Second-chance hiring could help fill job openings

Lindsay Woodrich

A labor shortage coupled with a tsunami of resignations has employers struggling to maintain a stable roster of employees. Beyond offering higher pay, better benefits and more flexibility, what can employers do? A demographic previously excluded due to blanket criminal background checks could provide a solution. Moreover, second-chance hiring opens doors for employers and applicants alike. 

Applicants with criminal records offer an untapped pool of talent eager to work, one that statistically performs the same or better than employees without criminal records. In fact, applicants with a criminal history are often more motivated to secure employment, provide support for their families and re-establish their sense of worth.

Second-chance hiring benefits employers through building a more inclusive, diverse and successful workplaces as well as stronger communities. Offering second chances also reduces recidivism and unemployment. Employers have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their employees and can support previous offenders by promoting such company values as honesty, teamwork and trust, which in turn builds the character of employees inside and outside work. 

Second-chance hires have lower turnover rates due to the availability of prospective positions and employers willing to hire former offenders. Some former offenders are required to be monitored for drugs and alcohol and maintain gainful employment as part of the conditions of their release, which is beneficial to the employer. 

Employers can take advantage of several resources to mitigate the risks of second-chance hiring.

Continuous criminal monitoring — This technology provides alerts on criminal activity in a work force population. CCM alerts employers to potential criminal activity in real time, throughout the duration of employment and without the need to filter out noise and constantly monitor reports. CCM takes the mystery — and risk — out of the post-hire conduct of employees.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment assists employers with the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit and federal bonding. The WOTC encourages employers to hire targeted groups of job seekers and can reduce employer federal tax liability as much as $2,400 to $9,600 per new hire. A fidelity bond is provided to employers free of charge and serves as an incentive to hire job applicants who are ex-offenders or have at-risk backgrounds. The bond serves as a business insurance policy protecting against financial loss due to embezzlement, forgery, larceny or theft.

Chris Fick, community employment coordinator with Veterans Affairs Western Colorado Health Care Department, said he’s helped veterans with convictions gain employment. 

Fick said he’s been able to coordinate with federal, state and county programs to offer opportunities for retraining and career development. Local programs helping applicants with criminal backgrounds also help provide employers with skilled and trained employees.

According to recent research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 66 percent of HR professionals indicated they’d be willing to work with job seekers with criminal records — up from less than half who felt that way in 2018.
In addition, 53 percent of HR professionals said they’d be willing to hire individuals with criminal records, up from 37 percent in 2018. 

Several factors could account for the changes, among them companies taking time to evaluate criminal records and consider the type of charges, time elapsed and conditions of release. 

In assessing and implementing hiring policies and procedures, employers must follow such laws as the Colorado Chance to Compete Act. A criminal charge is just one of many factors that can be used to assess the fitness and potential of job candidates. Federal equal employment guidelines dictate that job applicants may be excluded only when criminal charges are directly relevant to the positions they seek.

Since labor shortages could persist for a while, employers must remain open to new ideas and practices to find available workers. 

With the evolution of continuous monitoring programs and additional protections through fidelity bonds, applicants with a criminal history should be given more consideration. These individuals could be the skilled employees for which you’ve been looking.