New Initiative Looks To Hire Formerly Incarcerated People

After the passage of the First Step Act, the Society for Human Resource Management is joining companies across the country in looking to change hiring practice for those reentering the workforce after serving time behind bars.

“It’s not enough just to have Congress pass legislation,” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., CEO of SHRM. “What we have to do is now encourage employers. Show them how to create opportunities and consider those who are qualified, but who were formerly incarcerated.”

Household names such as IBM, Walmart, LaRosa’s Pizzeria, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have already signed the formal pledge.

“In some ways, you’re better off with someone who has already made their mistakes, who has paid their dues to society and are ready to move forward,” said Taylor. “They come back in with a sort of focus and commitment. We know that when they come into the workplace, all of the research bears this out, that they are just as productive and much more loyal than people who have not been incarcerated.”

The pledge itself asks business leaders to provide opportunities to qualified people with a criminal background, deserving of a second chance and there are lots of opportunities in Kansas that could be filled with the proper preparation.

“We have agribusiness there,” said Taylor. “We have truck driving and freight and logistics. There are so many opportunities in what are hot job categories that we can create all sorts of job opportunities. It’s a win-win. In this hot job market, where there are a million jobs that go unfilled every month, a million more than there are Americans to fill them, there’s a huge opportunity for this to work for employers and to work for employees.”

Those participating in the pledge also promise to utilize SHRM-created resources including a Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit, on-site trainings and a certification to ensure their organization is adopting best practices for hiring. Specifically, the toolkit provides information on compliance, interviews and assessment, screening guidance, risk analysis, culture and communication guidance.