jobs, etc.

Employee experience
Deloitte anticipates that business and HR leaders will be challenged to improve the employee experience, ensure workers remain engaged and their skills updated. After all attrition and retention issues were prevalent in 2016 as well and they will permeate into 2017. The report also highlights that HR leaders also will be challenged to redesign organizations, jobs, and the work itself around digital solutions to optimize business performance. To thrive in the digital age, organizations should focus on breaking functional groups into smaller teams, which are customer-centric and based on learning. Culture and engagement will remain top priorities in 2017

Reward and recognition systems
We would also need to re-look our reward and recognition systems. They need to be measured to know their effectiveness and to ascertain where and how they may be misaligned.

Performance management systems
In the realm of performance management, annual reviews are fast becoming outdated with employees, as employees are wanting more regular feedback and a shift from performance review (where focus is on recent projects) to performance coaching (where long-term goal development is the key and employees skills are developed with career objectives in mind). Frequent feedback is becoming a necessity in performance management programs as nearly 60% of employees say they would like to receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis. HR will need to evolve in 2017 to accommodate this rising need.

Work culture
Several years ago Richard Branson made news, with a picture of him cutting his tie with a pair of scissors. With the rise of the younger generations joining the workplace, 2017 will see continuation of such trends, with more employees demanding to drop their suits and ties, in exchange for jeans and t-shirts. Friday dressing will be incorporated by many more organizations. A lot many may go the Google way by adopting casual dressing as a part of their work culture.

Freelancing
Another trend gradually coming up is the rise of the freelancers. Instead of hiring full time employees, companies may opt for freelancers. In addition to saving a lot on your recruitment cost and other costs, you get highly motivated individuals. Most of the freelancers pursue their passion so they do not view their assignments as ‘work’. Also, the younger generation is especially keen to earn extra income. They are not bound by organizational shackles leaving them free to express their creativity. Capitalize on this growing pool of talent and reap its benefits.

Amalgamation is the key
So all the HR folks, team leaders, visionaries and great managers out there – amalgamating best Indian practices with overseas practices is the way ahead in 2017. Make use of technology and incorporate the upcoming trends within your fold to continue enhancing the overall experience for all your internal and external stakeholders’ – employees and job-seekers. We have to continue our endeavour to create value proposition for our internal and external stakeholders while we continue focusing on our core competencies.

To, sum up I would like to quote someone I greatly admire, Jack Welch- “Willingness to change is strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while”, “Change before you have to”.