Secret Santa: Background Checks & Holiday Temp Workers

Perhaps it’s because I work in the HR space? I don’t know, but I just can’t help it. I know in so many ways the holiday season is about suspending belief, even magic. Particularly if you have children, this is critical.

But the truth is, when I see Santa up on his throne at the mall, taking one child after another up onto his lap for a recital of holiday wants and wishes, I don’t just see the candy canes, the mistletoe, and the happy, excited faces. I also see a temporary worker who likely didn’t undergo a proper background check. And as I wait for my own daughter to take her turn, my mind runs away a bit on me. Not necessarily always down the darkest of roads (though sadly, you’d be shocked at how often “Santa” gets hired without a proper sex offender registry search), but simply through the facts and realities.

Why so often don’t temporary workers receive background checks? After all, they’re brand ambassadors, pure and simple. And they’re fulfilling that role at a crucial time, when brands are as on display as they’ll ever be, and emotions are running as high as they’re ever going to. Ever been in a Target the week before Christmas? Watch out!

Most importantly, we trust these individuals. Whether it’s the UPS drivers carrying our gifts to loved ones, or holiday characters delighting our children with songs and laughter, we’re in deep with these individuals, and we need assurance that they’re trustworthy.

As for the employers, their necks are way out during the holiday season, and for many, success or failure at this time of year can dictate months of results to follow. They need to know the boots they’re putting on the ground are reliable ones, and that their temporary teams will represent them with the same rigor, decency, tact, and hospitality as their core staff. So while I know it’s easy to let things slide when the holiday heat is on, I just can’t help but worry when I know those checks aren’t in place the way they ought to be.

Fortunately, executing this kind of responsible due diligence isn’t as challenging as it might seem. My friends at EmployeeScreenIQ offer everything from comprehensive policies and guidelines to simple, straightforward tips that companies can take advantage of an implement right away. Probably the most important thing they’ll tell you? Don’t go DIY. A Google search is NOT a background check!

Listen, thousands and thousands of kind, decent, hard-working employees line up to take extra work during the holiday season every year, and we are all grateful to them, and by and large, they all do a wonderful job. But there are always bad apples, and they’re always going to seek out the path of least resistance, so this holiday season, companies need to redouble their efforts to close that margin of error, so we can all get back to believing in the magic!

About the Author: Katrina Busselle is Vice President of Client Services for fisher VISTA a marketing and media relations firm that specializes in reaching the HR marketplace.

photo credit: Seattleye via photopin cc