According to statistics collected in 2021, The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with over 1.8 million people incarcerated.
While it may be tempting to write them off as bad news, many ex-offenders used their time to learn and grow while incarcerated and just need a chance to prove themselves on the outside. Don’t let a criminal record stand in the way of giving someone a chance to turn their life around! Not only is it the right thing to do, but it can also be good for your small business.
Hiring ex-offenders means:
- A larger talent pool
- A more diverse workforce
- Improved company image
- Access to tax incentives
- Giving back to your community
But while these benefits are great, it’s important to remember that hiring an ex-offender is not all rainbows and butterflies.
There will be some challenges along the way and, as a business owner, it’s your job to support your employees and help them navigate—and overcome—them so they can be successful in their new roles. Here are some tips you can follow to improve the employee experience for your ex-offender team members:
1. Foster a Sense of Belonging
There’s no reason why ex-convicts shouldn’t feel like they belong in your workplace. Just because someone has a criminal record doesn’t mean they’re automatically a bad person or that they don’t deserve to be treated with respect.
One of the best things you can do is create a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone feels like they can be themselves and do their best work. This starts with the way you talk about—and to—your employees.
Use positive and respectful language, avoid making assumptions or judgments, and be open-minded. Make sure your other employees are doing the same and that everyone is following the same rules and guidelines. You can’t expect all of your employees to get along all of the time, but you can set the tone for how they should treat each other.
2. Mentorship Programs
While ex-offenders often need someone to help them get the lay of the land, one of the worst things you can do is single them out or put them in a separate category from the rest of your employees. They are not aiming to receive special treatment, they just need extra support to get started.
One way to provide that support is by setting up mentorship programs. Having someone to answer their questions, help them understand company culture, and teach them the ropes can make a big difference.
If you already have a base of ex-offender employees, see if they’re interested in mentoring new hires. If not, look for employees who are naturally good at helping others and pair them up with someone who could use their help.
3. Encourage Communication
Offering spaces for open dialogue, like a comfortable break room or regular company-wide meetings, can also help foster a sense of community and make it easier for employees to communicate with each other.
Remember that this extends to you as well. Many ex-offenders still remember the strict hierarchy in prison and may be hesitant to speak up or ask for help. Make it clear that you’re approachable and available to talk whenever they need to.
4. Provide Fair Compensation
It’s all too tempting to lowball ex-offenders when it comes to compensation, but doing so is not only unfair, it’s also illegal. If you want to employ and maintain the best workers, you need to offer competitive wages, benefits, and paid time off.
Not only does this help ensure that you’re attracting the most qualified candidates, but it also shows that you value your employees and are invested in their success. Recidivism is a serious problem, but it can be reduced with the right policies and programs in place.
By investing in your employees, you’re not only doing your part to help them succeed, but you’re also helping to create a safer and more prosperous community for everyone.
5. Respect Their Privacy
If there’s one thing that ex-offenders are all too familiar with, it’s an invasion of privacy. In prison, everything from their medical records to their correspondences is fair game for scrutiny.
It’s important to respect their privacy in the workplace as well. Don’t bring up their criminal histories unless it’s absolutely necessary and make sure that any information you do have is kept confidential.
If an employee wants to talk about their past, let them come to you. You may think that you’re being considerate, but for many ex-offenders, constant reminders of their pasts are a painful reminder of how much their lives have changed.
Hiring ex-convicts can be a great way to support your community while also getting qualified workers for your business. With a few simple policies in place, you can create a welcoming and supportive environment that sets your employees up for success. Reap the benefits of a more diverse and productive workforce while also helping to reduce recidivism rates in your community. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!