ACLU report lauds benefits of hiring ex-offenders

hiring ex-offendersYet another study confirms the advantages to companies of hiring previously incarcerated individuals.

The recently released report, Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company, was prepared by the Trone Private Sector and Education Advisory Council for the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the report, the problem of joblessness among those who have spent time in prison or jail is immense and needs to be solved. More than 640,000 people are released from prison each year, and nearly 75 percent of previously incarcerated individuals remain unemployed a year after they’re released. And “joblessness is the single most important predictor of recidivism.”

This lack of employment by those who have been incarcerated has a dramatic effect on our national economy, reducing the U.S. gross national product by between $78 and $87 billion in a single year.

The report states that:

“Research by economists confirms that hiring people with records is simply smart business. Retention rates are higher, turnover is lower, and employees with criminal records are more loyal. Given the costs associated with turnover and recruitment, researchers have found that “employees with a criminal background are in fact a better pool for employers.”

The report includes case studies of several companies and what they have done to achieve fair chance hiring.

Company case studies highlighted in the report

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Walmart – A case study of Walmart points out that the company has removed “the box” from its application forms and only runs a background check after a potential hire is given a conditional offer. The hiring manager and HR members are only aware of whether the applicant has been cleared for hiring and are not informed of the nature of their conviction(s).

Total Wine & More — Total Wine & More, with 127 superstores in 20 states, found that employees with criminal records had a 12 percent lower annual first-year turnover rate than those without. For cashiers it was 14 percent, merchandising employees 11 percent and wine assistants 11 percent.

eWaste Tech Systems — Richmond Va.-based eWaste Tech Systems created a comprehensive training program for the nearly 50 percent of its employees who have a criminal record. It also works with local workforce development center ResCare to provide services that these employees may need in their reentry efforts.

After showing what various companies have achieved, the report provides steps that others can take t0 create and maintain fair chance hiring:

  • Ban the box on job application forms and postpone asking applicants about their criminal history until further into the hiring process.
  • Consider each employee on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the nature of their crime and whether it’s related to the type of work they will be doing, as well as considering whatever rehabilitation efforts they have accomplished.
  • Conduct a proper background check by asking for only those convictions relevant to the job applied for. Choose a reputable agency, one certified by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), if possible. (The report includes a list of questions to ask an agency to ensure proper information is gathered.)
  • Make sure to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and various state and local Ban the Box statutes that may apply to your area.
  • Be proactive in reaching out to qualified job seekers who might have criminal records.
  • Create a process for dealing with applicants who have criminal records, and train hiring managers in this process.

Follow these steps and join a growing list of employers – more than 300 signed the Obama White House Fair Chance Hiring Pledge in 2016 – who are improving staff retention rates, and ultimately their bottom line, by hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.

How to hire health care workers from a unique population – those with criminal records

hire health care workersHospitals and health care agencies and facilities are scrambling to fill a rapidly growing need for workers at every level. And there’s a population that’s eager and ready to fill those positions.

That population is people with criminal records, and if Johns Hopkins Medicine is any indication, they make pretty good workers. Johns Hopkins Medicine operates six hospitals and other medical facilities and has pioneered hiring formerly incarcerated individuals to work in them. In fact, about 20 percent of entry level hires have come from this population each year over the past decade.

A five-year study of nearly 500 people it hired with records showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of these employees than non-offenders. A further study found that 73 out of 79 employees with serious records were still employed after three to six years. The organization published The Johns Hopkins Hospital Success in Hiring Ex-Offenders to explain why and how they do it.

Now other health care facilities that would like to hire people with records have a step-by-step guide that will lead them through the process. Chicago’s Safer Foundation and the National Employment Law Project have published A Healthcare Employer Guide to Hiring People with Arrest and Conviction Records: Seizing the Opportunity to Tap a Large, Diverse Workforce.

The comprehensive 61-page toolkit covers the why and how to of hiring people with records and offers success stories of those who have been hired and facilities that have hired people from this population.

Urgent need for workers in an employment sector that will become the nation’s largest

The need is urgent as the toolkit points out. During the next decade health care will become the nation’s largest employment sector, with an estimated addition of 3.8 million jobs. At the same time, an estimated nearly 700,000 people are being released from jails and prisons each year and need employment.

