We cannot afford to waste talent.
In our current state of economic affairs, no skill set is dispensable. We need all hands on deck, bringing all the aptitude and capacity they have to help row this boat to a shore that resembles the American dream we once had.
This is not about charity, tolerance, or even being a good person. The argument in favor of making the fullest use of all of our human resources do not rely on one’s willingness to hold another person’s hand and sing kumbaya.
This is a business case. The argument in favor of it requires enlightened self-interest and the ability to do basic math.
American citizens should have the opportunity to earn income at the level consistent with their capacities, including restored citizens. This would allow them to purchase those goods and services that come with a higher price tag. Since 2012, The Brilliant Hiring Forecast has conducted a quarterly survey of human resources professionals and hiring managers in the accounting, finance and IT professions within a variety of industries, including financial services, professional services, health care and nonprofits, among others. According to their Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast, businesses in accounting, finance and IT are reporting a significant increase in unfilled staff positions. Moreover, in the latest survey by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, about 33% of small-business owners and chief executives said they had unfilled job openings last month because they couldn’t identify qualified candidates.
Many restored citizens have professional skills and certifications that would qualify them for these unfilled professional positions. But instead of being given the opportunity to have those careers, they are frequently marginalized to high turnover, minimum wage jobs.
In case you’re wondering who I’m talking about, let me explain. When a person has completed their parole and their debt to society has been discharged, with the exception of the right to vote in some states and to own a firearm, their rights as a citizen – fully restored. Language matters. Calling people “ex-offenders” long after their offense has been discharged locks all of us in the past, ignores the fact of their restored citizenship, and keeps us from focusing on the skills they have that are useful to society. I know you’re better than that.
Think about this: Almost all incidences of workplace violence are committed by people who have no prior criminal record, not by restored citizens. After all, wasn’t that person hired only after passing a background check? Yet this did not prevent them from becoming violent on the job later on. Restored citizens, by contrast, are usually so happy to be hired, and so conscious of how difficult it is for them to get a job, that they often are some of the best and most conscientious workers who will do whatever it takes just to keep that job once they get it. And because they often feel that they have something to prove anyway, they usually will go out of their way to show how good an employee they can be. Restored citizens who are gainfully employed are much less likely to re-offend than those who remain unemployed upon release.
The absence of a plan to realize the potential of an untapped workforce of tens of millions of American citizens is an economic travesty and a failure of leadership. According to a survey released in April by the Society for Human Resource Management, only a minority of businesses have adopted any diversity initiatives– and almost none are dealing with restored citizens, except those that have been sued by EEOC or mandated by changing state and local employment law.
A workforce that is as diverse as possible is good business and good public policy. Businesses would do well – legally, socially and financially – to adopt proactive diversity initiatives that include integrating restored citizens into their workforce.
Hiring restored citizens is good for your business, for workforce competitiveness, for social safety, and for the country. When considering restored citizens for employment, be mindful to make courageous decisions that come from your hopes and not your fears.
Contributing Author: Lisa Forbes
As a Restored Recruiter Lisa Forbes is redefining what it means to be a qualified employee and empowering restored citizens to rise above their conviction through her company Lisa Forbes Inc. Learn more at Lisaforbesinc.com. Also connect with Lisa via Facebook I Twitter I LinkedIn I Youtube
Periodically Workforce and Recruitment provides insights from experts on specific topics that perfectly complement our recruitment resource, Business ConneX, helping you to attract and retain the top talent in Oklahoma. If you are interested in writing an article, please contact us at info@DiversityConneX.com.
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