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Navigating Background and COVID-19 Health Screening Challenges in Today’s Retail World

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Among the challenges today’s retail industry faces is a confluence of trends, including shifting consumer buying preferences, rapid digitalization of business processes and a need to combine online and offline sales strategies in innovative and complementary ways.

Seven months into the pandemic, shoppers are using multichannel service options. Many retail executives plan to invest more in the multichannel parts of their business such as BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and fulfillment from retail store locations. Retailers that have a strong online selling model and an established store location footprint continue to have an advantage. Consumer behavior has shown they want choices on how they can shop and obtain their products. Digitalization also has redefined how retailers market, sell and distribute products. One effect of these converging trends is a change in how retailers recruit, onboard and retain employees.

Evolving Need for Top Talent

The growth of ecommerce and online shopping is changing the type of employee retailers are seeking. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the fastest growing job in retail is software developer, while the traditional sales-associate role is declining. More technology roles are needed to develop and maintain ecommerce sites and fulfillment centers, and more software developers are needed to manage digitally enabled supply chains.

Recruiting a new type of tech-savvy employee affects the background checks retailers conduct on job candidates. Retailers want to ensure they hire the best people to represent their brands — those whose backgrounds demonstrate they are trustworthy, reliable, and in alignment with corporate culture — and who also are knowledgeable and possess the potential to become future leaders. That requires an enhanced level of risk mitigation. Amid this new reality, the need for fast, accurate and technology-enhanced background screening of job candidates has become more important than ever.

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Establishing Identity Verification as the First Step

For retailers hiring remote workers — anyone that does not work in a store or distribution center, such as customer care representatives, website developers, etc. — the ability to verify identity remotely is vital. Traditionally, identity has been verified through the I-9 form, which is typically completed in person on the employee’s first day, after the rest of the screening process has already been completed.

A mobile-based biometric solution offers the advantage of establishing the candidate’s identity first, verifying key information such as legal name and date of birth prior to the background screening process. This allows companies to hire and onboard remotely while also building a foundation of trust and safety.

End-to-End Digitalization of Criminal Records Check

Like many industries, retail is being reshaped by automation and evolving technology, trends that extend to hiring and background screening practices.

End-to-end digitalization of criminal records has substantially impacted how organizations can optimize quality, efficiency, cost and risk (QECR), and will likely continue to affect the QECR framework as more counties allow for digitalization. This enables the ability to obtain a candidate’s background history more easily, resulting in a faster, more accurate background screening. This in turn also optimizes the experience for the recruiter, hiring manager and the candidate.  

COVID-19 Health Screening

The unprecedented pandemic — and related CDC guidelines — mean that every company needs to implement a health testing program tailored for its specific circumstances. By partnering with a health screening service provider to plan and coordinate a flexible end-to-end COVID-19 health testing program, employers can rely on experts who will help guide them with best practices to follow CDC guidelines and create a safe workplace environment. In addition, employees can expect a program that minimizes stress and disruption while providing them with a general feeling of trust and safety.

With a customized and comprehensive health testing program, companies can build resilience and agility into their organization and help protect their workforce, as well as their customers, partners and communities, as they continue navigating the pandemic.

As the retail industry continues its transformation, there are demands placed on retailers today with a primary focus on creating a safe, trusted environment for employees and customers. COVID-19 health screening programs have become essential to help protect health and well-being, while also creating an atmosphere of trust and safety.

In addition, cost-effective, fast, and accurate background checks allow retailers to meet time-to-hire requirements while also hiring the type of employees who become great brand ambassadors and possess the potential for long-term futures with the organization. It is vital that retailers meet this new standard for their employees and customers to thrive in today’s environment.


Vincenza Caruso-Valente is the General Manager of the Staffing, Retail, and Franchise business of Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services. For more information, visit Sterling’s solutions for retail or call 833.342.4571.

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