According to the U.S. Labor Department, a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, 2021 and experts predict this trend won’t slow any time soon.
This phenomenon, known as the Great Resignation and which is occuring globally, refers to the droves of workers who are considering a job change as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ease and companies call employees back to the office.
So, as business leaders, what can we do to lessen the impact and ensure our companies withstand the Great Resignation?
One way is to widen the lens we use to view talent. There are between 70-100 million people in the U.S. alone that may be overlooked when it comes to sourcing talent. That’s an incredible number that includes people from all walks of life with varying skillsets and education. They may be your next perfect candidate.
There’s just one thing: they have a criminal record. That’s right. Approximately one in three Americans has a criminal record. These convictions make it difficult to secure employment if a company asks about a record or requires an individual to pass a background check.
And despite “ban the box” laws in 37 states, which require employers to remove criminal-history questions from employment applications, justice-impacted individuals continue to find themselves on the wrong side of a hiring interview.
As the CFO of a company that employs people impacted by incarceration, I see the transformative power of a second chance every day.
Both our inbound and outbound contact centers are staffed by some of the most loyal, talented, and intelligent people with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. I can tell you for certain, when you purposely exclude this population, that you’re missing out on great talent.
But there are more reasons why you should consider second chance hiring.
First, the Stats
It’s impossible to talk about people impacted by incarceration without acknowledging the stigma associated with this population. Very often, the most effective way to end stigmas is to meet and form connections with the people we may be stigmatizing.
And the good news for people impacted by incarceration is that those stigmas are changing.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released in 2021 the Getting Talent Back to Work Initiative that also polled HR professionals, individual contributors, managers, and business executives. In it they found:
- “85% of HR professionals and 81% of business leaders believe workers with criminal records perform just as well or better in their jobs compared to workers without criminal records
- 66% of HR professionals indicated they would be willing to work with individuals who have criminal records: up from less than half who felt this way in 2018
- 68% of HR professionals and nearly half of business leaders responded that their organization wanting to hire the best candidate for a job regardless of criminal history played a very large role behind the decision to hire from this talent pool
- 53% of HR professionals say they would be willing to hire individuals with criminal records, up from just 37% in 2018”
If you’re not hiring from this group, I’d encourage you to read those stats again and ask yourself why.
Is your company plagued by outdated hiring practices?
Do you fear that this group is dangerous, untrustworthy, or unintelligent? (I can assure you, those qualified to work for your company are none of these things.)
Or have you simply never considered hiring individuals with a criminal past?
The silver lining of the Great Resignation is that this disruption has given businesses a reason to innovate and expand hiring practices and to explore new avenues for bringing in qualified talent. Public perception is changing, and you can help accelerate that change by giving this group a real second chance.
Help Your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts
The benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) for business are clear, which is why DE&I is now a priority for most every company. It’s especially important when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers.
When discussing DE&I, we tend to pay a lot of attention to gender and race, along with people with disabilities, veterans, and the LGBTQIA+ communities, and for good reason.
But true inclusivity must go a step further. Our DE&I conversations must include those with a criminal background. Here’s why:
- Minorities and people in the lowest social classes account for a disproportionate amount of prison populations. According to the Sentencing Project, Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly 5 times the rate of whites, while Latinx Americans are imprisoned at a rate that’s 1.3 times the rate of whites
- Class disadvantage should matter to employers. A study using data from the U.S. military suggested that individuals with lower social class origins are less self-centered, which sets them up to be more effective as leaders. And individuals from lower classes tend to have more empathy and treat people more equitably than those from privileged backgrounds.
The goal of DE&I programs is to ensure that every employee has a seat at the table and a fair chance at success within your organization. Workers who are impacted by incarceration can’t have a seat at the table if they can’t even get into the room.
It’s time that the diversity conversation includes all underrepresented populations. Follow in the footsteps of companies like JP Morgan Chase, Virgin, Cisco, and SAP that are doing great work in this space and have impressive business results to show for it.
Look Beyond Your Team
In addition to second chance hiring within your own organization, you can also pledge to work with partners that are doing the same.
Sourcing from partners and suppliers that are committed to second-chance hiring can make a significant difference to communities, creating jobs in much-needed areas, and driving social change.
And thanks to initiatives being rolled out by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Charles Koch Institute, as reported by CNBC, it will become easier to find suppliers committed to second-chance hiring.
In response to the Great Resignation, the manufacturing sector is becoming a driving force for second-chance recruitment.
According to a recent study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, there are currently more than 500,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Due to the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S., that number could grow to 2.1 million by 2030.
The economic cost of those jobs going unfilled could potentially total $1 trillion in 2030 alone. And as a result, many manufacturers are expanding their hiring practices to keep up with the demand for workers to fill these jobs.
In return, embracing second-chance hiring can positively affect business outcomes for you and your partners and suppliers. Customers have become more interested in purchasing products or services from brands they perceive to be committed to diversity and inclusion.
To that end, partnering with diverse suppliers can drive revenue. What’s more, those suppliers are demonstrating that they are forward-thinking and taking the steps needed to make their business resilient for the future. Choosing partners investing in second chance hiring today can set your business up for success for years to come.
Commit to Hire
The benefits of second chance hiring go beyond just social good. It also makes great business sense. With such an upheaval in the job market, tapping into a pool of overlooked talent can be advantageous to your organization.
If you haven’t considered hiring workers impacted by incarceration, it can seem daunting. The best way to overcome potential roadblocks is to design your second-chance hiring program thoughtfully and intentionally.
The first steps are to get all your stakeholders aligned with the idea, especially the executive team, and to develop an intentional hiring plan. Policy changes may be necessary to implement a second chance hiring program. It’s vital to communicate why the changes are being made and how second chance hiring can benefit your company and community.
Once you have buy-in and have determined what success will look like for the program, you can begin seeking out candidates who have the skills you are looking for.
One of the best ways to do this is to partner with organizations focused on second-chance hiring. There is a good chance community-based organizations that focus on workforce development for reentry and second chance talent are right in your backyard.
By engaging with these organizations, you are simplifying your recruiting process and you are likely to find very motivated talent. As your partners they can help inform your DE&I efforts, including how best to build a robust second chance hiring program. There are also resources online that outline best practices and other information to help guide you.
If you’re ready and willing to create opportunities for individuals impacted by incarceration, SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work can help. Signing the pledge today on behalf of your company is a great first step.
Then get to work with your finance and HR teams to set a goal for the number of formerly incarcerated workers you’re willing to hire in the next year. I think you’ll find that the Great Resignation will help you open doors for some of your most hardworking and dedicated new employees.