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Top Organizations Join SHRM Initiative and Pledge to Change Hiring Practices for Those with Criminal Backgrounds

“Getting Talent Back to Work" project launches just one month after Congress passed the bipartisan criminal justice reform First Step Act

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Associations and companies representing more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce are committing to change their recruiting practices to include those with criminal backgrounds in a national initiative announced today by Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Taylor called for action within the business community following the passage of the First Step Act, which improves rehabilitation and re-entry opportunities for thousands of incarcerated men and women.

Getting Talent Back to Work is a national pledge open to all organizations that was signed even before the formal announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the American Staffing Association, SHRM, Koch Industries, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation and more.

Organizations are pledging to give opportunities to qualified people with a criminal background, deserving of a second chance, which creates successful outcomes for employers, all employees, customers and communities.

Ninety-five percent of people in prison will be released—that’s more than 650,000 people every year. As they re-enter society, people with criminal backgrounds are deprived of employment opportunities and organizations are deprived of qualified talent, creating harmful consequences for millions of people.  

“This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as 1 in 3 adults in the United States currently has a criminal background,” said Taylor, SHRM-SCP. “Not only is it the right thing to do—to give a deserving person a second chance—but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate.”

Recent research conducted by SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute highlights the value of allowing workers with a criminal background in the workforce.  Key findings included:

• More than 82% of hiring managers in the nationally representative poll indicated workers with a criminal history are a high-quality hire equal to or even more effective than those without a criminal history.  

• Similarly, 74% of those same hiring managers indicated extreme value in hiring those with a criminal history due to diminished costs associated with hiring from this population, as well as mitigating risk to effective operations.  

• Hiring managers and HR professionals cited three effects on the larger ecosystem as benefits: the hiring of most-qualified candidates from a truly diverse pool, the intrinsic value of giving people second chances at employment, and the opportunity to improve the community around them.  

 “Our nation just took a major first step toward helping people who want an opportunity to transform their lives—now we’re pledging to take the next step,” said Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries. “Koch is incredibly proud to offer second chances to qualified people with a criminal record and now, thanks to SHRM, more businesses will have the tools needed to hire these individuals. By taking this next step, we can create stronger families, a more robust workforce, and safer communities for all.”

Based upon an extensive body of research and evidence-based practices from thousands of enterprises, SHRM developed a resource toolkit designed to help businesses:

• Understand the legal factors around hiring workers with a criminal background.

• Apply evidence-based best practices in hiring applicants with a criminal background. 

• Get practical guidance from industry leaders in acquiring, developing and promoting talent including workers with a criminal background.

“As a country, we are making improvements to the justice system,” Taylor said. “It’s our time as business leaders to reframe the conversation around nontraditional talent pools and embrace those with criminal backgrounds as job candidates.”

MEDIA: For more information on this initiative or to schedule an interview with SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., please contact Vanessa Hill at 703-535-6072 and or Kate Kennedy at 703-535-6260 and 

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 300,000 members in more than 165 countries. For nearly seven decades, the Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit us at


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