In a follow-up to last week’s article  about why hiring those with criminal records presents an opportunity to tap into a diverse and available talent pool, this article highlights ways some organizations are moving the needle forward to tap into the second-chance talent source.
A group of major employers and national organizations launched the Second Chance Business Coalition, or SCBC, to expand hiring and advancement practices for people with criminal records within their companies.
Co-chaired by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and Eaton Chairman and CEO Craig Arnold, the SCBC promotes the benefits of second chance employment and provides employers with a set of tools, relationships and expertise to enable them to successfully hire and provide career advancement and greater economic opportunities to people with criminal records.
Launched during Second Chance Month in April 2021, the coalition already comprises 31 large companies  representing a broad range of economic sectors.
“Far too many Americans are limited in their prospects for employment and upward mobility because they have a criminal record, even though they may be qualified for a job,” Arnold says. “As business leaders, it is incumbent upon us to remove barriers to employment and advancement by allowing individuals with criminal records to fairly compete for job opportunities.”
Second chance employment programs are proving to be good for business, people and communities, according to the SCBC. Reducing hiring barriers for more people with criminal records expands opportunities for individuals and enables employers to expand their candidate pools to often-untapped sources of talent.
A common reason those with criminal histories struggle to find employment is the perception that they pose a risk to the employer. “Talent management is always a complex process,” SCBC told SIA. “Just as they would with any employee, companies that employ individuals with a criminal record look at issues like training costs, turnover rates, customer satisfaction and overall business efficiency.” Each company must determine its own policies and practices on a host of other employment considerations as it builds a program that works for its needs. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this or any other employment issue.”
And agencies that provide access to talent across sectors of the economy have an important role to play in expanding second chance employment.
“We encourage companies that are reducing employment barriers for individuals with a criminal record to communicate with the recruiting firms they retain to ensure those policies are reflected in searches for new candidates, including temporary and contingent workers,” SCBC told SIA.
In a survey recently conducted  by staffing firm Kelly, 71% of Americans say employers should eliminate or reduce blanket bans that automatically reject job seekers with minor, non-violent criminal offenses on their records. The online survey conducted in the US in February also found that 81% say companies should do more to remove discriminatory hiring policies or practices that keep people from being hired or promoted. In addition, 64% of Americans say non-violent mistakes made in the past should not automatically disqualify a person from being able to find employment.
Last year, Kelly updated its internal policies around minor drug offenses — specifically marijuana convictions — to provide people with low-level criminal offenses greater access to work within the company. Kelly also said it is using technology across its job-posting language to facilitate equitable and inclusive terminology.
Unknown origins. Many buyers have had policies in place for decades that prohibit or hinder such hires, and in many instances, nobody at the organization can recall why, or when, such policies were originally adopted, says Keilon Ratliff, VP of Kelly’s professional and industrial business unit and head of its automotive, oil, gas and energy practice. That’s why it is important to have conversations about the benefits of second chance hiring programs and consider a more holistic approach.
“I feel like in all of our positions, not just mine, all of us should be promoters of the conversation so that we can try to eliminate those barriers, so we can start to try to articulate why it is important,” he says. “The impact that it can have on the workforce is tremendous.”
Kelly has two separate missions that correlate together to bolster inclusive hiring. Its internal Inclusion Council focuses on understanding the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and removing internal barriers as well as educating staff on how to work with buyers to promote DE&I within their own organizations.
In addition, Kelly’s Equity@Work  mission focuses on removing barriers in general and providing an equal playing field for everyone. It targets three main barriers: second -chance criminal background; updated degree requirements; and discrimination toward neurodiverse talents. It also includes a component that tests and trains people to better prepare them for work.
About one-third of working Americans have a criminal record of some sort, according to Ratliff. “So, if you are a customer and you are intentionally basically eliminating 33% of the population — depending on your sector of business, maybe even more — you are crippling yourself from finding talent,” he says.
Arran Stewart, co-founder and chief visionary officer of blockchain-powered recruitment platform Job.com, agrees that educating clients is the biggest thing and it’s important to address the culture and mindset of the employer. Good labor is becoming harder and harder to come by, especially after the pandemic and especially for hourly workers, he told SIA. “But more importantly, companies can’t be as picky or discriminative against these workers because, in reality, there’s a lot of really good workers out there.”
Most second-chance candidates have paid their price to society and to the law, Stewart says. After that point, if they are aspiring to be productive members of society — i.e., seeking gainful employment, earning legitimate income, paying taxes — that should be celebrated. In many instances, they prove to be more dedicated and productive employees than those who have never been incarcerated.
“I think everybody deserves the opportunity to earn a legitimate income and offer hard work and labor into society as a way of reforming,” Stewart says. “I think it provides routine and it provides opportunity and it is the most-sound way to pull them away from any former bad or toxic environments that they may have found themselves wound up in before.”