More evidence that ex-offender hires excel on the job

Jun 17, 2016 No Comments by

Two recent studies support our members’ and other employers’ experience that job seekers with criminal records tend to make highly motivated, loyal employees, and businesses that screen out these individuals are overlooking a significant source of talent.

A joint study by University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard University evaluated former felons’ workforce performance in the US military and found that:

  • Individuals who have been arrested for felony-level offenses have similar attrition rates to those with no criminal record.
  • Ex-felons are no more likely to terminate for conduct reasons than their non-felon waiver counterparts.
  • Individuals with felony-level criminal backgrounds are promoted more quickly and to higher ranks than other enlistees.

The UMass Amherst/Harvard report also noted that the military’s “whole person” review process is similar to EEOC guidelines for employers’ use of an individualized assessment to review applicants with criminal records, and “offers the opportunity for the kind of holistic review that has proved successful in the military context.”

Reporting on the UMass Amherst/Harvard study, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) notes that the findings mirror those of a 2014 analysis made by Evolv, a data analytics company that helps employers select new hires. SIA writes that “after crunching performance data from millions of employees … Evolv found that employees with criminal backgrounds were 1 to 1.5% more productive than their counterparts who don’t have criminal records. When factored across many employees, this seemingly small margin can add up to ‘tens of millions in profit and gain,’ according to Evolv CEO Max Simkoff.”

Previously, the Johns Hopkins Health System, a long-time champion of fair-chance hiring practices, has also made a strong business case for hiring ex-offenders. Their 2009 study of almost 500 ex-offender hires found lower turnover among this sample compared with other hires over the first 40 months of their employment, with very similar promotion and evaluation rates.

UMass Amherst researcher Jennifer Lundquist suggests to SIA that ex-offenders’ superior job performance may result from their gratitude to employers that give them a chance and their determination to make the most of these opportunities.


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