Help Wanted! Now Hiring! Sign On Bonus to Work! Those attention grabbing, highly colorful signs are everywhere on windows, billboards, and yard signage. Look on social media or pick up a newspaper – more “Help Wanted” content. Go to the primary source for job openings – online job boards encompass an endless list of companies who are hiring for all levels of roles.
It’s never been more clear. Companies need employees now, and if companies do not meet their staffing needs to operate, doors will close—maybe permanently. So what can companies do to find more employees?
Pandemic Job Market
The pandemic has brought many challenges to the nature of the hiring process. Competition for employees is fierce with organizations scrambling to find additional perks to recruit, and even retain, employees. Good insurance and vacation time won’t cut it anymore; people are seeking flexibility and remote options because many need to be caregivers or provide support to children who are e-learning.
Additionally, there are many factors that affect the ability and willingness of individuals to work. Government funding plays a role along with concerns of physical and mental health due to COVID-19. Ultimately, in discussions with fellow HR colleagues, the consistent concern of finding available employees is reiterated. Where can organizations find potential candidates to fill their vacancies?
Hiring Former Offenders
After listening to an inspirational presentation delivered by Alice Marie Johnson at the HR Indiana Conference a few weeks ago, a solution for many organizations is readily available and has been in the forefront for awhile. To fill vacancies, it is time for organizations to take a clearer look at the former offender population.
First, a little about Ms. Johnson…Alice Marie Johnson was pardoned in 2020 after spending over 21 years in federal prison for her first and only conviction in a nonviolent drug case. She has been instrumental in criminal justice reform and helping former offenders become self-sufficient upon release. Ms. Johnson provided testimonials from multiple former offenders who simply want a chance to prove themselves to employers, their own families and even to themselves.
USA Today also provided statistics that we need to examine. More than 70 million Americans – that’s nearly 1 in 3 adults – have a criminal record. Those adults have families also so nearly 1 in 2 children have at least one parent with a criminal record.
A Brookings report published in March 2018 found that 45% of those released from prison did not have any reported pay in the first calendar year after they returned home. If a person cannot support oneself or their family, that affects the likelihood of recidivism. Earning a living wage to support oneself and family through employment can reduce the likelihood of committing future offenses and break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.
Justice Involved Hiring
As a country, we need economic stability, especially now in an unstable global market. A study released by the Center of Economic and Policy Research in 2016 found that the economy loses out on roughly 2 million workers and approximately $80 million in gross domestic product (GDP) by not hiring justice involved job seekers. That was in 2016, so take into account five years and the influence of a global pandemic, and those numbers have grown.
To help former offenders find more options to acclimate into life outside of prison and re-enter the workforce, the federal government passed the First Step Act. The First Step Act is a criminal justice reform law that reduces prison sentences by changing the sentencing guidelines and facilitating early release, and supports education and treatment programs in prison.
The need to hire former offenders is prevalent. Organizations such as Taking Action for Good (TAG, created by Ms. Johnson), Hope for Prisoners, and Indeed are offering resources to help formerly incarcerated individuals find the stability they need through work.
ExactHire does not provide legal counsel so please check with your company’s legal team. If your organization’s employment application(s) include questions related to conviction history, ensure there are established guidelines internally as to how the conviction will be evaluated in the applicant review process. Consider the impact of the conviction related to the nature of the job, the severity of the offense and how much time has passed since the offense to ultimately determine how much, or if at all, that conviction affects the individual potentially completing the duties of the role.
Ban the Box Policy
As more cities, municipalities and states evolve into Ban the Box entities, companies need to review their employment application content to confirm legality. Even if an organization is in a location that allows companies to ask if an individual has ever been convicted, is that question really necessary to include on an employment application?
Is it worth eliminating a population of individuals who want to work?
Once that question has been answered on an employment application, will that cause any staff to have preconceived notions?
Background checks are consistent resources in the hiring process. As an organization, consider removing the conviction question from the employment application initially to increase applicants. Then, if and when an offer is extended, conduct and review the applicant’s background check. The conviction may show, but at that point after reviewing the applicant’s qualifications and interviews, that applicant might have already demonstrated enthusiasm and willingness to work that supersedes a conviction from years ago.
Employers Benefit from Justice Involved Employees
Consider the nature of the organization. Does the organization have legal parameters that provide bona fide reasons to prevent the hiring of former offenders? Some industries, particularly healthcare, might have certain roles that have hiring restrictions. However, if an organization does not have specific guidelines that prohibit the hiring of former offenders, it’s time to review the qualifications of individuals in a population that is seeking to work.
Hiring former offenders can offer opportunities for an organization to adhere, or even develop, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. Financial benefits might exist for organizations which hire former offenders as well. An organization might qualify for tax credits through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program if hiring former offenders. Federal bonding programs also offer additional security for organizations who hire former offenders as well.
Staffing challenges are at an all time high. Let’s keep businesses open. Explore the opportunities for your organization by providing employment opportunities for qualified former offenders. We’re all in this together!
ExactHire offers applicant tracking software with features, such as multiple applications, to allow an organization to customize employment application content. Our OnboardCentric solution has the ability to help organizations effectively manage potential tax credits.