Jekyll and Hyde in Human Resources

For years, Human Resource departments in large companies have faced an internal Jekyll and Hyde syndrome when hiring new employees. One side (recruiting) is in desperate need of employees, with supervisors begging for personnel to meet production deadlines and accountants concerned about overtime pay. The other side (benefits management) is trying to manage workers’ compensation costs on the rise, with pressure to hire only qualified employees physically capable of performing their jobs safely. Both sides have valid concerns, but which side should win out in the end?

Careful examination of expense in almost every case shows prudent employers are wise to take their lumps on the front end. Medical expenses for surgical back injuries run between $50,000 and $100,000 alone, with an additional four to six times that to cover the indemnity cost. Very seldom is it worth the gamble to hire an unscreened employee just to meet high production demands, yet the friction continues between the recruiting side and the benefits side of HR.

In smaller organizations, it may be a single person dealing with both hiring new employees and managing workers’ compensation costs. These professionals have the opportunity to see the effects when they “jump the gun” and hire an unscreened employee who later shows up with an exacerbation of a previous injury. It only takes one back injury for this smaller company HR professional to realize it doesn’t pay to hire someone without a thorough physical vetting.

It’s in a larger organization where Jekyl and Hyde prevail because of the separate sub-departments within Human Resources. On one hand are the Recruiters who understand the importance of pre-placement screening, but in many cases aren’t evaluated or rewarded as much for the quality of new hires as they are for the quantity. Many times, they’re under constant duress to meet recruiting demands and are reprimanded when they come up short. On the other hand are the Benefit Managers who are responsible for managing costs, including workers’ compensation. Their efforts are aimed at managing and reducing costs associated with work injury and they are evaluated on their results. Savvy managers know that post-offer, pre-employment screening is legal and is one of the most effective ways to contain rising work injury claims. These sometimes opposing views are what cause the Jeckyl and Hyde syndrome.

In striving to resolve the Jeckyl and Hyde syndrome, it’s important to remember that, although Recruiters may be evaluated based on their ability to attract candidates who – on paper – appear to be the best fit for the job, it generally falls to the HR Director to continue to reiterate the value and need for pre-placement screening. Even more critical is to avoid giving into pressure created by increases in production and to hire only those candidates who actually represent the lowest risk for the company.