Getting formerly incarcerated individuals back into the workforce is one of the few issues with bipartisan support in our country. Pathways to meaningful work give returning citizens a chance to rebuild their lives, provide for their families, and break the cycle of recidivism. Yet, longstanding stigma means these job seekers face many hurdles to finding employment, even at a time when the US economy has a record 10 million job vacancies. And with 70 million Americans having criminal records (around the same number that holds college degrees) this exclusion is exacerbating our labor crisis and hindering our economic recovery.

The research is clear: employers say that workers with criminal records perform just as well as – or better – than other employees. Many businesses are keen to work with ‘justice-involved’ individuals but don’t know where to start (A recent American Staffing Association webinar examined the issue closely).

At Adecco, we believe there’s a job for everyone. We mine untapped talent pools to match talented people with well-paid, purposeful jobs. Below, learn three steps you can take on your way to becoming a second-chance employer:

Assess applicants on skills

Start by normalizing hiring people with records. Blanket ‘no felons’ policies mean lifelong discrimination against people with prior convictions and lock out great talent. Ask yourself: “Will this particular record impact this candidate’s ability to do this role?” “Are we putting up unnecessary barriers?” Of course, some background checks are vital, from healthcare to early education, to pharmaceuticals, and almost 90% of employers conduct them. But excluding a qualified candidate from, say, a hard-to-fill auto parts assembly vacancy because of a decades-old teenage drug offense can run counter to your business interests. Working with a Adecco can expedite recruitment, screening, and verification and enhance your fill rates, speed-to-hire, and even retention numbers.

Give a hand up

These job seekers face complex problems that make it harder to land work, but employers can make a huge difference. Consider setting up an employee transportation program. Invest in making sure your candidates have the right-sized work clothes ready for their first day. Develop relationships with parole officers, community partnership organizations, and other re-entry agencies. (Many of these groups help candidates with common problems like missing ID papers, unstable housing issues, and set-up funds.) These efforts aren’t necessarily costly, and many government and local grants exist to help employers and candidates with the cost of getting back to work. Check out the Labor Department’s grants page to find vetted community partners, or talk to us for advice tailored to your industry. And with the Adecco Aspire Academy, free upskilling and reskilling qualifications set second-chance hires up for long-term employment success.

Start small

For many business leaders, upending decades-old ‘no felons’ policies can feel fraught with risk, a leap into the unknown. Why not start small and get hands-on experience working with just one or two candidates? Addressing stigmas around second-chance hiring can lead to more positive and inclusive workplaces and enhance your purpose as an organization. More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from American prisons every year, half your labor force might come from the justice-involved community before you know it; or from overlapping populations like our veterans and the homeless. Don’t underestimate how powerful it can be to give one overlooked person a break. And with peak hiring season just around the corner – and several industries facing wage inflation and unprecedented hiring and retention challenges – what better time to start than now?

In recent years, many of our clients have evolved their hiring practices to include individuals with criminal histories, while addressing their toughest staffing challenges. So, what’s stopping you?

Learn more about how we help American businesses navigate today’s tricky labor environment, especially during peak season. And for more insights on the complex, unfolding issues shaping our working world take a look at our freshly launched research Resetting Normal: Defining The New Era Of Work.

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