In response to a tight labor market and challenges in finding and retaining skilled workers, many business owners are changing the way they approach hiring, looking to improve their benefits and experiment with different strategies — like second chance hiring. This hiring strategy involves offering fair and equal employment opportunities to individuals with criminal records, allowing companies to weather the ongoing hiring shortage.

[Read: 10 Legal Requirements for Hiring Employees]

What is second chance hiring?

Second chance hiring is the practice of “giving individuals with a criminal record or who have been … justice-impacted a fair and equal opportunity at employment,” said Latricia Boone, VP of Equality of Opportunity Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

According to the Bureau of Justice, an estimated 70 million Americans have an arrest or conviction record.

“That is roughly one out of every three U.S. adults that face significant barriers to finding employment or reintegration into society,” said Boone.

Second chance hiring allows these individuals a fresh start and a secure place in the workforce. There are countless advantages to hiring such individuals, as well as many resources available to support second chance employers as they implement this practice.

[Read: New Hires: What Is the Required Paperwork Documentation for New Employees?]

The benefits of second chance hiring

The advantages of second chance hiring are threefold, benefiting second chance employers, second chance employees, and society as a whole.

Benefits for second chance employers

Especially amid the current hiring challenges companies are facing today, second chance employers can broaden their talent pool by considering candidates who other businesses often overlook.

“For second chance employers, we see clear benefits from tapping into a talented labor force to meet workforce needs,” said Boone.

Additionally, there are many tax credits, bonding opportunities, and grant programs available for second chance employers to ease the process and reward their efforts.

Benefits for second chance employees

The obvious benefit for second chance employees is an opportunity to build a new life without the restraints of their past arrests. After paying their dues and serving their time, through second chance hiring initiatives, these individuals can get another chance to earn a sustainable income and succeed in their careers.

“We offer them a fresh start, the chance to support and take care of themselves and their families,” said Boone.

Many second chance employees end up rising to the top and becoming some of the most efficient and loyal workers in the workforce. Often, all it takes is one chance.

Benefits for society

Ensuring individuals with criminal records can earn a living for themselves offers them security for which they do not have to fight. Many ex-convicts end up reoffending because they feel they have no other choice — they lack a home and sufficient income to support themselves or their families.

“We believe society gains when justice-impacted individuals are connected to employment opportunities from reducing recidivism to the continued development of our human capital.”

Ensuring these individuals have equal access to employment often means keeping them — and their communities — safe.

What's most important is that you as a business owner … get clear about the potential benefits to your company and start having some really important conversations internally with your teams to strategize on what implementation could look like.

Latricia Boone, VP of Equality of Opportunity Initiative, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Implementing second chance hiring

While second chance hiring might seem like a great idea in passing, its success depends entirely on how you implement it in your business.

“What's most important is that you as a business owner … get clear about the potential benefits to your company and start having some really important conversations internally with your teams to strategize on what implementation could look like,” said Boone.

These discussions should involve key staff who will be responsible for implementing this hiring strategy, ensuring everyone is aligned on and clear about the approach.

Boone also recommended learning from other companies that have already implemented second chance hiring, taking note of the best practices that have worked for them so you can replicate the process for your own company.

“I'd also advise connecting with community organizations who are working with justice-impacted individuals,” Boone continued. “Depending on where your business is located, there are organizations that are very interested in building relationships and partnerships, and you can just begin to explore ways that a partnership might work for you.”

“I recognize, as a small business owner, [that] there are some limited resources that you may have,” she added. “So it's about how you use that ecosystem and connect with resources that exist within the community and make sure staff has what they need and are equipped to adequately set up these efforts for success.”

To learn more about second chance hiring, here are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s resources on this topic:

Resources:

Recent Chamber Events:

For Small Businesses:

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Published June 02, 2022