Jenga and Pre-Employment

Have you ever played Jenga? This popular Hasbro game is conceptually very simple. It contains fifty-four rectangular wooden blocks. These blocks are arranged on top of one another, three blocks at a time, with each layer of three laid perpendicular to the layer below it. After the initial eighteen-layer tower has been built, players take turns removing one block at a time from the lower part of the “tower” and carefully place it at the top. They keep building the tower until it eventually wobbles and falls.

While the concept of the game is easy, actual gameplay requires quite a bit of manual dexterity, precision, and strategy. One essential technique to be successful in Jenga is to lightly tap or test a block before removal and final placement on top of the tower. This testing is important because by touching it, the player can get a better feel for the block they are considering. Sometimes the tapping is met with no resistance or disturbance, indicating that the block is ready and safe to place atop the structure. Other times, however, this tapping is met with considerable resistance, and it’s easy to feel that this is a block better left alone. The player who can skillfully employ the tapping technique and can carefully choose the right blocks with which to build the tower will ultimately win. It is the hasty player who chooses the wrong block and will send the entire structure toppling down.

When a company brings on new hires based on nothing but a gut reaction—without administering pre-employment screenings—the company is essentially playing Jenga without the “tapping” technique. Pre-employment screenings, while they may take a little initial investment and a little extra time, will ultimately pay dividends toward the integrity and stability of the entire organization. By prodding a probing just a little bit extra before finally committing to a candidate, a company can save itself from headaches, wasted time, wasted money, and even negligent hiring lawsuits.

No one likes to lose—not in Jenga and especially not in business. But a way to lose quickly in both business and Jenga is to ignore the “tapping” method and haphazardly grab whatever selection looks good at the time without careful evaluation. Businesses should utilize pre-employment screenings to ensure the future success and stability of their enterprise. If you’re still not completely sold, go play Jenga by pulling blocks at random and see for yourself. Just be prepared for a mess of fallen blocks on your table and don’t say you weren’t forewarned.

Pennsylvania Administrators Complain About Legislation that Protects Children

Changes made in 2014 to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services law have local school districts concerned about the possible administrative and monetary ramifications regarding volunteer requirements. According to the law (part of Keep Kids Safe PA, which involves 24 legislative components that address child safety concerns), all current and existing volunteers who work with children must undergo mandatory background checks. The law requires three mandatory screenings ranging from the local police department to the federal level. Additionally, volunteers must have those checks renewed every five years.  Examples of affected volunteers include school coaches, chaperones, and tutors, and anyone with unsupervised access to children.

The scope of the changes to the Child Protective Services law affect individuals outside of educational institutions, but Pennsylvania school districts have already found themselves inundated with the time-consuming task of regulating volunteer background checks and familiarizing themselves with the multitude of changes.

Some school administrators also worry that the cost of the background checks will dissuade some individuals from volunteering in schools, but the governor waived background check fees for volunteers, and reduced the cost for employees, who have to undergo the same screening processes.

Volunteers can complete some of the required screenings online, but they must also submit fingerprints as part of their FBI criminal background check. Pennsylvania businesses that perform fingerprinting services, like UPS, have seen over double the amount of traffic with the new volunteer requirements.

While constructive utilization of time and money is always an important consideration for any governmental change, Pennsylvania’s priority in Keep Kids Safe PA is undeniably the welfare of its children. A few dollars for a screening and extra time for administrators, as exhaustive as it may seem, could prevent an individual with a threatening criminal history from having exclusive access to a vulnerable demographic. When all is said and done, Keep Kids Safe PA legislation is stronger in accomplishing the movement’s goals.

Getting a Perfect Picture of Employee Drug Use Proves Difficult with Current Screening Methods

Prospective job candidates are not the only individuals who face the likelihood of undergoing a drug screening prior to gaining employment. Employers often conduct random drug screenings on current employees depending on the nature of the workplace, and an employee under suspicion of violating a drug and alcohol use policy may also be subject to such a test. Regardless of the reason for the drug screening, the current methods available limit an employer’s ability to get a comprehensive picture of an individual’s drug use, and doing so may even violate laws in certain states.

Employers, except where federally mandated for safety reasons, are able to implement their own requirements and regulations as to how they screen employees for drug use. Even with a multitude of options at their disposal, many employers choose to screen according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines, the set of standards to which those in safety-sensitive federal positions must adhere. SAMHSA drug screenings (most commonly procured by urinalysis) go through laboratories and deliver highly accurate results, but they only screen for five substances in addition to alcohol: amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine. While these five substances cover a large population of illegal drugs, they do not offer a full scope, and drug users have become increasingly proficient at achieving a clean urinalysis while using the aforementioned substances.

Drug testing panels available to private employers can check for a wider range of illegal drugs, while also testing for prescription drugs and controlled substances. However, conducting these panels and making employment decisions based on their results, particularly if the drug test is randomly conducted on a current employee, can conflict with certain laws. In some states, legislation protects individuals with a history of drug or alcohol addiction (who have been given disability status) from certain types of drug screenings. Other states prohibit the frequency of random drug testing on employees, unless they are in a federal, safety-sensitive line of work.

The biggest issue with current drug screening methods, whether conducted under SAMHSA protocol or other methods utilized by private employers, is that most drug tests cannot gauge impairment due to drug or alcohol use. Level of impairment is one of the biggest concerns in a workplace, because it is most likely to affect the safety of others and employee productivity. When performing a drug test on an employee, employers often have to choose between gauging an individual’s drug use history or assessing their current level of impairment. Hair and urine samples provide a better understanding of historical drug use for up to 90 days (if the person is using drugs that stay in the system that long), while oral (saliva) and blood tests provide a better gauge of someone’s level of impairment. The latter tests can tell an employer if an employee is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, but they cannot determine habitual use.

Though current drug screening methods cannot tell employers everything they want to know about their prospective and current employees, they can reduce the likelihood of drug use entering the workplace. Setting a precedent for a clean, safe working environment by conducting drug screenings on new employees, and testing those under suspicion of impairment in the workplace, sends the message that employers will not tolerate drug abuse. The more education employers gain on the drug screening methods available to them, the better they can educate their employees on how to create a safe and productive place to work.