The toolkit urges institutions and organizations to seriously consider hiring some of those people.

“Given the burgeoning market for healthcare services and the forecasted competition for skilled workers, we encourage you to fully consider qualified people with records when filling healthcare job openings,” it says. “The singular demand for workers combined with the nation’s recognition of the need for criminal justice reform presents an opportunity for you to invest in previously untapped talent pools, including people with arrest or conviction records.”

This toolkit, among other things:

  • Dispels the many myths about hiring ex-offenders.
  • Explains why hiring people with records is good for a business because, it can
    • help enlarge its talent pool
    • reduce recruiting costs
    • increase diversity and corporate social responsibility
    • help an institution or service comply with federal employment laws
    • reduce turnover by hiring loyal employees
    • increase quality of health care by hiring people who understand vulnerable populations
    • take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program, both government incentive programs

The major goal of the toolkit is to offer a step-by-step guide to hiring people with arrest or conviction records.

Things to consider when hiring people with records

Here is a brief outline of the steps to follow:

Step 1: Be careful of the language you use. Not all people with records spent time in prison, so avoid terms like ex-offender or formerly incarcerated.

Step 2: Do not automatically exclude applicants with a record, and create fair screening standards.

Step 3: Ban the box on application forms in order to give people with a record a fair chance.

Step 4: Don’t make decisions on the applicant’s suitability based on what they self-disclose, because they could be confused or have misinformation about their conviction.

Step 5: If you must do a background check, use a reliable company and allow the applicant a chance to verify the accuracy of the information it provides.

Step 6: If employment is denied as the result of a background check, the employer should give the applicant a pre-adverse action notice with a copy of the background check. The employer should also indicate the offense that disqualified them from being hired and offer an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation before a final hiring decision is made.

Step 7: After all of the evidence is considered, either hire the candidate or formally rescind the offer in writing.

The toolkit recommends working with community-based intermediary groups. Doing so ensures a pipeline of suitable employees, and the toolkit gives seven tips on how to create effective relationships with those sourcing partners.

A section on workforce development best practices and a chart that serves as an example of a career pathway for a person interested in advancing in the health care field round out the resources of this useful toolkit.

 

Humboldt County (Calif.) works with Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation on Humboldt Second Chance Program

Humboldt Second ChanceIn the far northern reaches of California, in a rural coastal area known for its redwood forests, local county officials are working with Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation to help formerly incarcerated individuals get jobs.

Taking advantage of a $400,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Development Board, Humboldt County has launched the Humboldt Second Chance Program (H2CP).

The Employment Training Division of the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services operates the program, and here’s how it works.

Set up as a series of seven-member cohorts, Humboldt Second Chance trains each cohort for specific types of jobs. Participants are referred from the probation office and after a screening and assessment go through a two-week training focusing on work readiness and expectations.

“We have a lot of younger folks now who may have never even worked. We’re trying to help them understand the rules of the game,” says Connie Lorenzo, employment training division program manager.

“Sometimes they don’t understand how to apply for a job or what’s expected in a job. We also get into time management and conflict management, as well as some of the things they might have issues with, like how to accept authority.”

Program includes two months of vocational training

The next step is vocational training, which lasts for two months. Participants work 25 hours per week, and their salaries are fully funded by the program. Most of the people are trained in construction, but some are doing office work, medical assisting and one has done horticultural training.

That’s as far as program participants have gotten so far, but one group is ready to move on.

“We have 13 people who will graduate out of the vocational training and work experience,” Lorenzo says “The next phase is to get them hired into a permanent position. We have staff willing to help with the job development and placing them, and we will pay 50 percent of their wage for the first four to six months.

Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation works with employers

Now that the Humboldt Second Chance Program has begun to train potential employees, what about the employers? And that’s where Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation comes in.

“The unique thing we did in Humboldt was because we only have 105,000 people and not a lot of industry, we had to recruit multiple employers to the program. We focused our grant not only on the ex-offenders but on employers as well,” says Lorenzo

In January her department held an employer event with a representative of Dave’s Killer Bread to educate employers on second chance employment.

It recruited 12 businesses that day and eight more since then. Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation will work directly with employers as a consultant offering one-on-one support to companies that want to hire people from the second chance program, according to Lorenzo.

