Sunday, November 26, 2006

Liabilities of Contract Workers

The use of outsourced/contracted services has grown significantly in the current economy which places a premium on keeping the number of actual employees as low as possible. So the work that was once done by employees is now frequently done by outside services (temps, contractors, etc.). This situation has created a vulnerability in an organization’s security that is frequently overlooked.

While some basic screening of a company being considered to provide outsourced services is often done, this type of screening is usually related to work performance. Many organizations incorrectly assume that contractor companies will adequately screen their employees, but that is often not the case. Service providers generally need large numbers of employees to staff their client accounts; but service providers usually pay relatively low wages, resulting in high turnover, which makes the hiring of employees a constant challenge. The need for personnel in general often outweighs (at least in the service providers’ minds) the need for competent, well-screened personnel. So, absent some specific contract direction from a specific client, the task of doing comprehensive background checks is frequently neglected. So organizations seeking a service provider presume that they are getting well-qualified, well-screened workers, when in fact this is frequently not the case.

This situation – potentially unscreened contract workers – can present a significant vulnerability and liability. Contract workers are usually given the same, if not greater, access to company facilities as are company employees. No one bothers to take a second look at “Joe the housekeeper” who is seen in and around the facility every day, going into every office and secure area in the course of his duties. But if “Joe” has not been properly screened – and worse, if “Joe” has some malicious intent using his position and access – then the organization has a threat that is already inside their “secure perimeter”, a threat that is often overlooked when problems begin.

The steps that an organization should take to mitigate this potential problem are as follows:

· The organization must establish its need for outsourced workers from a variety of operational perspectives, not just cost. Both the benefits as well as the pitfalls of using contract workers must be considered.

· The organization must determine exactly how and where contract workers will be used, so that management understands its potential vulnerabilities.

· The organization must assure that the background screening procedures of a potential service provider are adequate and sufficient, to the satisfaction of the organization (all screening procedures are not the same – what is “adequate” to one service provider may not be adequate to another). As a general guideline, screening procedures deemed acceptable from a service provider should be relatively comparable to the organization’s own screening procedures.

· The organization must develop contract specifications which require adequate background screening for all workers assigned to the organization’s facilities (both regular workers as well as temporaries and replacements).

· The organization must develop contract specifications that provide for the service provider’s background screening findings to be shared with the organization, for any worker to be assigned to the organization (the results and analysis of a background investigation must be satisfactory to the client organization, not just the service provider).

· The organization must establish operational procedures and parameters for contract workers. Such issues include access control (both perimeter and interior), uniforms, badging, adherence to workplace rules, etc. If company employees must follow established procedures and are not given free access to or within the facility, why should the contract workers?

· The organization must assure adequate control and oversight of contract workers: The organization should retain direct operational supervision of the workers, while administrative management is the responsibility of the service provider.

· The organization should retain the right to assess workers’ performance in accordance with established standards and criteria; and the organization should retain the right to have contract workers removed and replaced at its discretion.

Contract workers are often the “invisible” people in an organization, whose presence is taken for granted. They can be a source of great service and benefit to a company. But they can also be a source of many problems. So careful consideration must be given to their use, selection and oversight.


Jim said...

Mr Paul,
I have enjoyed reading your posts for the past few weeks. I have come across some of the same issues that you have written about, especially problems with contracted cleaning crews. As a "green" LP manager, I find your posts very informative. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us.

Anonymous said...

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I will get started with any quick program and develop from there.
Wish me success!