The Company of Second Chances

Low unemployment rates and the high cost of worker replacement is resulting in employers focusing more on employee benefits, training, and non-traditional recruiting. At Nehemiah Manufacturing, workers with a criminal past are the norm rather than the exception. This piece discusses the experiment that got off to a rocky start but has led to the manufacturing company finding only 15% turnover in their workforce (compared to an industry average of almost 40%).

Nehemiah’s hiring process typically includes a session with a member of the social-service team who scrutinizes applicants’ histories and current support systems. Applicants also sign a release that allows the team to contact the agencies that provide them with housing, drug treatment or other support.
Only half of applicants make it through that initial screening, according to the company. Those that do are taken on as temporary workers and assigned a job coach who helps them understand employer expectations. They typically spend a week or more in a job-readiness program that includes classes on how to create a résumé, interview for a job and manage in the workplace. After a probation period of three to six months or so, about 60% of the temp workers are elevated to full-time employees.
Nehemiah’s approach to hiring only works if the entire company is committed to it, from the chief executive down, said Matt Mooney, a vice president with nonprofit Cincinnati Works, which helps people with criminal records find work and navigate barriers to self-sufficiency. “If you have front-line supervisors who are not comfortable, it will collapse,” he said.


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