Getting Talent Back to Work initiative encourages companies to hire those with criminal records

Getting Talent Back to WorkIn a long-overdue effort, the Society for Human Research Management (SHRM) has launched Getting Talent Back to Work. This national initiative encourages companies to change their hiring practices to include recruiting those with criminal records.

Associations and companies that represent more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce – the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Staffing Association and the National Retail Association, among others – have committed to the effort.

And you can too by signing the Getting Back to Work pledge.

Getting Back to Work follows the First Step Act, bipartisan criminal justice reform, passed by the U.S. Congress late last year. And it joins other longer running campaigns like Ban the Box and President Obama’s “Take the Fair Chance Pledge” in bringing national attention to giving those with a criminal record a second chance.

It’s time to eliminate the stigma of incarceration

“This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as one in three adults in the United States currently has a criminal background,” says Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM’s CEO. “Not only is it the right thing to do – to give a deserving person a second chance – but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate.”

Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association agrees. “Now is the time to quash the stigma of incarceration,” he says. “Employers need to embrace greater inclusivity when recruiting and hiring, and give qualified individuals a second chance at success in life – particularly when the U.S. labor market is the tightest in history.”

Not only is the labor market tight, but many companies say that people from this population make good, dependable employees. In a study by Northwestern University researchers found that employees with records have a lower turnover rate than those without. An ACLU report, “Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company,” came to the same conclusion.

And most managers and employees alike are willing to hire and work with people who have criminal records. A recent study commissioned by the SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute found that only:

  • 26% of managers and 14% of human resource professionals are unwilling to hire individuals with criminal records. (An additional 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to hire them.)
  • 13% of non-managers, 15% of managers and 26% of human resource professionals are unwilling to work with them. (Another 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to work with them.)
Why consider those with criminal records

A brief YouTube video produced by SHRM outlines why human resource managers should consider applicants with criminal records. The reasons for considering them are:

  • To address labor shortages due to low unemployment rates, an aging population and unavailability of skilled workers.
  • To avoid discrimination claims under state and federal law.
  • To reinforce fairness in our culture.
  • To reduce the social costs of recidivism.
  • To improve the GDP, which is reduced by $78 to $87 billion annually as a result of excluding formerly incarcerated job seekers from the workplace. States that lower recidivism by just 10% could save an average of $635 million annually.
Toolkit guides companies that want to hire those with criminal records

And so, beyond signing the Getting Back to Pledge, what can companies do to increase their hiring of formerly incarcerated job seekers and those with criminal records?

Based upon an extensive body of research and evidence-based practices from thousands of enterprises, SHRM developed a resource toolkit designed to guide businesses as they commit to hiring more employees with criminal records.

The “Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit: The Resources You Need to Advance the Hiring of Workers with a Criminal Background” takes people through the process and includes:

  • A quiz to determine how much one knows about background checks in hiring decisions.
  • Tips for using criminal records in hiring decisions.
  • Information on how to handle an applicant’s criminal record if it comes up in an interview.
  • Information on how to determine the nature and seriousness of an offense.
  • Tips for conducting a risk analysis of hiring someone with a record.

The toolkit also incorporates links to a wide variety of resources, including:

  • EEOC guidance and tips.
  • Ban the Box laws by state and municipality.
  • A Fair Credit Reporting Act Compliance Checklist.
  • A checklist for selecting a reliable Background Checking Company.
  • General resources on how to carry out an interview
  • Incentives and support, including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program

Now you know that by hiring those with criminal records you can be part of a national effort to reinforce fair hiring practices, reduce the social costs of recidivism and improve the nation’s GDP. With that in mind, please help us spread the word among your colleagues and business partners, and encourage them to use the Society for Human Research Management ‘s Getting Talent Back to Work resources.

Recent research on how ex-felons find success in the military could have implications for private employers

ex-felons find success in the militaryThose employers who have doubts about hiring employees with criminal records may want to check out a new study that followed 1.3 million ex-offenders and non-offenders who enlisted in the U.S. military between 2002 and 2009.

Conducted by researchers at UMass Amherst, Harvard and George Washington University, the study found that ex-felons are promoted more rapidly and to higher ranks than other enlistees.

In fact, enlistees with felony waivers are 32 percent more likely to be promoted to the rank of sergeant. Felony waivers are given to those with felony convictions after an extensive “whole person review” to determine whether the potential recruit is suitable for employment.

Reasons ex-felons find success in the military

There are several reasons why those with felony waivers might find success in the military (and some of these could apply to the private sector as well):

  • The “whole person review” conducted by the military selects those that are most likely to succeed.
  • With a belief that, in general, their job prospects may be poor, recruits with felony waivers may be willing to work harder and be more invested in making the military their career.
  • Members of the military are subjected to intense discipline and are under surveillance night and day.
  • Felony-waiver enlistees in the study were twice as likely to have earned a GED and twice as likely to have some college education as non-ex-felon enlistees.

In contrast to the success of enlistees with felony waivers, however, the research found that slightly more ex-felons (6.6%) were discharged for committing a legal offense (breaking military law) than non-ex-felons (5%).

Significance of study

This study is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that “The military is the only large-scale employer that has accommodated the hiring of ex-felons in significant numbers,” says Jennifer Lundquist, professor of sociology and associate dean of research and faculty development for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst and lead author on the report.

“Moreover, it carefully measures and documents their performance over time. While generalizability to the civilian labor force remains an open question, these data allow us to assess the important question of ex-offender work performance across a wide range of occupations and with multiple dimensions of performance. We hope that future research and data collection will extend this analysis to the few civilian contexts that regularly hire ex-felons to test whether our results are replicated in nonmilitary contexts.”

Although the military is not a typical employer, other recent research, such as that done by the ACLU, found that retention rates are higher, turnover is lower, and employees with criminal records are more loyal to the private-sector employers that hire them than are those without a record.

The complete study of ex-felons in the military, “Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers,” appears in the March issue of the journal Social Forces.