How I was affected by the events of 9-11 is the reason that I am an HR Compliance evangelist.
In 2001, I was the nothing-special HR Manager at a nothing-special company that provided airport auxiliary staff to airlines at Boston Logan Airport. Our employees were the skycaps, baggage handlers, ticket checkers, and yes, airport pre-board security screeners.
There was a rigorous pre-hire background check process to hire employees before they could be badged to work at an airport. Besides undergoing criminal background checks, each applicant’s previous 10-year work history had to be checked manually by me and my HR staff. We did this by making phone calls to all their former supervisors to verify that each applicant was employed exactly as they stated on their applications.
And if there were any gaps between applicants’ jobs, we had to account for their whereabouts by calling and speaking to a professional — their medical provider or religious advisor, for example — who would attest to them knowing and seeing the applicant regularly during the work gap.
Miserable and monotonous work, right? We hated it. It took *forever* to get work histories verified, and we really needed to hire a lot of employees, FAST. (HR knows how this goes — when operations has a bad day, the entire management team blames HR for not hiring enough staff.)
Needless to say, it could be very tempting to rush through the work history checks and do a half-a$$ed job so we could get staff hired quickly for the airport.
But we never did rush through it. Why? Because on my first day of work a year previously, my boss from the Corporate Office explicitly told me “If I catch you taking shortcuts with the applicant screening, you will be gone so fast your head will spin.” And I am both a rule follower and a proponent of not being fired!
On September 11, 2001, it was our employees who staffed American Airlines’ security screening.
Within two hours, my HR office was inundated with law enforcement from the town, state, airport, and the FBI — all poring over the personnel files of our employees, looking for clues.
This is a long, personal story to say this: if my HR department had taken shortcuts or found loopholes to hire staff quickly rather than correctly, I don’t know that I would literally be able to live with myself.
HR compliance — that is, following government rules that regulate employment matters — is rarely life-or-death. But in every company’s lifespan, something will happen that will bring a great amount of scrutiny to your human resources practices. It could be a serious workplace accident or an allegation of discrimination or an employee who wasn’t paid in full.
And when that happens, the difference between you feeling confident in your HR compliance or wondering if you’ve made a mistake will mean the world to you for years to come.