“At the event we took the info we use in our summits and our work and showed them how it’s possible to make this (hiring previously incarcerated individuals) work,” says Genevieve Martin, executive director of the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation. “It’s a great pipeline of candidates to look at.”

The foundation is now following up with those employers to see what kind of opportunities they have and to point them toward potential candidates.

This is the first time that DKB Foundation has done anything quite like this, but Martin hopes it won’t be the last.

“We’ve worked with other organizations before, but this is the first time we’ve partnered on a grant to deliver programs with strategic initiatives to the host organization,” Martin says. “Being able to partner with (an organization with) a more local approach is exciting, because that’s where we can make a difference.”

Plan to train 72 people

And Martin has her work cut out for her. Lorenzo says that the grant stated that they hope to train 72 people and get at least 45 of those employed full time. She says, however, they’re on target with between 40 and 50 people referred by probation thus far and is convinced they’ll succeed.

Although Lorenzo, in her position with Humboldt County, serves a lot of different types of clients, she’s especially impressed with those coming out of prison

“One thing I’ve found is that when ex-offenders are ready to transition their lives, they’re a very strong population to work with,” she says.

 

Root & Rebound publishes toolkit to enlighten employers on the value of hiring ex-offenders

Root & ReboundOakland, Calif.-based nonprofit Root & Rebound has published the California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit. This 28-page toolkit is not just an exceptional resource for companies and organizations that are committed to – or considering – hiring those with criminal records. It can also be used by jobseekers from that population as a persuasive tool to enlighten potential employers on the considerations and benefits they would gain from hiring them.

Although it may be hard to believe, nearly one out of three Americans has a criminal record. As the economy continues to grow and demand for additional workers steadily rises, it will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to ignore that segment of the population.

In fact, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in 2014 between 1.7 and 1.9 million U.S. workers weren’t hired because they had criminal records. This resulted in an estimated loss of $78 to $87 billion in annual gross domestic product.

Hiring fair chance employees makes economic sense

Hiring those with criminal records makes economic sense both in the big picture and for companies themselves, but most employers still need to be convinced.

More than 40 large corporations and nearly 250 small- and medium-sized businesses, however, have already taken the Fair Chance Business Pledge created by the Obama White House in late 2015. These businesses have promised to give people with criminal records, including those who have been incarcerated, a fair chance at employment. We suggest you review these businesses that have taken the pledge to see if there are any you might want to consider adding to your list of 100 employers to pursue.

While this is a beginning and brings attention to the issue, it’s crucial that more companies become committed to hiring second-chance employees. And that’s where Root & Rebound’s toolkit comes in.

Toolkit provides extensive info for all employers

Although it’s geared toward California employers, much of the advice and most of the action steps it recommends can be useful to employers no matter which state they operate within.

The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit covers:

  • The rewards of hiring fair chance workers.
  • The best practices for onboarding and training fair chance workers.
  • How to choose a reliable background check company.
  • Legal compliance and minimizing risks involved.
Giving copy of Toolkit to the hiring manager shows initiative and having their best interests in mind.

As you interview for jobs, along with your turnaround packet you may want to print out and provide the hiring manager with a copy of the toolkit to offer them information on the additional benefits that they might receive by hiring you and what steps they need to take to do so. If you live in California, this toolkit covers all the basics that an employer needs to know. If you live in another state, check with your local American Job Center to ask for help in adding relevant state-related information.

Benefits of hiring fair chance workers

The toolkit includes evidence that fair chance employees can benefit a company or organization by highlighting:

  • Case studies of companies that have hired second-chance employees with great success. For example, Johns Hopkins Health System & Hospital, Dave’s Killer Bread and Butterball Farms all have hired a substantial number of employees with criminal records and found that their turnover rate is lower than that of those without records.
  • Testimonials from executives of companies that have been actively hiring fair chance employees for many years.

Root & Rebound’s California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit is very well put together and an excellent resource for both employers and job seekers alike.

 

What you post on social media can keep you from getting a job

social mediaAs social media becomes a growing presence in everyday life, you need to be increasingly careful about the things you post and tweet.

The pictures you publish and the things you say on social media sites can keep you from getting a job, can get you in trouble with your boss or can even get you fired. But social media postings can also work in your favor, if they portray you as professional, able to communicate effectively and make you appear as a person that would be nice to work with.

