Employees receptive to co-workers with criminal records, study says
More employees are receptive to working beside people with criminal backgrounds, according to joint surveys by SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute. Research showed that HR professionals aren't finding any difference between the performance of people with criminal records and that of other workers; two-thirds of managers and HR professionals said their organizations have hired people with criminal backgrounds.
About 82% of managers and 67% of HR professionals said the quality of work done by employees with criminal records was on par with or better than other workers. Additionally, the cost-per-hire between the formerly incarcerated and other workers is similar, according to HR professionals. Some ambivalence about hiring people with criminal records emerged in the survey results, as well, with 41% of managers and 47% of HR professionals saying they're neither willing nor unwilling to hire them.
One-half or more of managers and HR professionals said they extended a job offer to a person with a criminal history because they wanted the best qualified people for the job. Factors that increased the likelihood of a such a person being hired were a consistent work history, job training, references and a rehabilitation certification. Barriers to employment include regulations that prohibit hiring or make it difficult to do so, worries about legal liability and customers' perspectives.
The formerly incarcerated make up a large untapped talent pool. Among U.S. adults, 70 million have criminal records, and 10 million return to their communities after serving time. Employers struggling to find qualified talent need not avoid this population entirely; HR professionals in other studies find their performance as good or better than workers without criminal histories.
"Ban the box" initiatives eliminate questions referring to a person's possible criminal history from job applications. States and local governments passed "ban the box" ordinances as a way to remove the stigma individuals with criminal records face when looking for work and give them a fair start in rebuilding their lives, and such initiatives have picked up steam in recent years.
However, barriers to hiring such individuals remain, including 20,000 state laws and regulations, cultural biases, skills deficits and fear. At the same time, businesses and governments are working together to remove those barriers, so a great deal of change on this issue may be on the horizon.