Second-Chance Employment: Drive Business Growth

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Chrissy Roshak

Marketing Manager

The talent war is real. Businesses everywhere are struggling to find qualified candidates. Traditional recruiting methods are struggling to keep pace and may not be capturing the full range of qualified candidates. Meanwhile there are skilled and dedicated job seekers out there who are often ignored: individuals with criminal records. This group is frequently dismissed as a risk, but the truth is, they represent a unique opportunity to build a stronger, more diverse workforce. By embracing second-chance employment, companies can contribute meaningfully to society while gaining a significant competitive edge.

Untapped Potential

The traditional view of second-chance candidates tends to focus on potential risks or job stability concerns. However, this limited perspective overlooks the valuable skills and experience second-chance candidates can bring to the table.

Work Programs

Incarceration doesn’t equal idleness. Many correctional institutions offer valuable work programs that equip individuals with marketable skills in construction, carpentry, food service, and maintenance. These programs provide practical, hands-on experience that can be directly applied in the workplace.

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Vocational Training

Incarceration doesn’t equal idleness. Many correctional institutions offer valuable work programs that equip individuals with marketable skills in construction, carpentry, food service, and maintenance. These programs provide practical, hands-on experience that can be directly applied in the workplace.

Previous Employment

A significant portion of second-chance job seekers have held jobs prior to incarceration. They bring valuable work experience and an understanding of professional expectations.

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Highly Motivated Job Seekers

One of the most compelling aspects of second-chance employment is the dedication and commitment these individuals bring to the workplace. Second-chance candidates are often fiercely dedicated to work, have a strong work ethic, loyalty, and a deep appreciation for the opportunity to contribute meaningfully. They understand the value of a stable job and are highly motivated to prove themselves. This dedication can be a significant asset to any company.

Beyond Skills: The Tangible Benefits of Second-Chance Hiring

Second-chance employment offers more than just filling open positions with qualified candidates. This section explores the advantages companies gain through second-chance programs:

Financial Incentives and Government Support

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) incentivizes companies to hire qualified individuals with criminal records. They offer programs like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which provides tax breaks for qualifying businesses. This financial benefit can help offset concerns about salary and benefits, making second-chance employment more financially attractive.

Reduced Turnover and Cost Savings

Studies by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) show that formerly incarcerated individuals tend to stay with their jobs longer than the average worker. This translates to significant cost savings for companies. Reduced turnover translates to lower recruitment and training expenses, ultimately benefiting the company’s bottom line.

Enhanced Diversity & Inclusion for a Stronger Workforce

Hiring from this diverse talent pool contributes to a more inclusive workplace environment. This diversity of experiences and backgrounds fosters a wider range of perspectives within teams. This, in turn, can lead to increased innovation, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.

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A More Stable Society and Reduced Costs

Lack of employment opportunities is a major factor contributing to recidivism rates. When formerly incarcerated individuals are gainfully employed, they are less likely to return to crime. This not only benefits public safety but also reduces the financial burden on the justice system.

Managing the Risks of Second-chance Employment

While the advantages of second-chance employment are clear, some concerns regarding second-chance employment are understandable. Here are some strategies to address these concerns and ensure a successful program:

Clear Communication and Supportive Environment

Clear communication and a supportive work environment are essential for any employment program, including second-chance employment initiatives. Here are key strategies to foster a successful program:

Establishing Clear Expectations:

Onboarding and Performance Standards: Develop a comprehensive onboarding program that clearly outlines company policies, performance expectations, and daily routines. This program should provide formerly incarcerated individuals with a clear understanding of their role, responsibilities, and what success looks like in their position.

Open Communication Channels: Establish clear communication channels where employees feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns. Regular performance reviews offer opportunities to provide feedback and ensure employees are on track.

Focus on Strengths: While outlining expectations is important, don’t overlook the value of identifying and capitalizing on the strengths and skills second-chance workers bring to the table.

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Building Support Systems

Mentorship Programs: Pair new hires with experienced mentors who can provide guidance, answer questions, and offer support as they navigate the workplace and company culture. Mentors play a crucial role in helping formerly incarcerated individuals adjust to the demands and expectations of a new job.

