In April 2022, there were approximately 1.9 open jobs for every unemployed person. The ongoing shortage of candidates has prompted many creative approaches to hiring including a shift in how we view prospective employees who have criminal records. While the impetus for this shift may be the mathematics of the current employee shortage, the results show great promise. Seeing the workforce through a new lens of educational opportunity and social responsibility is timely and applies whether a person is a new hire or a current employee who has made a first-time mistake.
More and more companies are successfully implementing programs to hire people re-entering the workforce after a period of incarceration. There is great value in this effort as it is not only critical to identifying new talent in a shrinking workforce but also in bolstering brand value by helping people re-build their lives.
This is not to say that companies are looking at hiring through rose-colored glasses or foregoing the safeguards and hiring protocols currently in use. They continue to use
the traditional protective tools and assessment measures but are viewing these tools through a new lens that evaluates each person on their individual merits and
relevant skill set rather than focusing solely on a past or even a current transgression.
Employers will reap the same benefits found in re-entry hiring when current employees who make a first-time mistake are given a similar second chance. Offering education programs to otherwise productive employees after a first-time policy violation or lapse in judgment is an opportunity to reinforce brand value and re-build, rather than break down, your workforce and community.
If hiring people with criminal records successfully provides both constructive offender growth and positive employer outcomes, it certainly follows that the same—or better—can be expected when offering similar education-based opportunities to existing employees; people in whom you have already seen something very positive or you would not have hired them. Offering education and opportunity in the wake of an on-the-job lapse in judgement or a policy violation has both retention as well as retraining value—especially for someone who may be struggling in their life outside
The challenge will be reconciling historical precedent with present need—how to shift from a no tolerance directive to giving second chances when appropriate. The answer is a corporate policy change. The truth is that education gives retailers a third and better choice beyond the tradition of compulsory discharge or simply “writing them up.” Moreover, today’s focus on inclusiveness and corporate social responsibility make it the ideal time to modify past policy to offer second chance education, thus pairing valuable opportunity with needed accountability.
The positive experience and successful findings of those who have already gone down the path of hiring people with records holds a good deal of promise for handling employee transgressions. A commitment to viewing current employees through this same lens promises a similar, if not better, outcome. The time is right for an approach that includes second chances, prioritizes education and opportunity over arrest and punishment for minor infractions and at once addresses hiring and retention challenges, social responsibility priorities, and building skills and loyalty in the workforce.