60% of employers use social media to research applicants

And don’t think that hiring managers and recruiters aren’t looking. They are. Or at least according to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey of 2,186 hiring and human research managers conducted between February 10 and March 17, 2016. It found that 60% of employers use social media sites to research job applicants, up from 52%  last year and 11% in 2005.

“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”

Info on social media can hinder job search

The company’s survey found that 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates using social media found information that made them decide to not hire a candidate. The top things that bothered them:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (46%)
  • Information about a candidate drinking or using drugs (43%)
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (33%)
  • Bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employee (31%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)

Jobvite, a San Mateo, Calif.-based software and recruiting company, found similar responses. In its Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016, based on an online survey conducted in June and completed by 1,600 recruiting and human resources professionals:

  • 47% of recruiters view pictures of alcohol consumption negatively on social media
  • 60% find over sharing a problem
  • 72% view typos negatively
  • 71% find indications of marijuana use problematic

Shutting down Facebook account may not be best idea

In the past some people recommended that job seekers should shut down their Facebook accounts, since it’s impossible to tell what a hiring manager might find offensive. These days, however, many hirers may wonder why a certain job seeker does not have a social media presence, i.e., a Facebook account.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 41% of employers said they are less likely to interview a job applicant if they are unable to find information about that person online.

Although LinkedIn is used by hiring managers and recruiters to get an idea of an applicant’s professional background, Facebook – and to a lesser extent Twitter – portray the personal side, and can answer the question, “Is this someone I would enjoy working with.”

If your Facebook postings or tags are even slightly offensive, however, it might not be a bad idea to deactivate your account while you’re searching for a job, since it will no doubt work against you.

And even after you get a job, you’re not safe. According the CareerBuilder survey, more than a quarter of employers have either fired or reprimanded an employee because of content they found online.

It’s important to carefully consider each and every photo and comment you post, especially on Facebook. So constantly monitor your social media presence and make sure it portrays you as the kind of person that the company you dream of working for would like to hire.

 

Uber CEO offers second chance to those with criminal records

Uber CEOIt’s not often that executives of well-known companies come out publicly in favor of giving those with criminal records a chance in the hiring process. But that’s what Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, did earlier this month in an Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to him, the impetus was California’s Proposition 47, which was passed in November 2014 and reclassified some nonviolent crimes that had previously been felonies as misdemeanors. Uber aligned its hiring practices accordingly.

“As a result, 3,300 people have signed up to drive with Uber to earn a living and stand on their own two feet — in one state (California) alone,” he wrote. “Imagine how many more life-changing opportunities we could create if other states followed suit.”

Kalanick’s attitude toward criminal justice evolves

Running Uber has changed Kalanick’s ideas about criminal justice reform.

“I’d never really thought deeply about criminal justice reform before starting Uber. Now I realize reform is desperately needed. For example, the FBI records many companies use to do background checks don’t include up-to-date data on whether an arrest resulted in a charge or conviction. So if someone is arrested and subsequently acquitted, their “record” may not show that they’re innocent,” he went on to state in the S.F. Chronicle piece.

No matter how you may feel about Uber or working in the so-called “sharing economy,” signing up as an Uber driver may give people in reentry or those having trouble finding work a chance to earn a little extra money or even gain self employment. Those who can’t find full-time work may choose to drive for Uber part time as a second gig – especially during the busy hours when they’re likely to make more money by picking up more riders or the late hours when rates are increased.

Uber driver pay scales

According to press reports – and drivers themselves – the pay for being an Uber driver is far less than Uber claims. In a May 27, 2014 blog posting in the Uber online newsroom, the company claims that the potential income for its UberX drivers is as much as $90,766 per year in New York City and $74,191 in San Francisco.

One Uber driver and blogger at the site I Drive With Uber says he makes between $20 and $25 per hour (in Los Angeles), and the average Uber Driver makes $19 per hour natioinwide. He also says that the average Uber driver in the U.S. can make about $40,000 after expenses and taxes but doesn’t mention whether car wear and tear is included in expenses.

Gary Campbell, a former aerospace engineer who used to drive for Uber and Lyft part time while working at Boeing, left his full-time job to be a blogger known as The Rideshare Guy.

