It’s Time for HR to Lead a Conversation on Hiring People with Criminal Backgrounds



President Donald Trump said no one wins when people with criminal backgrounds are unable to adjust to life outside prison. It’s a waste of human capital, he said.


With today’s near record-low unemployment rate, HR professionals and employers are increasingly willing to tap underrepresented groups to fill the skills gaps in the American workforce.

People with criminal backgrounds — almost one-third of working-age adults — are one of these groups.

This week, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) teamed up with the Charles Koch Institute to release an important research project on the employment of people with criminal backgrounds.

What the research found is promising for the formerly incarcerated and organizations that want to employ them: A majority of workers in all roles said they were willing to hire and work with those who have a criminal record.

But the findings also identified challenges. While about two-thirds of the HR professionals surveyed said their organization had experience hiring individuals with a criminal record, a majority are not actively recruiting them.

Today I attended a White House Office of American Innovation summit on prison reform. There, I talked with other industry leaders about the need to better equip those serving in prison with the tools necessary to lead more productive lives following their release.

The employment of people with criminal records is an issue we all should be talking about.

They face struggles in finding employment, but this new focus on the issue can result in progress.

I encourage HR professionals to lead conversations about inclusive hiring at their organizations so other executives can make informed, sensible and beneficial hiring decisions. Bringing these candidates on board can be a win-win for everyone.

Read more of my thoughts on the importance of incorporating people with criminal backgrounds in recruiting and hiring in a commentary published by CNN Opinion.

Vice President Mike Pence opened the White House Office of American Innovation summit on prison reform on Friday, May 18.


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