#142 – Integrity Idea 012: Hire the Unhireable

ESSENCE:  From time to time, we are devoting posts to describing specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.  We are calling these Integrity Ideas.  

INTEGRITY IDEA: Hire the Unhireable.  

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Practice

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt):  Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Community, Kingdom

“Hire the Unhireable” is about a leader being intentional about hiring people who have a difficult time getting hired because of an employment challenge, such as the formerly incarcerated, recovering addicts, the homeless, the under-educated, and the developmentally disabled.  “Hire the Unhireable” recognizes that every person needs a chance, or a second chance, to become more fully human by using their God-given creativity and productivity to love others through service.  It embodies the great commandment to love your neighbor by offering the dignity of work to those normally overlooked or rejected in the hiring process. In its most Covert form, “Hire the Unhireable” is “Highly Covert” because it can just as easily be done by secular organizations, either from virtuous or purely utilitarian reasons.

From time to time, we are devoting posts to describing specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  We are calling these “Integrity Ideas“.  Some Integrity Ideas will feel like a good fit, and others will not, and the choice should be based on which approach is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

We were inspired to highlight “Hire the Unhirable” by a recent headline in the Wall Street Journal: More Businesses Want to Hire People With Criminal Records Amid Tight Job Market.

Hire the Unhirable” is one of the more challenging Integrity Ideas we have highlighted because it takes commitment, planning, preparation and perseverance.  It is not easy, and depending on how it is implemented, it may be quite challenging.  It also may not be appropriate for all industries or positions.  But it can also be tremendously impactful and rewarding.

In its most Covert form, “Hire the Unhireable” is “Highly Covert” because it can just as easily be done by secular organizations, either from virtuous or purely utilitarian reasons.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal article was describing a trend among secular businesses.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Hire the Unhireable

Hire the Unhireable” is about a leader being intentional about hiring people who have a difficult time getting hired because of an employment challenge.  Employment challenges may be related to intellectual, developmental or physical challenges or may be related to life challenges, such as a substance addiction, prior incarceration, homelessness, under-education or psychological conditions (e.g., PTSD).

People with employment challenges can have a hard time getting hired.  It seems much “simpler” to have employees not burdened by these challenges (of course, it is illegal to discriminate based upon disabilities recognized by the American with Disabilities Act).

Just by way of example:

• In a recent study released by the U.S. Department of Justice, 33% of persons in the study population did not find employment at any point during the four years after their release from Federal prison, and the total study
population’s employment did not exceed 40% in any of the individual 16 quarters after release.

• A recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found “In the US in 2016, 35.9% of people with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community were employed. The employment percentage was more than double for people without disabilities, 76.6%.

“Hire the Unhireable” recognizes that every person needs a chance, or a second chance, to become more fully human by using their God-given creativity and productivity to love others through service.  As we have said in many posts, God made us to work–it is part of living out Imago Dei.

“Hire the Unhireable” embodies the great commandment to love your neighbor by offering the dignity of work to those often overlooked or rejected in the hiring process.  The “love” is not just about offering the position–it is about going the extra mile. “Hire the Unhirable” can require extra effort to find the right people and to help people to succeed–identifying candidates, screening for suitability, special training, better-trained managers, compassionate supervision, extra grace.   The amount and nature of the extra effort will depend upon the special circumstances of those being hired and the positions being filled.

For those with life challenges such as prior incarceration or addiction recovery, “Hire the Unhireable” also reflects the nature of the God of the Bible as a God of forgiveness, grace and second chances.  It is the God who famously gave second chances to Moses the murderer, Jonah the deserter, David the adulterer, Rahab the prostitute, Peter the denier and many others.  It reflects the sentiment of Ephesians 4:28:

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

For the faithful leader seeking to lead faithfully in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities, “Hire the Unhireable” goes beyond the “tight job market”, utilitarian rationale.  It is about cultivating an organizational culture built on Biblical values of relationships, community and human dignity–“Hiring the Unhireable” even when “unchallenged” employees are available.

CONTINUUM: Practice

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Celebrate Impact” is on the Practice Continuum.  Practices reflect, and at the same time help shape and reinforce, an organization’s culture. 

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Hire the Unhireable” is Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company) because every organization, secular or faithful, can make a commitment to try to hire people who have difficulty finding a job in traditional labor markets.

“Hire the Unhireable” can also be Highly Overt if an organization explains the faithful reasons behind its counter-cultural hiring practices.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Community, Kingdom

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Hire the Unhireable” most obviously impacts those with employment challenges by giving them an opportunity to be more fully human and experience the flourishing that comes through living out Imago Dei.  It also enriches the work experience and enhances the flourishing of others in the organization as they experience and live a culture that values love, forgiveness, grace and human dignity.