He publishes a free Uber Driver Training Guide on his site for those who might be considering driving for Uber but want to know more about what that experience might be like. The guide covers all the basics, from pay scales and sign-up bonuses to driver and car requirements.

Those with criminal records who decide they might like to be Uber drivers may be happy to know that the company has banned the box on its application form.

And CEO Kalanick has created an opportunity for those with ambitions and willing to work hard to get back on their feet.

“Crime is wrong,” he says. “But once a person has served their time, we need to give them a second chance. Consigning millions of Americans to a life of unemployment — with all the costs that entails — may be the easier option. It’s certainly not the best one for our country.”

 

No. 1 way employers find new employees to hire

new employeesWhat’s the No. 1 way employers find new employees? It’s not what you might think.

Forget the online job boards. Forget employment agencies or headhunters. The No. 1 way employers find new employees is through a referral from a colleague.

At least that’s according to recruiting think tank CareerXroads’ Source of Hire 2015, an annual report that tracks how major companies hire employees and one that career coach and author Marty Nemko mentioned in a recent Psychology Today blog article.

Companies find about 20% of new employees through referrals

The organization found that referrals were the top source for hiring, with companies filling about 20% of their openings through employee referrals.

This is in contrast to the 13% of hires that came from social media and job boards.

In addition, the report stated that “a job seeker who is referred is conservatively three to four times more likely to be hired – some studies have found that a job seeker who is referred is 14 times more likely to be hired – than someone who applies for a position without a referral.”

Keep in mind that CareerXroads sends its survey out to 250 of the nation’s largest companies, so what applies to their hiring managers may not always be applicable to smaller companies. But it still will give you an idea of how many companies are finding their employees.

The survey also found a 3% increase in temp-to-hire, which follows a trend among companies to transition part-time and contingent workers into full-timers. This is also something to keep in mind, because temporary employment can provide a good foot in the door for those looking for a job.

So knowing the situation, what can you, as a job seeker, do?

The most important thing is to get on the radar of hiring managers, whether in big companies or small.

And one of the best ways to do this comes from workforce development expert Larry Robbin. He calls what is usually referred to as a network a circle of contacts and suggests looking at this circle of contacts like a target.

Here’s how it works

Take out a big piece of paper and put your name in the center. That’s the bull’s eye. Put the names of the people who you are closest to – these would be your family and best friends – in the first ring. Then put other friends and relatives outside your immediate family in the next ring. Keep filling in the outer rings with more and more people you know but may not know very well. When you run out of people, your circle of contacts will be complete.

What’s interesting about this whole circle of contacts idea is research has found that people tend to find jobs more through acquaintances than from close friends. The chances are pretty good that you’ll get your next job through someone you don’t know very well or see very often.

The reason is that the people you know well will have many of the same contacts that you do, but those you don’t know will have an entirely different set of contacts – and one of those may be the key to your next job.

What we’ve found is that people are usually happy to help others in their job search. We’ve all been there before and know what a tough road it is. So don’t be shy. Put together a circle of contacts and get in touch with as many of them as you can.

Who knows. Your next job might come from another customer of the stores you go to, who just happened to mention when they were in shopping that they were looking for someone who does the type of work you do. Or maybe the spiritual leader at your place of worship heard that a member was going out on maternity leave and needed someone to take her place for six months. Or a friend of a friend’s company is expanding and looking for more employees.

The only thing you have to do is get the word out. Although what happens from there involves a bit of luck, by reaching out you can be assured that luck is more likely to come your way.

 

U.S. Postal Service hires job seekers with criminal records

U.S. Postal ServiceThe U.S. Postal Service is continuously hiring new employees and provides excellent opportunities for those who qualify.

Like most federal agencies, the USPS offers solid benefits and a chance to advance, as well as a variety of jobs. And the pay is pretty good as well. In 2015, the median salary for postal service workers was $56,790 per year, or $27.30 per hour.

Although the postal service’s employment application still contains the dreaded “box,” it does selectively hire those with criminal records.

According to the Application for Employment section of its official handbook, “The Postal Service recognizes that many persons with criminal records have demonstrated successful rehabilitation and are capable of performing the duties of postal jobs. These applicants are entitled to compete for jobs on individual merits.”

Yvonne Ramos, human resources specialist at the San Francisco office of the USPS, concurs.

