Criminal Justice

An Untapped Talent Pool: SHRM and Stand Together Trust’s Survey on Employing Individuals With Criminal Records

To learn more about what drives hiring decisions involving people with a criminal record, Stand Together Trust and the Society for Human Resource Management have conducted a groundbreaking survey of employers and the American workforce.

May 17, 2018

Securing employment is a vital rung in the ladder of opportunity and is essential to ensuring the success of individuals with a criminal record in becoming contributing members of their local communities. While the relationship between employment and future criminal behavior is complex, stable employment is one of the critical factors in reducing recidivism and increasing public safety.

With nearly one in three working Americans holding a criminal record, and more than 625,000 adults being released from prison every year, individuals with a criminal record can be an important talent pool for consideration, especially as America faces an increasingly tightened labor market.

A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and STT, which polled 2,253 executives, managers, and employees, and 1,228 HR professionals, found that many companies have not strongly considered how candidates with a criminal record may be an untapped talent pool. However, many employees, managers, and HR professionals are willing and open to working with individuals with a criminal record.

Furthermore, the SHRM/STT survey provides hopeful findings for how business leaders and human resources (HR) professionals can play an important role in helping reduce the stigma around hiring those with a criminal record, thereby improving employment and helping improve public safety.

Those in America with a criminal record face both legal barriers and cultural stigma that prevents them from securing meaningful employment and providing for their families. Employers also face legal regulations and liability concerns, potentially increasing hesitancy around seeing those with a criminal record as a talent pool.

One way HR professionals and managers can begin to reduce the stigma around hiring individuals with a criminal record is by opening dialogue in their companies about their perspectives on hiring these individuals. Companies need not have a formal policy to do so. In fact, only 32 percent of HR professionals reported that their companies had a formal policy, and only 29 percent reported their companies having an informal policy.

Yet even without such a policy, which may limit the ability to make hiring decisions based on one’s talents and skills,  managers and HR professionals can still improve communication on hiring individuals with criminal record.

Employment for those with criminal records is important to everyone because it not only improves people’s lives, but it contributes to public safety by reducing the rate of recidivism. Everyone can play a role in removing barriers to opportunity that many face when re-entering the workforce, beginning with dialogue in the workplace among managers, HR professionals, and employees

SHRM and STT surveyed four groups to better understand practices and attitudes surrounding individuals with a criminal record which included human resource professionals, executives, managers, and individual contributors. The survey data was collected in two waves:

The first wave of data was collected from March 16, 2018 to March 26, 2018. The web-based survey was conducted among 15,000 SHRM members received 1,228 responses. This data reflects the thoughts and opinions of SHRM HR professionals and is unweighted.

The second wave of data was collected from March 23, 2018 to March 26, 2018, by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago with the help of SSI/Research NOW, a non-probability sampling vendor that obtained 50 percent of the total complete surveys. On March 23, 2018, the data collection process was soft launched among a sub-sample of AmeriSpeak panelists. Once the initial data was collected and reviewed the rest of the panelists were invited to participate on March 26, 2018. The survey was conducted among a total of 6,738 panelists and received 2,253 responses. This data was first weighted using panel-based sampling weights and was then filtered to the external population using totals associated with age, sex, education, race/Hispanic ethnicity, housing tenure, telephone status, and Census Diction. A 4.82 percent margin of error was reported.