If there’s one thing I learned from the pandemic, it’s that “business as usual” no longer exists. Between navigating the many changes brought by the pandemic and the current challenges of the Great Resignation, leaders across all sectors are asking “where do we go from here?”

According to the Ministry of Labor, a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September. This was preceded by the 4.3 million workers who left their jobs in August. With the easing of restrictions related to the pandemic, increasing wages to meet demand and many open positions, this trend will continue well into this new year. Job seekers are allowed to leave jobs they don’t want in order to pursue the opportunities they do, leaving many organizations to wonder how to fill these open positions.

This raises two important questions that leaders must now answer:

• How can I make my organization an attractive place to work?

• How to attract and retain great talent?

The answer to the first question will vary from organization to organization. However, one concept that can be applied to any business is improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Building an inclusive workplace where people feel welcome and valued, and where they can meaningfully contribute to the culture of the company should be a goal for every leadership team. This is one of the best ways to attract and retain long-term employees.

The second question also has many possible answers. There are different ways to recruit amazing talent, but I would like to offer an option that many haven’t considered: hiring the second chance.

Second Chance Facts and Statistics

Second Chance Hiring refers to the practice of hiring people who have a criminal record. On one in three Americans has a felony conviction. That’s 70 to 100 million people with valuable backgrounds, abilities and skills that businesses can no longer afford to overlook.

The current unemployment rate for the United States as a whole is 4.6 percent, but the rate is much higher for workers affected by incarceration. According to the Prison Policy Institute, the unemployment rate was 27 percent for those affected by incarceration before the pandemic. The situation has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

For those affected by incarceration, it can be difficult to find a job. Many companies ask for a criminal record on applications or during interviews, and it is not possible for these people to pass a background check if necessary. Despite Box ban laws in 37 states that require employers to remove criminal history issues from job applications, those affected by justice continue to be unemployed. With so many opportunities available, now is the time for leaders to re-evaluate their hiring practices.

The second chances business case

Over the past two years, DE&I initiatives have risen to the top of the priority lists of many companies, and 76% of job seekers and employees stated that they take into account the diversity of the workforce when evaluating vacancies. While DE&I typically focuses on factors such as gender, race, disability status, military service, and LGBTQIA + communities, inclusion needs to go further to include people with criminal backgrounds as well. The goal of a strong DE&I program is to ensure that all employees have a seat at the table and a fair chance to succeed in your organization. Workers affected by incarceration cannot sit at the table if they cannot even enter the room.

There is an incredible amount of untapped talent and potential among those affected by incarceration. With both DE&I’s goals and the multitude of positions that have opened up as a result of the Great Resignation, it makes sense to consider these people when hiring.

Manufacturing industry helps lead the way. Employers in this industry are expanding second-chance hiring opportunities, proving how mutually beneficial these opportunities can be for justice-affected employees and the companies that hire them.

In addition, a study using US military data suggested that individuals from lower social classes are less egocentric, which makes them more effective as leaders. And people from the lower classes tend to have more empathy and treat people more fairly than those from privileged backgrounds. Hiring talent from the justice affected community is a way for companies to add valuable insights and better position themselves for future success.

it’s more than social good

The silver lining of The Great Resignation is that this disruption has given companies a reason to innovate and expand their hiring practices. Now is the time for leaders to explore new avenues to attract skilled talent. The benefits of hiring the second chance go beyond the social good. It also has excellent business sense. With such a disruption in the job market, tapping into a pool of unknown talent can be beneficial to your organization.

As the CEO of a company that employs people affected by incarceration, I see the transformative power of hiring the second chance every day. Our inbound and outbound engagement centers are staffed with some of the most loyal, talented and intelligent people I have ever met. I can tell you with certainty that when you willfully exclude this population, you are missing out on great talent. The positive results we get can be replicated, but it forces employers to change their policies along with their mindset.

If you are unsure of where to start, engage with your community and organizations that are focused on workforce development for reintegration and second chance talent. In return, you might find some of your most dedicated and motivated new hires.


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