“Fortunately, the USPS hires them (those with criminal records) with little restrictions,” she says.

USPS offers a variety of job types

And it’s not just letter carriers and post office clerks that the postal service employs. Although these make up the majority of the agency’s workers, according to the book Post Office Jobs by Dennis V. Damp, it also hires building, equipment and vehicle maintenance workers, IT specialists and others.

Those interested in a U.S. Postal Service job can apply online by creating an account and filling out all the information required, including an employment history.

This may be a bit tricky for some who have been incarcerated, because the form won’t be accepted if it has any gaps in time. The workaround for many of those who have served time is to include the jobs they did while in prison and listing the state that they were in as their employer. For example “food service, State of California” for someone who worked in the kitchen of a California state prison.

Those applying for letter carrier jobs that require Test 473 must then fill out an online assessment. Applicants who successfully complete the online assessment are invited to complete a proctored assessment at an approved location. This usually has to be done within a one-week period of time, so it’s important to pay attention to your email messages.

For those who advance to the point of taking the test, there are plenty of ways to prepare, including watching YouTube videos.

Some USPS offices are offering one-hour free workshops providing information on how to take the test. There’s also a detailed explanation of the process on the USPS website.

For those unable to attend one of these workshops, the United States Postal Service website offers examples of sample questions that give a better idea of what the test entails.

USPS test’s four sections

The test is divided into four sections:

  • Part A Address checking comparing two lists of address to see which ones are incorrect.
  • Part B Forms completion concerns determining the information needed to fill out certain forms.
  • Part C Coding and Memory consists of assigning codes based on a coding guide and then assigning codes from memory.
  • Part D Personal Characteristics and Experience Inventory consists of personal questions that evaluate your personality characteristics, work style and experience. There are no right or wrong answers, but they must be answered honestly. This is the most extensive part of the test, with 296 items to be completed in 90 minutes.

After completing both assessments, applicants who the USPS is interested in will be called for an interview. Those who are not chosen can continue to apply for jobs. The test results are valid for six years.

In the meantime, you may want to consider reaching out to the different letter carriers in your community for their insights on the test and other possible suggestions they may have for preparation. In addition, they may know of other job openings. The post office can offer a good career and is worth considering and making it part of your job search plan.

 

Hot Chicken Takeover improves lives of those in reentry

Hot Chicken Takeover

Some of Hot Chicken Takeover’s team members.

You might not realize it when you dig into a plate of spicy chicken wings at Columbus, Ohio’s Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT), but this restaurant serves a side of social justice along with its popular cuisine. It’s just one more proof that a business can be successful while at the same time helping those leaving prison get their lives back together.

After tasting Nashville’s famous hot chicken and realizing that there was nothing like it in Columbus, founder Joe DeLoss and his wife Lisa began serving their own version out of their car in a parking lot on weekends. It became a hit, and soon the two found space indoors on the second floor of the city’s North Market, where they were able to serve customers on a more regular basis.

DeLoss took his experience as the founder of a sandwich catering business – a subsidiary of Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio that hired employees from homeless shelters – and applied it to his new restaurant.

Majority of staff members have been incarcerated

“Seventy percent of the staff is previously incarcerated,” says Cam Williams, the company’s director of operations. “Through media and referrals we attract people who may not have luck finding work elsewhere.”

Hot Chicken Takeover also receives referrals from organizations, including Kind Way, led by a former warden at three Ohio correctional institutions. She put together a group of business leaders who go into prisons and work with people while they’re still inside and provide a support system when they get out.

The staff of HCT operates the restaurant as well as a food truck that serves chicken at events and Columbus Crew professional soccer team games.

In addition to the food it serves and the community it creates through communal dining – the restaurant’s tables are all long and to be shared – HCT carries out a social mission to help formerly incarcerated individuals launch new lives upon release. As they say, “It’s about more than just chicken.”

“We provide financial, personal and professional growth opportunities,” says Williams. “We have a benefits coordinator who connects people with local resources, including Kemba Financial Credit Union, which helps them open a bank account for savings and has even been working with our staff who have been incarcerated for crimes including check fraud.”

