Businesses of all sizes are feeling the strain of today’s labor shortage. Unfortunately, it may be some time before companies feel any relief. As Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently stated, “If every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have around 4 million open jobs…” On this episode of The Small Business Show, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Gene Marks, best-selling author, columnist, keynote speaker and CEO of The Marks Group, a customer relationship management solution provider, to discuss a possible solution to this labor shortage that many hiring managers may not have considered: hiring formerly incarcerated workers.
The labor shortage was at its worst in 2021 and 2022 when more positions were remote rather than on-site. Although the pressures have softened in 2023, many businesses are still struggling to fill positions. The inability to scale its workforce ultimately limits an enterprise’s overall growth, which is why it is important for hiring managers to explore all their options. One potential and overlooked resource is the massive population of formerly incarcerated adults looking to get back on their feet. While the thought may give some a feeling of apprehension, Marks notes that most of these individuals made simple mistakes for which they “have served their time.” By educating themselves and their employees, managers can overcome their distrust and ultimately benefit from a valuable resource.
Marks notes that formerly incarcerated workers are highly motivated and often stay with their companies for extended periods of time. “I talked to a few business owners in the Philly area that have been doing this for a number of years, and they couldn’t say better things,” he comments. “Each said that the people that they hired that were formerly incarcerated were more loyal and better long-term employees.” Additionally, the federal government and many states offer financial incentives to help these individuals find stability post-confinement and ease the prevailing labor shortage. By hiring a formerly incarcerated employee, businesses and nonprofits can qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $9,600 towards either payroll or income taxes. These companies may also be eligible for local workforce development grants, which can cover the costs of onboarding and training.
Furthermore, Marks has a “secret sauce” for businesses looking to leverage this resource but uncertain where to search. Nearly every state contains a nonprofit connecting formerly incarcerated workers with jobs. These organizations not only serve as middle-mans between employee and employer but also provide a variety of services to make the hiring process as easy as possible for all parties. These often include training assistance, educational resources and help with interviewing. This means that hiring managers can cut their search time in half and avoid the challenges posed by the labor shortage simply by partnering with a reputable nonprofit in their local area.
Ultimately, formerly incarcerated workers are looking for the chance to rebuild their lives. By hiring these individuals, businesses not only protect themselves from the labor shortage but also make a positive impact on their communities. “You would be surprised at how grateful and loyal those employees are when you do give them that chance. We’re looking for people that we can mold, that we can teach, that will stay with us for a while, that we can retain; and if you do it the right way, you really can find a good resource of potential employees,” concludes Marks.