Mid-Sized Firms Boost Employee Verification Service

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The Work Number, a division of Talx Corp., St. Louis, added 100,000 names to its employee and salary database over the past six months through a new strategy of offering its employee verification outsourcing service to companies with less than 10,000 employees.


The company's service involves a database available through an interactive voice response unit or the Web to mortgage companies, co-operative boards and other organizations seeking to verify salary information. Companies that want to free their inhouse administrative staff from responding to employment verification requests add employee information to the database for a nominal fee. Most of the cost is paid by the mortgage companies, co-operative boards and other organizations that make the requests.


The added employee records come from 12 mid-sized companies with less than 10,000 employees each. Until recently, The Work Number focused on Fortune 1000 companies.


"We had been targeting the largest companies in the country because they are the ones who are most pained by the handling of verification of employment requests. We captured a large portion of that market and started thinking of middle-market companies with under 10,000 employees," said Jackie Engel, communications manager. "Even though they don't have the same volume of requests, they have finite resources and they are concerned about the confidentiality of the data they are releasing. They want to make sure data is being released through secure means."


The new clients include Akron General Health System, AmeriKing Inc., Bugle Boy Industries, Metro Health Medical Center, Rocky Mountain Administrative Services Co. (an affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado) and the Sacramento Bee.


Among mid-sized companies, regional health centers were particularly responsive to the prospect of ourtsourcing administrative requests.


"I would assume that because they have a particular intensity as far as controlling costs and reducing the administrative load on their employees, that might have spurred the amount of regional health centers that are participating," Engel said.


The Work Number, founded in 1995, involves three levels of verification. The most basic level confirms that the employee works at the company or provides the date of the last paycheck if the employee has left the company. The second level provides salary information and the third provides salary history.


Mortgage companies and other verifiers can access information through a 1-900-555 number, which charges $2.75 a minute, and keeps verifiers on the phone longer for higher levels of verification. Calls run about $10. Companies that do a lot of verification may opt instead to set up an account for $200 a year. They can then access the database through a toll-free number or the Web site and be billed monthly by the company. Members pay $6 for basic verification, $8 for salary information and $9.50 for full verification.


A password is required to access salary information and salary histories through the phone number and the Web site. When an organization wants to verify someone's employment, the employee gives it The Work Number's phone number or Web address. If an employee wants to provide access to salary information available at levels two and three of the verification process, the employee must call the number or go to the Web site to obtain a personal password. The employee can then give the password to the party verifying the information.


The Work Number is run from a call center in St. Louis. The line handles calls from 4,000 verifiers, as well as calls from employees and employers. It is based on an IVR system accessible 24 hours a day, but is supported by live agents 10 to 12 hours a day. The agents assist verifiers in navigating the system, and answer general questions but don't provide salary information, Engel said. The IVR system responds to information requests by playing a recording or by fax.


Talx markets The Work Number to employers through a direct sales staff that contacts administrative payroll and human resources administrators. The company has also formed alliances with unemployment compensation outsourcers because it has found that companies that outsource the distribution of unemployment benefits often have many employees and are predisposed to outsourcing.


The Work Number is the fastest growing division of Talx. The company also manages a service called Employee Central, a product marketed to human resources benefits administrators that allows employees to make changes to their health and benefit plans to through the Internet, company Intranet or an IVR. n

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