Friday, November 25, 2011

Employee Background Checks, Education Fraud and Diploma Mills

               Some bad decisions are easy to correct.  Many are not.  Hiring the wrong person can be a very expensive ordeal and may be very disruptive to your business, co-workers and, perhaps worse, to your customers.  According to the Department of Labor, the cost of turnover is approximately 1/3 of the employee’s annual salary. 
               When employees steal, the average cost per incident is much higher than the losses due to outsiders, such as shoplifters or burglars.  The cost on average is $62,000 for a lower level employee and increases the higher up in management the employee is.  There is also the impact on the company reputation is an employee is not properly vetted and causes harm, especially in an event that garners a lot of media attention.  Just look at the impact a handful of employees are having on the entire organization of Penn State in current news. 
               According to one study, as many as 61% of resumes contain false information.  The three most common areas falsified are education, job titles and dates of employment.  In general, a call to past employers will help validate past job titles and dates of employment.  Human Resource departments are often allowed by policy to provide that much information and hopefully, you have a background screening that includes making those calls.
               That leaves education as a “high risk” area that is often falsified.  And that leads to the question, how risky is it to hire someone with exaggerated or falsified education?  That depends on the position, how critical the education requirements are to succeed and what is needed to help your organization succeed.  In my opinion, the most important aspect is that the candidate is truthful about the information on their resume or application.  If they are deceitful at this stage, how could you ever really trust them after they are employed?
               First, you must clearly identify what education is needed for each job description.  That base requirement helps to determine what kind of educational background you need to verify and helps guide the screening process.
               Second, confirm that a potential candidate meets the necessary requirements.  Sounds obvious, but dig a little deeper.  This means that you need to verify that the education meets your requirements.  Did the classes teach the basic skills or knowledge necessary?  Did your potential new employee pass the curriculum?
               Third, the college or university needs to be researched.  The education provided must be accepted or, at the least, the school must teach to a level that matches the industry.  In short, is the degree in question issued by a recognized or accredited college or university?  If not, the degree could be from a diploma mill – an institution that sells degrees without any education or curriculum supporting it.
               This all leads to the verification process.
               Start with the college or university.  Is it accredited?  If not, that does not mean that it is not a valid education.  Some schools choose not to be accredited as they feel it might conflict with their goals – religious schools are one possible example.  For colleges and universities in the United States, accreditation can be confirmed online through the Department of Education. 
               Search the Internet for information on the school as well.  If the university does not have information about the curriculum or education process – beware.  Some diploma mills go so far as to offer education credits for work experience and do not require a student to attend any classes, either online or in person.  There have also been programs set up that appear to be affiliated with legitimate universities, but have no connection.
               Next, verify that the candidate attended and graduated from the program.  Many universities will send an official or unofficial copy of the transcript directly to an employer.  This is even done for many professional certifications in order to confirm that minimum standards are met.  Within the European Union, the comparable transcript of record is used to verify class work and grades.  A copy of a degree provided by a applicant could easily be forged on a computer so rely on verification provided directly by the school.
               Education tends to be more of a dominant focus on entry-level positions where there is not a lot of work history to review.  However, many industries deal with compliance issues and some require verification of education for many positions.  Healthcare is one example.  Hospitals that want to be accredited by the Joint Commission or those that want to be eligible for Medicare / Medicaid funds must meet specific standards surrounding verification of licensing and background screening.  Sarbanes-Oxley requires that all officers of publically traded companies have background screenings done, including verification of education.
               Getting the right people onboard is one of the tougher decisions and is not easy.  A background screening that includes educational experiences is one piece to help build the right team for long-term success. 
Your biggest risks may not be your biggest worries.  About 33% of small businesses fail after becoming victims of crime.  Ordinary, everyday criminal acts – not high profile terror attacks or disasters. 

Get real solutions for real problems.  Contact eric@businesskarate.com to learn about security management coaching and how to help your organization thrive.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Six Critical Steps to Follow When Domestic Violence Comes to Work

               Scott Dekraai sat on the beach contemplating life – his own, as well as that of his ex-wife.  He was apparently upset over the custody issues with his son and had just lost a court request to change the custody orders.  He was worried, as his son would come home from stays with the ex-wife with bruises.

               Sadly, his meditations led to a series of wrong decisions leaving eight dead and one person in critical condition, Dekraai in police custody and his son in protective care.

               Dekraai got up and went to the hair salon where his ex-wife worked.  He promptly shot and killed her, then shot a co-worker and friend who had helped her through the divorce.  A manager tried to stop Dekraai by charging him with a pair of scissors and he was also shot and killed.

