Seventy million Americans – roughly one in three adults – have criminal records. Very few employers directly market to this demographic, despite its size. The negative bias toward people with records may, on some level, be understandable, but does it make good business sense?
In my experience, ignoring large populations – be it women, African-Americans, or the LGBTQ community – can at best be competitively risky. At worst, it leaves you out of touch with current social and business thinking while promoting prejudicial behavior.
Recruiters need steady sources of high-quality talent. It may surprise you that many employers affirm that their so-called “at-risk” formerly incarcerated hires are frequently better performers than those with clean records.
Why is that so?
The Benefits of Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Employees
When you hire someone with a record, they stick around. According to a recent report from the ACLU, individuals with criminal records have substantially higher retention rates and lower turnover. They often appreciate the faith placed in them, and reward their employers with loyalty.
Evidence indicates formerly incarcerated employees are often more motivated to perform at high levels on the job, perhaps because they generally have fewer employment options than other employees.
Aside from the benefits of an engaged, productive employee, companies that hire formerly incarcerated job seekers can qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) of up to $9,600 per hire. This tax credit significantly lowers the risk of the hire, as it effectively pays for several months of employment.
Additionally, the Federal Bonding Program exists to cover financial losses incurred by employers due to crimes committed by formerly incarcerated employees and other “at-risk” hires. Interestingly, despite the bonding program’s decades-long history, very few claims have been made. People with records tend not to commit crimes on the job.
Boost Your Employer – and Personal – Brand
In additional to addressing critical hiring needs through this virtually untapped pool of talent, companies that hire formerly incarcerated job seekers get a significant positive public relations boost. Helping to repair lives, families, and communities through employment is a great story to tell about your company. Moreover, employers that affirm their commitments to being “Fair Chance” businesses gain tremendous respect from their employers and from the communities in which they operate.
Moreover, advocating for people with records establishes you, the recruiter, as an out-of-the-box thinker. It differentiates you from competitors. Bringing real value to your clients by leveraging this underused talent pool will inevitably benefit your practice.
While earning recruiting fees is why you come to work each day, there’s a very special satisfaction that comes from doing good, truly meaningful work. Nearly everyone agrees that our country’s criminal justice system is seriously broken. Helping deserving people get on with their lives makes you a vital part of a solution.
Richard Bronson is the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs.
Richard Bronson is the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs, a for-profit recruitment platform for Americans with criminal records.