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image showing puzzle pieces with the words 'vacancy' and 'new hire'The skilled labor shortage affects most businesses in just about every industry, often to the point where companies are unable to grow and meet demand because they don’t have the workers they need.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) is in the business of solving problems for employers, such as labor shortages, and for this one, they have come up with an interesting solution that not only would increase the pool of available entry-level workers, but make the country a better place to live and work.

SHRM wants employers to tap into the nearly 75 million people who are unemployed because they have criminal records.

“The employment of people with criminal records is an issue workplaces should be talking about,” explains SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. “I encourage HR professionals to lead conversations about inclusive hiring at their organizations so other executives can make informed, sensible and beneficial hiring decisions.”

The numbers make it an option that’s hard to ignore. The 75 million potential employees equate to nearly one-third of adults in the United States, and the nation’s GDP loses an estimated $78 billion to $87 billion annually as long as they remain unemployed, according to SHRM.

The laws are changing as well. The First Step Act, signed by President Donald Trump in December, reduces sentences for nonviolent offenders in federal prisons and improves programs to reduce recidivism, including workforce readiness.

According to SHRM, “Businesses that are struggling to fill positions in a job market where there are more jobs than applicants can take the next step and include this population in their recruiting efforts.”

While many businesses may be willing to hire people with criminal records, they are often put off by the risks. No system can completely eliminate risk, but SHRM has added services that will help employers manage those risks. One offers reliable checks, a complete checklist to ensure you have partnered with a reliable reporting agency. The second is a how-to on updating business practices to ensure individual assessments of criminal records are relevant.

SHRM also has launched a second chances Getting Talent Back to Work pledge to provide best practices and legal advice to businesses wishing to hire and to integrate successfully qualified individuals with a criminal record into their workforces.

“As an HR force for social change, SHRM is looking to challenge American companies – big and small – to consider hiring qualified individuals with criminal backgrounds,” the company states.