Applying LEAN Framework to improve the efficiency of international background screening process for operational excellence

The customer is unwilling to pay for anything other than what he needs. Any waste will add on to the cost and reduce organization’s profit margin. Therefore, to improve profitability, there is a growing need for screening organizations to look at various improvement frameworks such as Six Sigma, TQM, Kaizen, etc. Six Sigma and ISO are the most popular frameworks deployed by many screening organizations, however, there seems to be one methodology that is not being used to its full potential in the screening world, and that is LEAN.

LEAN  is a process improvement approach that identifies and eliminates waste in a process,  boosting efficiency and adding value to the services.

The  article  aims to identify various scenarios in an international screening process  that illustrates the nine types of wastes  that are part of the LEAN methodology which is listed below along with its applicability to international background screening process.

Wastage 1: WAITING –insufficiencies

There are certain specific requirements regarding documentation for each country regarding international screening. If these requirements are not fulfilled at the beginning of screening process, it leads to insufficiencies, and the screening request is put on hold until those needs are met. This step consumes a lot of time leading to delay in overall turnaround, which  has a significant impact on hiring time for an end-client. In addition, waiting for output, responses to queries, clarifications in the process, etc. from subcontractors to fulfil your screening orders in other regions, can also lead to this type of wastage.

Publishing the list of mandatory country-specific requirements and educating the customers on these requirements can help reduce these wastages.

Wastage 2: OVER PRODUCTION – wrong work prioritization

Overproduction can be seen in the following scenarios,

  • Background verification is processed way ahead of the candidate’s date of joining, and the candidate does not show up
  • A lesser priority verification was processed much ahead of time, leading to a higher priority verification going out of TAT

Having a robust work allocation process is the key to taking care of this waste. It is the best solution if the system has auto-allocation built in (based on time-zone, the complexity of check, the skill set of resources, etc.).

Wastage 3: TRANSPORTATION – cycle-time delays

This type of waste can be observed in the time taken for receiving process-specific input or delivering outputs to end-client and sub-contractors. Effective use of technology is the key here. If your methods for receiving and  providing output are still manual (which includes emails, mailing hardcopies, faxes, etc.) , it will lead to transportation type of wastage.

Technology integration – fully automated or semi-automated (e.g., use of spreadsheet uploads) – can help reduce this type of wastage. Where integration is not an option, using the vendor’s system or asking the vendor to use your system can eliminate the need for integration thereby reducing the cycle-time for the process.

Wastage 4: OVER-PROCESSING–duplication of efforts

Over-processing, scenarios can be found in duplication of same screening requests, either by client teams or initiating the work to your subcontractors. If your work allocation is not effective or manual, multiple people may work on the same screening requests resulting in duplication of work. Hence, it becomes imperative to automate work allocation in your screening platform and put the right controls to identify duplicates.

Wastage 5: INVENTORY–partially verified but fully unbillable

This wastage is due to the checks with insufficient information; this inventory is yet to be processed and needs to be looked after until these checks are either processed or cancelled. This is money sitting on the table that you cannot cash unless verified. Worst is when you have multiple checks for an applicant, and one of the checks is with insufficient information, you may not be able to send the final report even if all checks are completed  thus locking even the verified checks from getting billed.

Institutionalizing robust governance and  sophisticated insufficiency analysis  supported by historical data and predictive forecasting will help reduce this inventory.

Wastage 6: MOTION–sub-optimal process & technology design

A scientific time-and-motion (T&M) study can reveal optimization areas in the verification process. These could be system-related, such as sub-optimally designed user interfaces/ screens, workflows, the number of clicks required to perform a specific task, etc. Any motion that does not add value will need to be eliminated. Doing this will significantly reduce the system transaction time.

The T&M study may also reveal the scope for re-engineering the process to reduce the number of steps required to perform a task. Simple interventions such as using “dual monitors” for your team can drastically boost the individual’s productivity.

Wastage 7: REWORK AND QUALITY DEFECTS–data errors

Errors made while entering the data received from the applicant, client, vendor, or authorities can lead to rework, which is time-consuming and costly. Errors appearing in the final report can be much more expensive. While you cannot completely eradicate the errors, the impact can be reduced by putting quality checks upfront in the processes with high cycle time. By doing this, we can circumvent the need for “rectification” and avoid the additional effort and cost required to correct or reprocess the checks.

An error in verification can cause severe damage to an applicant’s career progression and is, therefore, better avoided.

Wastage 8: MISUSE OF RESOURCES–software, hardware, infrastructure, and workforce

Resources include IT assets, IT services, telecom assets, and human resources. Assets not utilized for their intended purposes lead to wasted efforts, cost, and time. Out of these, misuse of human resources has the maximum cost implication. Allocate work according to the skills of the resources.

Other resource related wastes can occur due to performing tasks manually, which can be achieved using IT services (email, online portals, etc.), unnecessary printing of documents, etc. Train your team to use the resources at their disposal judiciously. While this may seem small, the accumulation of such costs at the end of the year is sizeable.

Wastage 9: KNOWLEDGE NOT BEING USED–international screening knowledge base

Databases/repositories (contacts of employers, universities, schools, etc.) play a crucial role in the screening world. However, if these are not used/ referenced at the right time, it may lead to other wastages referenced above, including over-processing, quality defects & rework, and misuse of resources.

Also, if the existing knowledge base (compliance database, a repository of screening requirements for various countries, internal processing instructions, etc.)is not updated on a timely basis, it may lead to incorrect processing.

Organizations can use the above mapping of wastes to identify wastes in their screening processes. Once the exact waste area is identified, this can be considered a Kaizen burst. Further solutions to eliminate these wastes can be sought using other qualitative improvement techniques like brainstorming, flowcharting, and process re-engineering.

IN CONCLUSION: Critical success factors

The following critical success factors need to be addressed to reap the benefits of the above LEAN framework in the international screening process,

  • Organizational leadership must understand, embrace and lead the organization in LEAN thinking
  • LEAN change agents must be empowered and enabled to manage implementations
  • Improvements must be planned in detail with the cross-functional improvement teams
  • Successes must be translated to the bottom line

Deploy LEAN and focus on delivering highest value to customers at the lowest cost, thereby gaining respectable profits which benefit the stakeholders.


Originally prepared for and published by PBSA in the [Jan-Feb 2022, etc.] edition of the Journal. Read the full issue here:

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