Beyond employees, the communities within which the organization operates are impacted both by having their “employment challenged” members find meaningful work and by witnessing the organization’s example of living out Biblical love, forgiveness, grace and human dignity.

Finally, “Hiring the Unhireable” also impacts God’s Kingdom by serving as a bright light to the world that glorifies God–an extraordinary example of God’s love in action.  Skip Moen captured it beautifully:

The magic of loving God completely is realized in our love for others.  The reason love for your neighbor fulfills God’s request to love Him is because real love for your neighbor is God’s love.

The magic of loving God completely is realized in our love for others. (Skip Moen)

IMPLEMENTATION

Unlike many Integrity Ideas that can work for any organization, the suitability and feasibility of “Hiring the Unhireable” will depend upon the nature of the organization and the jobs.  Ultimately, faithful leaders must assess whether it is consistent with the overall best stewardship of the organization toward its WHY.

For example, in some jobs, no amount of additional training may be able to bring people with certain types of employment challenges up to the level of performance needed to maintain excellence.  In that case, “Hiring the Unhireable” may be inconsistent with good stewardship, at least for those positions.  For some employment challenges, such as hiring the formerly incarcerated or those who have come out of recovery programs, it may be as simple as eliminating internal barriers and policies that formally or practically serve to prevent hiring them.

Implementing “Hire the Unhireable” will take commitment, planning, preparation and perseverance.  What is required will vary greatly depending on the nature of the organization, the positions and the employment challenges involved.  Some questions to consider:

• What employment challenges do we want to consider?  Are there any legal or contractual hurdles to us hiring people with those challenges (e.g., security clearances or requirements in customer contracts)?

• What additional or different hiring practices need to be considered?

• What additional training will need to be implemented both for the challenged employees as well as those managing and caring for them?  What additional supervision may be required?  What additional safety measures may be needed?

• What organizations might be helpful in identifying suitable candidates, such as addiction recovery programs, prison re-entry programs, job-skills training programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, veterans support programs?

Thankfully, there are wonderful examples of organizations committed to “Hiring the Unhireable” and helping organizations “Hire the Unhireable”.  Here are a few:

Second Chance Business Coalition is a coalition of large private-sector businesses committed to hiring the formerly incarcerated.  They partner with numerous relief and training organization, and their website provides resources and tools to help organizations  get started.

• Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, NY has developed a hiring model they call “Open Hiring”, which, in their words, means “no interviews, no background checks, and no resumes are required.”  People put their names on a waitlist and the next opening goes to the next person.  Their motto is “We Don’t Hire People To Bake Brownies–We Bake Brownies To Hire People“.

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is committed to hiring people with “intellectual and developmental disabilities.”  Their website says “Changing the way people see other people.  Changing the way people value other people. Changing the way people accept other people. Changing the way people include other people. Changing the way people love other people.  Changing the way people respect other people.”

I Have A Bean is committed to hiring the previously incarcerated.  Their website beautifully declares:

As a company and as human beings, our dream today is that men and women will not be preemptively judged by the errors of our past, but that we will be known instead by the present evidence of content of our character.  Through the quality of our product, the dedication of our employees, and the passion with which we carry out our work, we live in evidence of the powerful reality of redemption.

Activate Work is a non-profit in the Denver, CO area that works with various other non-profits, such as recovery programs, to identify suitable candidates who face barriers to employment.  It then tests, screens and trains these candidates for skilled positions in fields such as IT and healthcare.

Capital III is an overtly faith-based group that has developed for-profit businesses inside a maximum security prison in Kansas, paying prisoners market wages.

As you can see, “Hire the Unhireable” can range from focusing hiring and training on a specific challenged group to simply eliminating negative screens in hiring.  What separates leading faithfully from leading opportunistically is the WHY behind “Hire the Unhireable”.

For the faithful leader, it is loving your neighbor in all labor markets and putting into practice the exhortation in Matthew 25 to care for “the least of these”.  For the worldly leader, it may driven by compassion for a particular challenged group (perhaps because the challenge has touched someone they love), or as described in the Wall Street Journal article, it may well be just about using people to achieve the end of Profit as Purpose.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I have had the privilege of seeing the challenges faced by those with employment challenges as well as seeing “Hire the Unhireable” first-hand.

One New Canaan Society brother was previously incarcerated and struggled to find a job in which he could apply his gifts and extensive sales experience because disclosing his past mistake usually ended the interview process.  Through a God “coincidence” I had the joy of witnessing, one employer gave him a chance, and he has excelled beyond their expectations.  He is incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

Another New Canaan Society brother owns a commercial roofing business in CT called All in One Construction Group.   He is on a journey to “give back” by creating a program called “Lift Them Up” that would train employment-challenged people in the roofing business and expose them to AIOCG’s faithful culture.

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