Workers with Criminal Records

A new nationwide survey of HR professionals, managers and non-managers examines their experiences with and opinions towards workers with criminal records.

May 17, 2018

The number of Americans with a criminal history is on the rise, and nearly one-third of the adult working-age population has a record1. A new nationwide study commissioned by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) finds that, while these Americans do face additional scrutiny during the hiring process, many employees, managers, and Human Resources (HR) professionals, are open to working with and hiring people with criminal histories.

At a time when unemployment nears a record low2, many employers are finding that they need to consider new sources of workers. For many organizations, individuals with criminal records can be a good source of untapped talent. SHRM and CKI have begun investigating the attitudes and opinions of managers, non-managers, and HR professionals towards this policy.

Every organization must decide if and how it will approach hiring workers with criminal records. In many cases, these important conversations have not yet taken place. Employers who choose to pursue this talent source need to understand how to manage both real and perceived risks of this hiring practice and must communicate their policies and practices to their employees. HR professionals have an opportunity to create a dialog among decision-makers within their organization.

  • About two-thirds of HR professionals say their company has experience hiring workers with criminal records.
  • More than 80% of managers and two-thirds of HR professionals feel that the value workers with criminal records bring to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records.
  • Three-quarters of managers and HR professionals believe the cost of hiring workers with criminal records is the same as or lower than that of hiring workers with criminal records as for those without.
  • A majority of workers in all roles say they are willing to work with individuals with criminal records and an additional 30-40% report that they are neither willing or unwilling.
  • Among managers and HR professionals alike, a demonstrated consistent work history was the leading factor establishing their willingness to hire a worker with a criminal record.
  • Top reasons for hiring workers with criminal records include a desire to hire the best candidate for the job regardless of criminal history, making the community a better place, and giving individuals a second chance.






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