Employee Assistance Programs: Provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer confidential counseling and support services for a wide range of personal and work-related challenges. EAPs can be a valuable resource for employees facing challenges related to reintegration or navigating past experiences.

Training and Development Opportunities: Invest in training and development programs that equip all employees with the skills they need to succeed. This commitment to employee growth fosters a culture of continuous learning and benefits the entire team.

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Fostering a Culture of Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion Training: Provide training for the entire team on the benefits of second-chance employment and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This can help break down stereotypes and create a more welcoming environment for all employees.

Open Communication and Respect: Encourage open communication and mutual respect within teams. Team-building activities and social events can help build rapport and create a sense of belonging.

Celebrating Success: Recognize and celebrate the achievements of all employees, including those who have come through the second-chance employment program. Highlighting success stories can inspire others and reinforce the value of this initiative.

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Mitigating Risk Through Strategic Partnerships

Effective second-chance employment programs often rely on strong partnerships with non-profit organizations and industry associations to navigate potential risks. Here’s how these organizations can benefit a second-chance employment program:

Second-chance Business Coalition

The Second-chance Business Coalition is a national organization offers a comprehensive toolkit specifically designed to address risk management concerns in second-chance hiring. Their resources provide best practices and guidance on topics like screening procedures, onboarding, and workplace integration.

Industry Associations

Many industry associations offer resources that directly address the challenges and risks faced by businesses in their specific field. These industry experts can help companies develop a program to reduce the risks of second-chance employment. They may also offer training and materials to help businesses comply with relevant laws and regulations.

Finding the Perfect Fit: Creative Second-Chance Recruiting Strategies

Traditional recruiting methods may screen out qualified candidates with criminal backgrounds or gaps in their employment history. Here are some effective strategies for connecting with qualified second-chance candidates:

Building a Strong Second-Chance Network

Building a successful second-chance employment program takes collaboration. By partnering with other organizations, companies can connect with a wider pool of qualified candidates with a second-chance background.

Reentry Programs and Correctional Institutions

Reentry programs, correctional facilities, and halfway houses are a valuable resource for connecting with qualified second-chance candidates. These organizations not only connect employers with individuals actively seeking work, but also provide insights into their skillsets and reintegration needs. Many of these organizations hold or participate in job fairs specifically designed for formerly incarcerated individuals.

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Staffing Agencies Specializing in Second-chance Employment

Staffing agencies specializing in second-chance employment have strong connections with reentry programs and maintain a pool of pre-qualified candidates, and can match their skills and experience with their clients’ specific needs.

Partnering with a staffing agency like All StarZ Staffing can streamline the hiring process by screening candidates, facilitating interviews, and potentially providing coaching and support services for temporary workers. Comprehensive onboarding and coaching programs are particularly valuable. These programs can help ease new hires into the workplace culture, clarify expectations, and offer skill development resources, ensuring success for all employees.

Look for a staffing company that offers support services to ensure a smooth transition for all employees, including those participating in the second-chance employment program.

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Exploring Job Fair Options

Many organizations hold job fairs specifically designed to connect businesses with qualified individuals seeking a second-chance. These events offer a valuable opportunity to meet a diverse pool of candidates and potentially find the perfect fit for open positions.

The National HIRE Network

This organization maintains a calendar of upcoming job fairs and hiring events specifically geared toward second-chance employment. Search by location and industry to find relevant events. They also offer technical assistance and webinars on second-chance employment best practices.

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Second-chance Business Coalition

This coalition provides resources and information on job fairs connecting businesses with individuals with criminal records. Check their website for events or contact a local chapter for further information.

Second-chance Employment and Fair Application Practices

Job applications that ask about criminal history early in the application process can create a barrier for qualified candidates seeking a second-chance. This practice makes it difficult for them to showcase their potential. This iw ehere “Ban the Box” legislation comes into play.

What is Ban the Box?

Ban the Box is a growing movement across the United States. These laws restrict employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on initial job applications and during the early stages of the hiring process. This allows candidates to be assessed based on their skills and experience, ensuring a fair chance to compete for the position. The goal is to create a level playing field where qualifications, not past mistakes, determine who gets the job.

