Public sector employees are the backbone of our society. They help us get around town and ensure that our homes have the water, gas, and electricity we need. They keep our streets functioning and cities running. Because of their daily interaction with the public and position of trust within communities, brand reputation is key for employers in the public sector. In contrast with the private sector, people can't just opt-out and choose another provider when things go awry. That's why the stakes are high for the public sector. When issues occur, public trust can dissipate quickly, and all it takes is one individual or incident to set things off.
Numerous branches of the public sector have become embroiled in scandals over the last year. Local governments have had to terminate guards and technicians for complaints around bigoted and violent employees. State and federal governments have witnessed a growing number of cyberattacks, often led by someone inside their walls. As a result, a growing number of employers are adopting newer methods, such as online screening, to identify behaviors that previous methods haven’t been able to surface. As one article puts it, “Can Instagram make a difference to national security? Quite possibly.”
Public sector organizations are beginning to recognize that traditional background checks can no longer capture all the risks that can damage an organization today. Many recent scandals, including one of the largest bank data breaches in history, are now being connected to social media and other online activity. In response, public sector organizations are looking to publicly available online information to identify aberrant behaviors before disaster strikes. Whether the content involves concerning affiliations, such as white nationalism, or a disregard for safety protocol, employers today need to identify a broader range of people-based risks.
The private sector has been screening online behaviors for years, with a focus on enhancing workforce connectivity and new technology. As people look to the public sector to solve pressing social issues, creating a baseline for acceptable behavior through online screening can help the sector not just ensure compliance across cities and counties, but also restore the public trust.