Other employee benefits include a savings match program for people who are saving for things like transportation and education, with a 2-to-1 match of up to $700 per year. Employees are also offered an opportunity to meet twice a month with a financial coach to help them plan their financial future. Community partners help secure housing if they need it, because as a university town, it can be difficult to find affordable housing with good landlords in Columbus. And if necessary, there’s a licensed counselor to help with personal crises as they arise.

Although Hot Chicken Takeover provides its employees with an unusual level of services, Williams makes it clear that they’re running a business not a charity.

“We don’t see it as charitable,” he says. “The only thing we do that is charitable is give people a chance.”

Hot Chicken Takeover has high employee retention rate

And the effort pays off in dedicated employees. “We’re sitting at 60% retention. The industry standard is 100% to 150% turnover,” he says.

Although the company plans to operate another restaurant by the end of the year and is currently looking for a location, HCT has its sights set on something greater than selling chicken – hopefully starting a consulting business to help other companies do what it is doing.

“We’re not in this to be restauranteurs,” says Williams. “We’re passionate about expanding the human resources model that we have. We see it as a replicable system that other restaurants or warehouses could include in their business. We’re justifying what we do as being an economic solution not just doing something good. It’s a business that directly benefits from our social mission through retaining employees and not having to retrain them.”

 

All Star Labor & Staffing proves value of employment agency

agency

Ramona Mathany, founder and director of All Star Labor & Staffing

Whether they’re looking for a temporary, temp-to-perm or permanent position, those in re-entry need all the help they can get. And for many, turning to a staffing agency may be the most effective way to find employment.

Few people know this better than Ramona Mathany, founder and director of Portland, Ore., headquartered All Star Labor & Staffing.

“I did prison ministry for 10 years. After about three years of watching a revolving door in the prison, I was horrified to see them coming back and the whole reason they came back was because they couldn’t find a job,” she says.

“At the same time a very good friend of ours got out of prison and couldn’t find a job. I watched firsthand what happened to her. She had a felony, but it didn’t have anything to do with the type of work she was looking for. It was so frustrating, so I decided I should start something and fix it.”

And she’s done just that through All Star Labor & Staffing. Mathany estimates that of the 4,007 people the company had out on jobs last year, about 55 percent had criminal records. Her Redding, Calif. office is in the 80 percent range, while Bend, Ore., is 30 or 40 percent. The company also has offices in Albany and Salem, Ore.

It places employees – temps, temp-to-perms and direct hires – in jobs in manufacturing, food production and construction, as well as administrative office work and such hospitality jobs as cooks, servers, baristas and bartenders.

For those in reentry, working with an employment agency may be the only option for true success.

Why use an employment agency?

“Because they actually don’t have to do the interview. The interview is very stressful for someone, especially for those with a record,” says Mathany.

“Sometimes they’re so nervous they can’t show off what they can do. We’ve already done the interview for them by getting the customer. The best workers, in a lot of cases, may not interview the best, especially if they’re nervous about their background.”

This is a very good example, in general, of why it’s so important to prepare for interviews, including roleplaying them with family and friends.

Those who are sent out on assignment by All Star can also feel confident that they have the personality and ability to do the job. The company only hires 29 percent of the people it interviews.

Whether people are selected of course depends on if they can do the job, but that’s not all that matters, according to Mathany.

“It has to do with the attitude with which they’re reentering. We don’t want anybody who’s going to stay in the criminal mindset working for us,” she says. “We want someone who is completely remorseful for what they’ve done, and who says they would never do it again. They want to change their lives.”

Advice to job seekers

Mathany says there are several things that those with a records should do:

  • Go out there and do the very best job you can, and work faster and harder than the other employees on the job.
  • Always tell the truth about your past.
  • Follow every single rule the employer tells you to follow.
  • Work circles around the other people there. It will not matter what your background is if you’re that kind of worker.

Convincing employers

Although many companies refuse to hire those in reentry, Mathany has been quite successful at convincing employers to consider this population.

She says she begins by sending employers people without backgrounds, as that opens the door. “We then ask them if they’d consider working with people from this population,” Mathany says. And often they will.

“We’re trying to change the face of employment and have people realize that this is an incredible population to work with,” she adds.

Note: For anyone outside of All Star’s operating areas of Portland, Bend, Albany, and Salem, Ore.; and Redding Calif., please see our website for a list of temp agencies in other parts of the country that we have heard good things about.