SHRM Reaffirms Second Chance Employment, Hiring Older Workers As 2019 Priorities

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 20, 2019

Speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management's Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. discussed the US labor shortage and what he sees as two key untapped talent markets:

  • People with criminal backgrounds; and
  • Older workers.

"The biggest issue to hit us is access to employment," said Taylor of his organization. With 6 million people looking for an estimated 7.5 million open jobs and what he called "a serious skills gap problem for employers today," Taylor said that SHRM has a new initiative for getting talented people back to work.

Noting that one in three Americans has an arrest record, Taylor said employers cannot afford to ignore this untapped pool. "The pledge is not to commit to hiring a certain number [of people with criminal records], but the pledge is to not automatically trash their resumes," he said.

In all, 11 states have "ban the box" laws prohibiting private employers from asking criminal history questions on initial job applications, and sometimes later in the hiring process.

Many employers and HR professionals welcome the idea of hiring the formerly incarcerated but do not know how to do it, Taylor noted, adding that SHRM is positioned to help and is prioritizing the issue.

Hiring Older Workers

Another big focus for SHRM is eliminating barriers to employment for older workers. Taylor said that by older, he was talking about 50-year-olds in many cases. He explained that he receives many letters from people in the so-called "sandwich generation," with elderly parents still alive and kids in college, who are having a tough time finding meaningful employment.

Taylor stressed the need for employers to invest in training and retraining because these workers often have a lot to offer. "If you're talking only about millennials at a job fair, you're by definition excluding older workers," said Taylor, who added that the average SHRM member is a 47-year-old woman in the Midwest. "So… it's not just theoretically relevant; it personally impacts our base member."

Heat for White House Ties

Taylor repeated SHRM's theme since he took the helm, "We're into policy, not politics." But the organization has faced criticism from some members who used #fixitSHRM on Twitter to critique Taylor's appearance at an event with President Trump last year to announce a new White House Jobs Initiative, which SHRM supported.

Taylor is a member of the recently-formed American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, headed by Ivanka Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and hosted Ivanka Trump at the conference on Monday. But he shrugged off concerns that this makes SHRM partisan, noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook (a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates) also is on the advisory board.

Maintaining that SHRM is about diversity, Taylor said, "The reality is we will always make someone unhappy. That's not our goal, but it's reality." He added that policy makers need to hear from those with HR expertise so that's why it's important for SHRM to have a place at the table.