               The suspect continued to fire at others and later told police that they were “collateral damage.”  As he left, he shot another male sitting in his car, as he believed that the victim was an off-duty police officer reaching for a gun.  He later surrendered to police without a fight.

               Fortunately, domestic violence does not always end up at a victim’s workplace in such a deadly manner.  It is, however, common for suspects to search out their victims at work, as that may be the only place they can find the victim.

               After a domestic violence situation, the aggressor is likely going to be taken into custody if any crime has been committed due to mandatory arrest laws.  While the suspect goes to jail, the victim may be offered the chance to move into a safe house or may leave to stay with relatives or friends.

               The suspect will not be in jail forever, perhaps only overnight.  When he (yes, typically he, not she, but not always) gets out, he often wants to get in touch with his wife or girlfriend right away.  If she is in a safe house, he may not have a way to contact her.  But, of course, she will still go to work and he likely knows where that is.  He may have visited frequently, knows how to get in, knows where she parks and knows when she leaves and arrives.

               According to an article in Security Director Report, domestic violence was most likely to happen at the start or end of a victim’s workday, often in the parking lot as they come or go.

               An organization that has employees (and most do) runs a risk of dealing with domestic violence issues at work.  The larger the organization, it is arguably more likely that a victim’s manager or department director will not know about the situation.  If the victim does not tell anyone at work, the business cannot do anything to help look after the victim or others.

               What should be done at the workplace to help the affected employee and protect both them and other colleagues, customers and visitors from a potential attacker?  Fortunately, there are a number of basic steps that any organization should follow to help prevent and respond to violence when it spills over from the home into work.

  1. Encourage employees to share with human resources when they are involved in a domestic violence situation.  The written policy should spell out that the case will be reviewed to assess the best steps to protect everyone exposed.  It also needs to be clear that the company will not hold it against an employee or retaliate against them in any way for reporting the problems.  The policy must address the individual’s privacy while ensuring that the issue is only relayed to those who ‘need to know.’
  2. Take all domestic violence situations seriously.  Even law enforcement takes these types of family disturbances very seriously and understand the great risks and potential for violence.  When responding to a DV call, police will check for past incidents at the address.  Officers understand that these types of calls are extremely dangerous as emotions run very high and they always respond with cover officers.  Jealousy or loss of control over a loved one can push someone to violence very quickly.
  3. Find out if there is a restraining order involved.  Even victims are often confused about whether a restraining order is in place.  Often victims are told that the suspect is not allowed to contact them, but that is due to bond conditions when the suspect gets out of jail.  These stipulate that the bond will be revoked if the suspect contacts the victim, but are different from a restraining order, which is a court order signed up a judge restricting access.  The RO must be served to the suspect if they are not in court.  Get copies of any RO.  This can help facilitate police response if the party does try to contact the victim at work, even by phone, email or through a third party.
  4. Protect the victim.  A few simple steps can help keep the affected employee safe.  Changing their work shift even a half an hour from normal can make it harder for the suspect to catch them in the parking lot or as they come or go from work.  It also makes it more likely that the suspect will attract attention or be seen as suspicious if forced to wait in the area longer.  Moving the victim’s parking area is a great option if available as well.  If not, be sure that they are not going to or from their car alone.  Screen phone calls to limit contact by the suspect.
  5. Review and assess any domestic violence case.  Find out if there are past acts of violence or threats.  Does the suspect have access to weapons?  What do they have to lose if they become violent, meaning are they at wit’s end or feel like they have lost everything?
  6. Involve others.  The victim may not want anyone to know and his or her privacy should be respected.  A few details should be passed on to screeners such as security or lobby personnel to be on the lookout for the suspect.  Ask the victim for a photo and description of the suspect, as well as a vehicle description to help the ‘gatekeepers’ identify the right person.  If the victim wishes to remain private, a general alert can be passed on to keep appropriate personnel alert to suspicious activity or tighten access control measures.

               This is a general overview.  Details need to be adjusted for your specific organization and work environment.  When violence spills over from home into work, it can be very dangerous.  Following these basic steps can help keep everyone safer.



Your biggest risks may not be your biggest worries.  About 33% of small businesses fail after becoming victims of crime.  Ordinary, everyday criminal acts – not high profile terror attacks or disasters. 

Get real solutions for real problems.  Contact eric@businesskarate.com to learn about security coaching and how to help your organization thrive.