Employing Americans with criminal records helps create a culture of inclusivity while combating The Great Resignation.

By Linda Shaffer

The pandemic has drastically changed workforce dynamics. Americans are quitting their jobs at an unprecedented pace. In June, the number of people who quit their jobs peaked at 942,000. Although numbers are slowly starting to decline -down to 788,000 in September -The Great Resignation is far from over, as 55% of workers plan to search for a new job in the next 12 months. It’s time HR leaders rethink their strategies and prevent turnover by investing in new tools that improve talent acquisition and retention.

So, where can they start? Creating an inclusive workplace can help drive employee satisfaction and attract talent. In fact, research shows that a diverse workforce is happier, sees improved retention and is more likely to attract new talent. While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is top of mind for many HR leaders, most strategies are incomplete as they don’t consider an entire population of workers from the hiring process: the 77 million Americans with a criminal record.

To reach full inclusivity among their workforce, HR teams must ensure every candidate and current employee has a fair shot at employment. This requires integrating fair chance hiring practices and programs that remove the workplace stigmas around incarceration and create an equitable path to employment for workers of every background.

The Benefits of Fair Chance Hiring

Historically, many employers don’t always consider hiring individuals with a criminal record, as they fear it can hurt overall business productivity and make staff uncomfortable. However, 85% of HR executives and 81% of business leaders say that individuals with criminal records have performed the same as or better than employees without criminal records. As for employees, 76% of workers would be comfortable working for an employer known to hire people with criminal records. Research confirms that hiring people with conviction histories is a smart business move, as their retention rates are higher as they are more loyal to employers. These employees also bring new skill sets and diverse thinking to a business, which can drive greater innovation and outcomes.

Beyond being good for business, fair chance programs are good for society. Almost half (49%) of employees say they would be more engaged at work if their employer took a stance on racial and social injustice issues. Fair chance hiring is one step businesses can take to be part of the solutions to these societal challenges.

Update Internal Hiring Practices

The benefits of fair chance hiring are clear, so how can HR leaders get started on launching these programs? The first step is to gain buy-in among corporate decision-makers who can take a leadership stance for the company. Following these discussions, HR must create a concrete plan with tangible goals and strategies to bring in and support fair chance talent, from recruitment to onboarding. From there, HR leaders must also communicate the plan with all employees to ensure they understand the context of the expanded hiring strategy to enhance DEI.

When it comes to putting the hiring plan in action, it’s not enough to simply update job listings to state an employer welcomes applicants with criminal histories. There must be a conscious effort at every stage of recruitment and hiring to accept those with conviction records. This includes implementing ban the box policies, which prevents employers from asking candidates about criminal histories until later in the hiring process. Once an employer learns about a conviction, it’s also important that they take steps to fairly assess charges through an individualized assessment practice.

Another approach that can help boost fair chance hiring efforts is to partner with local organizations that are focused on getting formerly incarcerated people back on their feet and re-enter society. Employers could also consider working with local corrections facilities to offer specific skills training or courses that align with current job demands. These additional steps signal an organization’s commitment to supporting fair chance talent and their communities at large.

Technology’s Role in Fair Chance Hiring

There is also an opportunity to operationalize and improve fair chance hiring practices with smarter technologies to support their new fair chance approach. Outdated technologies can hold employers back from improving their HR strategies, especially when it comes to fair chance hiring. Successfully adopting this approach requires new tools that recognize fair chance talent needs and provide HR leaders with the capabilities to best recruit, hire and retain these workers.

The first HR technology ripe for innovation is employee background checks. These tools have historically kept employers from including fair chance talent in the hiring process -immediately throwing out a candidate’s application if any record pops up, even a minor criminal infraction. By investing in advanced AI-powered background check technology, HR teams can optimize the hiring process and screen potential hires fairer and faster. Here are three key benefits.

  1. Automate analysis for different criminal charges in different regions. Varying jurisdictions may classify crimes with different terms, and this type of technology allows HR teams to better understand a record and whether it should impact an opportunity for employment.
  2. Provide the opportunity for applicants to explain their conviction. If a candidate’s background check reveals a criminal history, it’s important for HR leaders to give prospects the opportunity to offer context and elaborate on the situation, their lessons learned, and why it may not impact their ability to work.
  3. Minimize administrative HR tasks and improve compliance. Not only do automated background screening tools make hiring more efficient, they also help prevent manual errors, reduce bias, and improve accuracy, all of which lessen the risk for HR teams and employers as a whole.

As businesses improve hiring efforts to include workers with conviction histories, HR leaders must also adopt technologies that allow continued support throughout their careers. Many formerly incarcerated individuals lack traditional education or training for many types of jobs, but that’s not to say they’re incapable of acquiring them when provided with the right resources. During the onboarding stage, employers must prioritize each employee’s immediate and long-term success by investing in job training and skills development programs, such as online learning modules. Continued learning not only boosts company productivity but also employee retention, as it provides a sense of security and stability, allowing each individual to grow in their professional roles.

In 2022 and beyond, organizations must prioritize fair chance hiring to enhance DEI, all while navigating The Great Resignation, labor shortages, and employee retention challenges. To be successful in their fair chance strategies, HR leaders must lean on technology to streamline and simplify the entire hiring process from recruiting to onboarding to ongoing employee engagement.

Linda Shaffer is the chief people and operations officer at Checkr.

Tags: Screening & Selection, Talent Acquisition

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