An Untapped Sector

What crosses your mind when you find out you’re working with an ex-offender? Does it make you uncomfortable? Or worse, are you curious about what the ex-convict might have done to warrant incarceration? Regardless of the direction your feelings might take, it is apparent that the stigma around working with ex-convict endures. 

Not to say the stigma is valid, but the apprehensions are understandable. Here’s a challenge: why not try being accommodating? For other employees, it may be qualified as a mere suggestion. After all, they are indebted only to their company and their families. However, for companies, helping an ex-felon reintegrate into the workplace is a duty to society.

An article from the official website of the Human Resource strategy company, Human Resource Executive, tells how John Hopkins Medicine took on the task. The article recounts how the medical institution, being pressed for additional human resources in the scarcity of medical professionals, resorted to the ex-offender community. 

The leadership at John Hopkins Medicine studied the legal considerations and the best practices on hiring ex-offenders. The institution is seen as one of the entities that effectively embodies the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Second Chance Act of 2007. These re-entry programs aim at looking for value in this maligned and untapped sector. 

Paving the way for ex-offenders to be reintegrated into the workforce is crucial in the United States. According to the Second Chance Coalition’s official website, 80 million Americans have a criminal record, equivalent to a quarter of the U.S. population. Imagine how the sector could be utilized to drive growth in the American economy. Imagine how it can resolve economic downturns and alleviate poverty.

There are ways through which a company can help ex-offenders get back on their feet and start living a quality life. While some may believe that an ex-felon’s life has ended the day they entered the prison gates, several ex-convict have continued to grow and learn inside prison. 

Discrimination from individuals and companies has caused ex-felons to slide back into a life of crime. As this is the case, companies have a role to play in welcoming ex-felons back into society. 

4 Ways A Company Can Help Ex-Offenders Reintegrate 

1. Leadership Buy-Ins

Leadership buy-ins are crucial in fostering employee engagement. When a buy-in happens from the senior management level, employees are encouraged to engage with the company’s vision.

When buy-ins take place, employees participate in all the programs the company implements. Employees become an active part of the company’s success.

When leaders buy into the company’s employee engagement strategy, the employees will see this as management’s interest in their professional growth and welfare. A buy-in from management tells the ex-offenders that the company that accepted them did not just do so for manpower. The message would be about genuine employee welfare, motivating the former felon to work earnestly and actively engage.

Active employee engagement fostered by leadership buy-ins also increases cultural competence. Working toward a specific goal develops strong, professional relationships among ex-felons and their colleagues.

2. Coordinate With Communities and Nonprofits 

When a company believes in Second Chance employment, partnering with several nonprofits catering to former offenders should be one of its priorities.  

As organizations of the sort keep close contact with ex-felons, they would be the appropriate entities to tap into. They can assist with skill-building for vacancies, job applications, and interview preparation. Because the nonprofits know the community personally, they can build a pipeline for talents who might qualify for select posts. 

3. Evaluation and Revision of Hiring Processes

Companies should evaluate their practices concerning Second Chance hiring. The policies should be aligned with current trends in assessing skill and mental health so that the right HR personnel will be delegated the task of interviewing potential candidates. 

And while companies should not hire to simply satisfy cultural diversity, evaluating their existing hiring process will result in a more robust office community. 

A hiring process designed with the right balance of cultural diversity and skill-based assessments makes for a bulletproof hiring process.

4. Conduct Regular Surveys and Implement Rewards Programs

Tenured companies and startups alike will benefit from conducting regular surveys to determine areas for improvement in human resources. While this sounds like standard procedure, some large companies neglect to get the pulse of the employees from the grassroots. This leaves employees thinking that their companies are not invested in their professional growth and welfare.

Programs on incentives, rewards, and recognitions should also be open to all employees regardless of orientation and origin. Ex-felons employees should be subject to these programs if their performance qualifies. 

How Companies Benefit

Apart from solving the concern of scarcity of manpower, companies that hire ex-convict also benefit from federal tax credits.

Called ‘Work Opportunity Tax Credit’ this federal incentive provides employers with a tax credit of up to $2,400 when they hire an ex-felon within a year of their felony conviction or release. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit was responsible for hiring 69,000 people in 2020. 

A Second Chance Is A Chance To Better The Society

Companies, private or public, have the power to give ex-offenders a second chance at a career. But more than just providing the socially challenged a job to put food on the table, allowing them to assume significant positions at work welcomes ex-offenders back to society. 

When companies do not discriminate against ex-felons, treating them as any other able-minded professional, they enrich the community and help in their progressive reform. The move boosts their morale and allows them to contribute to society’s further development.

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