Should You Consider an Open Hiring Policy in the Wake of COVID-19?

Should You Consider an Open Hiring Policy in the Wake of COVID-19?

By Tricia O'Connor

Recovery. It’s the business buzz word on everyone’s lips. When will the economy recover enough to allow businesses, from enterprise to independent, to recover, too?

Employers are already strategizing how to bring back employees fast when that recovery begins. One option gaining traction is adopting an open hiring policy. This talent acquisition technique abandons standard hiring tools like interviews and background checks and hires people on the spot (with a few basic questions).

Here, EBI examines what types of businesses are considering this recruiting technique and shares why it could be a costly mistake.

Candidate Friendly Recruiting

An open hiring policy first re-emerged in February as a quick-hire approach for the Body Shop. The beauty retailer announced plans to implement what it called an “open hiring model” at all U.S. stores. No more pre-employment background checks. No more drug testing. Candidates simply show up and answer these three questions:

  • Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
  • Can you stand for 8 hours?
  • Can you lift more than 50 pounds?

In most cases, if you answer “yes”, you get the job.

The Body Shop, founded on being animal and environmentally friendly, said it was implementing the program on a widescale basis to be more candidate friendly. During a pilot program in its warehouse and distribution centers, the company reported a 60% drop in monthly turnover. At the time EBI’s Screening News Network reported this story in early 2020, the Body Shop estimated about 800 jobs would be available this summer, with more coming over the holidays.

ICYMI: Workers will not be returning to the same environment, policies, & procedures that existed before COVID-19. Here’s how to make their transition stress-free.

First Come, First Served

Now that businesses have begun shifting from surviving COVID-19 to recovering from its economic impact, they’re realizing they need to have a swift talent acquisition plan to fill positions fast. At first glance, an open hiring policy meets that need. It’s basically a first come, first served technique that employs the people who want to show up and work. It’s efficient. Straightforward. Cost-effective.

Open hiring is also considered a fairer hiring practice because decision-makers don’t have the time or access to the resources often attributed to creating biases in people. Without a criminal background check report, for example, more ex-offenders may be able to get jobs through an open hiring policy compared to the traditional application process.

Costly Mistake

Finding viable and cost-effective measures to shorten time-to-hire is a goal for every employer, even more so following a pandemic. However, eliminating certain types of background checks to speed up the process leaves your company, customers, and visitors vulnerable. In an environment where every business transaction is meaningful to your survival, cutting corners this way carries too much risk.

While an open hiring policy could help companies fill positions faster and could help people overcome past mistakes, industry experts say the risks are too great. Businesses could face negligent hiring accusations if an un-vetted hire causes harm to another employee or a customer.

“The failure of a company to exercise a reasonable standard of due diligence by not conducting a basic background check creates significant risk exposures when it comes to workplace safety, asset protection, brand reputation, & workplace culture. A company who tries to defend a lack of due diligence in court might find it indefensible,” cautions Curt Schwall, Vice President of Compliance & Regulatory Affairs at EBI.

Why You Need Background Checks

The goal of implementing a comprehensive pre-employment screening program is twofold. One, screening candidates helps you establish and maintain a safe workplace for employees, clients, and visitors. Two, screening helps you learn information about each applicant that helps you place the right talent at the right time in the right job. This positions your new hire for success and improves your business. Happy employees who are passionate about their jobs and feel supported by a company culture of inclusivity are more productive, have longer tenures, and are more cost-effective hires in the long run.

An open hiring policy may sound like an attractive short-term answer to your immediate post-pandemic recovery, but it could create a long-term and expensive problem if you hire the wrong candidates.

EBI Cares

EBI understands the hiring and talent acquisition hurdles employers face as they recover from COVID-19. However, employers of all sizes should know comprehensive background checks are the single-most effective tool at keeping your workplace safe.

There is a way to be candidate friendly and maintain a safe workplace. EBI can help you create a customized screening solution that meets both those needs.

If you have any questions, you can get to know EBI via our COVID-19 HR Resources page, email us, connect with us on our LinkedIn page, or speak with one of our experts.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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