The landscape of background screening in India is experiencing a radical shift, driven by the swift integration of digital technologies. HireRight's 2023 Global Benchmark survey revealed that a remarkable 86% of Indian respondents encountered employment discrepancies, while 43% faced education-related inconsistencies during screenings. Surprisingly, the survey also found that even in the absence of extensive digital public records, 90% of Indian employers diligently conduct education and employment checks, underscoring their pivotal role in the hiring process. Notably, speed emerged as a pivotal factor for three-quarters of respondents when selecting a screening provider.
Amidst these technological advancements, companies must also gear up for India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023, which is anticipated to establish comprehensive regulations for processing digital personal data. In partnership with HireRight, we recently hosted a webinar that provided expert insights into how automation is poised to revolutionise background screening, offering HR leaders actionable strategies to embrace these changes while ensuring compliance with evolving regulatory mandates.
The Digitisation Revolution
Historically, background screening in India has been heavily reliant on manual processes due to the vast and complex nature of the country's records. Unlike smaller nations, India's population and records posed significant challenges to digitisation. This often led to lengthy and cumbersome background verification processes, including physical site visits for address verification.
However, the tide is turning with the increasing adoption of digitisation and automation in India. The Indian Government's efforts to link data to individuals' Aadhaar identity numbers have paved the way for more accessible and automated record retrieval. This shift could help to reduce turnaround times without compromising on the quality of checks. The increase in discrepancies between candidate-provided information and verified data underscores the need for businesses to proactively adopt automated processes. "The digitisation revolutionises not just the process but the very essence of background screening,” added Ko Hui Yen, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of APAC at HireRight. “HR leaders must embrace this change strategically."
Tackling Moonlighting with Automation
One noticeable trend is the increasing use of background screening to identify moonlighting, a phenomenon amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. "With the introduction of automation and digitisation, we now have the capability to verify employment through sources such as the Universal Account Number (UAN) and provident fund information,” Caroline Smith, VP Deputy General Counsel at HireRight highlighted. “This represents a revolutionary shift, as it eliminates many manual processes and reduces the uncertainties associated with employment verification."
India's new Digital Privacy Act and the government's emphasis on artificial intelligence further support this shift towards automation. These developments are crucial for businesses aiming to align their background screening practices with evolving regulatory requirements.
Embracing Change for Faster Verifications
There has been a monumental development that has helped to support faster verifications in India – the proactive stance of the Indian government in digitising various records, including police checks and ID verification. Despite initial hesitancy from Indian HR leaders and companies, the advantages of embracing these automated processes, particularly in expediting verifications, are undeniable. "Companies should always look at the turnaround time and quality of checks when they look at choosing a background screening partner,” emphasised Samrat Das, VP of APAC and US Offshore Operations at HireRight. “We should utilise automation and digitisation to streamline the processes used to verify candidate data, while also ensuring accuracy."
The implementation of e-courts, reducing the time taken for certain checks, like criminal record verifications, from over 20 days to just three days, serves as a tangible example of the transformative impact of digitisation.
Transition to Automation: Benefits and Opportunities
Hui Yen insightfully shared how the transition from manual checks to digitalisation and automation-based technologies offers several advantages:
- Efficiency and Time Savings: Automation streamlines the screening process, reducing turnaround times.
- Consistency and Accuracy: Automated processes minimise human errors and ensure consistent results.
- Compliance Assurance: Partnering with the right background screening vendor ensures compliance with evolving regulations.
- Improved Candidate Experience: Automation provides candidates with quick and accurate results, enhancing their experience.
- Resource Allocation: Automation reduces the need for manual intervention, allowing HR teams to focus on strategic tasks.
HireRight's 2023 Global Benchmark Survey found that over three-fifths (61%) of respondents from India said they use an applicant tracking system (ATS), up from 54% in the 2022 survey--and around three-fifths (59%) of those said their ATS is integrated with their screening provider (or in the integration process). Automation is undoubtedly the way forward to sharpen a competitive edge in the talent acquisition landscape.
Striking the Balance: Speed vs. Quality
A challenge facing HR leaders is finding the equilibrium between speed and quality in background screening. While efficiency is crucial, maintaining the accuracy and reliability of checks is equally vital. HireRight’s survey data provides a comprehensive view, with 50% of Indian participants highlighting the need for more efficient recruitment processes, potentially through automation and digitisation. This indicates a collective desire for prompt results, but not at the expense of quality.
Samrat also delved into the essence of this balance. While HireRight is actively investing in a smarter screening platform, he emphasised the importance of considering the holistic process. Efficiency gains must not be offset by manual work on the customer's end. The goal is to streamline the request process, reducing the steps and clicks required.
The Impact of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act
As India gears up to implement the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, HR leaders face a dual challenge: compliance with the new legislation and the seamless adoption of automation. HR leaders need to conduct a thorough audit of their record-keeping practices, distinguishing between online and paper-based records. This audit extends to recruitment tools and vendor partnerships that handle personal data.
Delving into the intricacies of background screening, Caroline highlighted how the Act's emphasis on digitisation sets a clear trajectory for the future of record-keeping. The introduction of "deemed consent" introduces a layer of complexity, necessitating a thorough review of screening components to align with regulatory requirements. She added, "The Digital Personal Data Protection Act marks a pivotal shift in data handling. For HR leaders, aligning screening programs with the Bill's principles ensures compliance while reaping the benefits of efficient, secure, and candidate-friendly processes."
Today, job applicants care a lot about keeping their personal information safe. When it comes to checking their background, they want their data to be secure, the reports to be accurate, and the results to come quickly. To achieve this, using automation tools is crucial. Automation helps reduce mistakes that can happen when people manually enter data, it makes sure data is exchanged securely through APIs, and it can use AI to accurately match names or exclude irrelevant information.
Furthermore, candidates are well-informed about privacy laws and trends. In India, candidates are likely aware of new laws about digital and automated processes. If HR teams work with background check providers who prioritize privacy in their systems and procedures, it will build trust with candidates going through the screening process.
In summary, this discussion shed light on several critical areas around the use of automation and digitisation in the background screening process by employers in India. Here are seven key takeaways:
- HR leaders must reassess their screening practices and consider automation when choosing a background screening partner.
- Digitisation aligns with changing compliance landscapes and offers improved efficiency.
- Automation must be a strategic consideration in screening processes.
- Balancing speed and quality is crucial when selecting a background screening partner.
- Automation can enhance the candidate experience and help facilitate compliance alignment.
- The Digital Personal Data Protection Act necessitates a careful review of data processing practices.
- The integration of automation and digitisation in background screening promises a more efficient, secure, and candidate-friendly process, while HR leaders must stay vigilant to meet evolving regulatory requirements.