Matt Robbins, GIS’ resident retail expert and SVP of Sales, has been working in the background screening industry since 2000. In that time, Matt has worked with dozens of leading retailers in developing comprehensive background screening programs, while also playing a key role in GIS’ National Retail Mutual Association – both in its founding and in the development of the retail theft database for which NRMA is known.
We caught up with Matt to discuss the state of background checks in the retail industry.
Why do you think it’s so important for retailers to perform background checks?
It is so important for retailers to protect their employees, their customers and their assets from individuals who have a history of dishonesty and violent behavior. But, the retail industry is unique in that the majority of their employees are dealing with the general public, so retailers have to be more focused on the safety of the customer than your average business is. Then, on the coldly pragmatic side, retailers have to consider their brand image, which could be easily tarnished with just one bad hire.
In your experience, what’s the most difficult part of the screening process for retailers?
Retailers want to onboard an individual as quickly as possible. While the majority of our searches are completed within 3 business days, there will always be certain jurisdictions that inherently take a long time for anyone to complete a background check. Retailers also struggle with massive attrition and with finding the budget to invest in a background check (or a drug screen) for an employee that statistically won’t be working at their organization in 90-120 days. It can be difficult to balance these needs while still getting a comprehensive check.
If you could convince every retailer to do one thing they’re not already doing, what would it be?
At a minimum, retailers should run a national sex offender registry on every new hire that walks in the door, especially at the field level where you have employees that are interacting with your customers (who may have vulnerable individuals with them, like young children). If I could convince retailers to do two things, I’d also have retailers consider running a national criminal conviction database search like our KwikScreen product. It’s fast and relatively inexpensive, but it’s FCRA-compliant and contains more than 585 million unique, usable records, giving you broad criminal history coverage across the U.S.
What compliance issues do you see retailers struggling with?
Oh wow, where do I begin? I think the biggest compliance issues that retailers are faced with today are Ban-the-Box legislation, Fair Chance legislation (like you see in New York and Los Angeles) and the 2012 EEOC guidance. Since most retailers operate locations throughout the U.S., keeping up with the various state and local laws regarding ban-the-box is truly difficult (even with companies like GIS offering comprehensive guides on the matter). In fact, it’s become best practice as of late for retailers to move questions about previous criminal convictions to later in the hiring process, where the laws all agree it is permissible to do so, regardless of what state or city they are hiring for. The various Fair Chance acts and the EEOC Guidance are, on the other hand, much easier to track, but much more difficult to manage due to the time investment these laws require. GIS can assist in automating this process, but the very nature of the laws require that an employer be an active participant in the process, reviewing criminal records and individualized assessment statements.
Retailers – all businesses, really – need to have a screening partner that helps them with these issues. GIS offers resources and automation assistance for the issues I’ve identified here, but any good compliance partner would go beyond that. GIS has a very knowledgeable compliance team that ensures our clients are kept up-to-date with the seemingly constant stream of updates to hiring legislation, while also assisting our clients in making sure that their background screening programs and policies stay in compliance.
In your opinion, why is GIS the best option for retailers looking to conduct background checks?
GIS is recognized as one of the largest and most experienced providers in the retail sector. We work with dozens of retailers both small and large and we understand the industry. At the end of the day we know that retailers want to hire and retain the most qualified individuals as quickly as possible.
Of course, there are tons of other benefits to GIS that would appeal to any industry. Our customer team is absolutely the best – I love to hear our clients rave about how much they love their dedicated account manager. We have some really exciting changes coming out in the next 12 months at GIS (I can’t tell you about all of them right now-it’ a secret) that are going to re-invent the candidate experience and assist our clients in onboarding employees quickly.