UPDATE: Jan. 29, 2019: The Society for Human Resource Management responded with comment to the backlash.
"Our choice to partner with key advocates on this movement was driven by the bigger picture: 650,000 people leave incarceration each year, but their unemployment rate is five times the national average at a time when American employers face a critical talent shortage. We believe that people who have served their time deserve the dignity of a job.
In all our decision making, we aim to elevate the HR profession and help create strong, inclusive, people-focused workplaces. This requires the efforts of not only HR professionals, but also business leaders and policy advocates of all stripes. The only way to succeed in this endeavor is to remain firmly nonpartisan and work with the entities that can most effectively help us reach our goals."
- The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has joined voices with a number of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and Koch Industries to encourage companies to take a national pledge to hire workers with criminal backgrounds.
- Formerly incarcerated individuals can be a valuable population for employers, according to research from SHRM and the Koch Institute. More than 82% of managers in their poll said that workers with a criminal history are high-quality hires with equal or even better effectiveness than those without.
- While the announcement met public support by a number of leaders in the HR space — including HR professional, speaker and blogger Tim Sackett — the partnership with Koch Industries drew some outcry on Twitter. Some openly questioned remaining SHRM members with the #fixitSHRM hashtag in light of the announcement.
while I applaud the goal and support the importance of this initiative, @SHRM getting in bed with the Koch brothers has solidified my decision to not renew my membership in February There are other ways to get this done #fixitshrm https://t.co/D0y9hLgvha— Robin Schooling (@RobinSchooling) January 27, 2019
No question. How does HR regain trust? I'm thinking it's NOT by embracing the Trump Admin, the Koch Brothers, or other pro-right extremists. Inclusion, indeed. #fixitSHRM— Mary Faulkner (@mfaulkner43) January 27, 2019
SHRM has promoted the hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals since at least mid-2018 with its joint study (alongside the Charles Koch Institute) on workers with criminal backgrounds.
In this market, more employers are turning to untapped labor pools, including workers with criminal backgrounds; at least half of managers and HR professionals said in the survey that they extended a job offer to a person with a criminal history because they wanted the best qualified person for the job. While some concerns about customer perception remain, employers increasingly want to hire from a "truly diverse" pool, as SHRM notes.
"This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as 1 in 3 adults in the United States currently has a criminal background," Johnny C. Taylor, SHRM CEO, said in a statement. "Not only is it the right thing to do — to give a deserving person a second chance — but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate."
Ban-the-box laws also have forced some employers to reconsider their policies on the matter. Such laws, appearing at state and local levels, typically ban employers from asking about criminal history on an application. Criminal history often may be discussed later in the process, however.
For SHRM, members' dissatisfaction with the initiative represents the second such backlash in recent months. Stakeholders previously employed the #fixitSHRM hashtag when Taylor appeared with President Donald Trump to launch a workforce training initiative.
"We have a legal and ethical responsibility to provide an appropriate workplace for everybody," Victorio Milian, an HR consultant who is widely considered the progenitor of the #fixitSHRM hashtag, told HR Dive in 2018. "If the White House has indicated this is not their alignment, why should we involve ourselves directly with them?"
I had to look at that email a couple of times to make sure it said that SHRM was partnering with the Koch brothers. But it's really not that surprising given what had happened over the last year. @JohnnyCTaylorJr's leadership is a black eye to the HR profession. https://t.co/IuHuwcf4bK— Chip Weatherbee, PHR (@chipweatherbee) January 27, 2019