Do some research to find the regulations for a specific region. Organizations like the National Employment Law Project (NELP) offer resources and information on Ban the Box laws across the country. 

Washington State’s Ban the Box law, the Washington Fair Chance Act (WFCA), has been in effect since 2018. This law prohibits most public and private employers from asking about criminal history on initial applications and during early interviews. This ensures qualified candidates with criminal records have a fair shot to showcase their skills and experience. Here’s a breakdown of what the WFCA means for Washington employers:

Focus on skills and qualifications

During the initial application and early interview stages, evaluations should focus on relevant skills and experience demonstrated in resumes, cover letters, and interview performance.

Background Checks

Background checks are still allowed, but only after a conditional offer of employment is made. Ensure these checks are job-related and consistent with business needs.

*The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney for legal guidance specific to your situation and location.

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Background Checks: Fairness and Job Relevance

Background checks are a common way to verify an applicant’s qualifications and suitability for a position. However, for individuals with a criminal record, background checks can be a barrier, potentially leading to disqualification even if the conviction isn’t relevant to the job. Here’s how to ensure fairness:

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Focus on Relevance

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends creating a “matrix” that outlines specific job requirements and the types of criminal offenses that would genuinely disqualify a candidate. This ensures the background check focuses on relevant information and avoids automatic disqualifications for minor or unrelated offenses.

Consider the Nature of the Offense

Not all convictions are created equal. Look at the nature of the offense, the amount of time that has passed (usually within the standard 7-year window), and any evidence of rehabilitation. For example, a five-year-old felony conviction for drug possession (without violence or distribution) shouldn’t automatically disqualify someone for a customer service representative position. The ability to handle customer inquiries or provide excellent service isn’t inherently connected to drug possession.

Fair Chance Opportunity

After a conditional offer is extended and a background check reveals a criminal record, consider implementing a “fair chance” procedure. This allows for an individualized assessment where the candidate can explain the circumstances surrounding the offense and demonstrate how it wouldn’t impact their ability to perform the job duties.

Ban the Box Compliance

Remember to comply with any local “Ban the Box” laws. These laws typically restrict employers from asking about criminal history on initial job applications. Background checks should only be conducted after a conditional offer is extended and should ensure they are relevant to the specific job requirements.

Partnering with Experts

Background checks are an important tool, but for a successful second-chance program, fairness is crucial. Partnering with the right experts can help ensure compliance and a focus on job-related criteria.

Background Check Providers

Choosing the right background check provider is important. Look for companies that allow fair chance hiring practices and offer customizable reports focused on job-related criteria. These reports can help businesses make informed decisions based on an applicant’s qualifications and suitability for the specific position, not past mistakes unrelated to the job.

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Legal Counsel

Consulting with a legal team is a wise step. Background check policies and procedures should comply with all applicable federal and state fair hiring laws. Legal counsel can ensure businesses’ hiring practices are compliant and protect companies from potential legal issues.

By following these recommendations, companies can utilize background checks effectively while promoting fair chance employment opportunities. This benefits all applicants, including those with a criminal record who may be highly qualified for the job.

Second-Chance Employment: Building a Stronger Workforce

Second-chance employment isn’t just about helping people – it’s a smart move for businesses. By offering second-chances, companies tap into a bigger pool of talented workers. This can reduce recruiting and training costs, and boost retention rates. Second-chance workers often bring a strong work ethic, dedication, and a real appreciation for the chance to work. Additionally, a diverse and inclusive workforce fosters innovation, creativity, and ultimately strengthens the company’s competitive edge.

Concerns about second-chance employment are understandable. However, following the best practices outlined in this article, like clear communication and support for new hires, and strategic partnerships with experts can help mitigate risks.

Second-chance employment is a win-win situation. Businesses benefit from a stronger, more diverse workforce, and society becomes safer and more stable. By giving people a second-chance, companies contribute to a brighter future for everyone involved. This approach allows individuals to rebuild their lives while businesses reap the rewards of a talented and dedicated workforce.

Got questions about your career? We’re always happy to answer questions from our readers, so send them our way!

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