3 Things You Can Do Now to Start a Fair Chance Hiring Initiative

September 28, 2021
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Checkr Editor

Companies across the U.S. are struggling to find workers, and yet there’s an entire talent pool that is often overlooked during candidate searches: system-impacted individuals, or people with past convictions.

There are clear advantages to hiring system-impacted individuals. According to research, employees with records have higher retention than those with no criminal past. A study based on 1.3 million U.S. military enlistees shows that those with criminal records were promoted more quickly and to higher ranks than other enlistees. What’s more, economists estimate that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is reduced between $78 billion and $87 billion due to excluding formerly incarcerated job seekers from the workforce.

And yet, even with the many benefits to a business’s bottom line (not to mention the good it does for our communities), the average unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is 27 percent.

Oftentimes, the reason why companies haven’t explored fair chance hiring is because many simply don’t know where to start. If that’s you, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of three easy ways you can get started on creating a fair chance initiative today.

Defining fair chance hiring

Before we dive in, let's first explain fair chance hiring. The phrase refers to the practice of hiring people with criminal records. It’s built on the premise that everyone, regardless of their background, has the right to be fairly assessed for a role they are qualified to hold.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 was enacted to help qualified workers with arrest or conviction records compete fairly for employment in federal agencies and with federal contractors. Like other “ban the box” laws that have been adopted around the country, the bill prohibits employers from asking about arrest and conviction history on job applications and instead delays that background check until a conditional job offer has been extended to the applicant.

Now that you have a better sense of what fair chance hiring is, let’s get to the ways in which it can be incorporated into your hiring strategy.

Step 1: Build your foundational knowledge

Oftentimes, the first obstacle to implementing fair chance hiring is that the notion seems abstract. It’s hard to understand its impact without actually having any true sense of why it’s important. Also, there’s a general stigma around hiring those with criminal backgrounds. According to the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, employers expect applicants with criminal records to engage in various undesirable behaviors on the job, even ones unrelated to the conduct indicated by the record.

That’s why it’s crucial to remove any unconscious bias by educating the entire staff from top to bottom. Some ways you can teach your team about fair chance hiring include:

  • Have employees visit a prison to speak with inmates and hear their personal stories.
  • Bring in external speakers from places such as The Second Chance Center and Defy Northern California to share their first-hand experiences eliminating the stigma of hiring system-impacted people.
  • Do your own research and share a guide on the importance of fair chance hiring; get started on data gathering by viewing this recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study on the topic.
  • Check out Checkr’s in-depth resources on fair chance talent.

Step 2: Start small with internal buy-in

Once you’ve educated yourself and others on the importance of fair chance hiring, the next step is to get the support of key stakeholders within your organization. Launching a fair chance initiative is ambitious, and in order for it to be successful, internal leadership needs to facilitate the change.

Determine who within leadership should be a part of the conversation, as well as who else within the organization you believe will be an advocate. Set up a meeting with these stakeholders, and come prepared with data you gathered from step 1 on how this will positively impact the company’s brand and bottom line.

Also discuss how you eventually plan to roll out this program to the public. If you decide you want to be “loud and proud” about your initiative, you must make sure you have a well thought-out plan and key messaging to present.

Keep in mind that not everyone will jump on board, and that’s OK. As long as you receive enough support and resources to build and execute a fully baked program, you can go forward with confidence.

Step 3: Create a plan for change

Change is difficult, and this is especially true when you’re trying to alter established practices within an organization. But change is necessary to evolve as a business. According to 2020 research from Gartner, organizations today have gone through five major firm-wide changes over three years—and nearly 75 percent expect to increase the types of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years.

Before making changes though, it’s important to determine your main motivation. Is your primary reason for wanting to embark on fair chance hiring personal, organizational or societal? Pick your “why,” and let this be the driver for your company.

One good resource to help in this exercise is the ADKAR Model for Change. ADKAR stands for “awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement,” which are five building blocks essential to driving change within your organization. You can use the model to analyze where you stand on the spectrum, identify gaps in your change management, and apply your knowledge to successfully implement your new approach to hiring.

Opening the door for a brighter future

Once you’ve navigated through these three steps, you’ll have built a strong foundation for your fair chance hiring initiative. And while you’ll likely hit roadblocks along the way, remember that it’s beneficial for your business, the economy, and your community. By implementing fair chance within your organization, you’ll open the door to qualified talent with a wide range of experiences that builds diversity and ultimately leads to stronger business outcomes.

Learn more by downloading our guide: How to Become a Fair Chance Employer.

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