Researchers at Northwestern University have found that employees with criminal records may stick with certain jobs longer. An investigation into the possible connection between criminal charges and job performance showed that employees with a record stayed in their jobs an average of 19 days longer compared to individuals with no criminal background.
The study was focused on data from 58,977 employees in sales or customer service jobs in call centers across the United States. The information was collected by a hiring agency from May 2008 to January 2014.
“In sales and customer service positions, turnover is a major labor cost,” explained co-author Deborah Weiss. “Our study found that employees with criminal records had a longer tenure and were less likely to quit their jobs voluntarily than other workers. This finding suggests that individuals with a criminal record represent an untapped productivity pool.”
The research indicates that employees with criminal records may have fewer job prospects, which keeps them in the same jobs longer.
“Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to receive an offer of employment,” said Weiss. “Six months after release from prison, 50 to 80 percent of the formerly incarcerated remain unemployed. Some of those who are offered employment may stay longer because they have no other options and others may feel a sense of loyalty or gratitude to an employer who has given them a second chance.”
The study also found that former criminals were 34 percent more likely to demonstrate unacceptable or improper behavior in sales jobs but not in customer service positions, which implies that employees with a criminal record may perform better in customer service roles.
Despite the higher misconduct rate, however, sales employees with a criminal record may be still a good investment. While employees with criminal records were found to increase theft-related costs in sales positions by about $43, the same employees saved their employers around $746 in turnover.
“Finding gainful employment for individuals with a criminal background is an important public priority: without such employment, reoffending is almost inevitable,” said Weiss. “While our study may not entirely dispel employers’ fears that hiring applicants with a criminal record may carry risks, our findings suggest that there are unexploited opportunities to hiring applicants with a record in a way that makes sense both on efficiency and on moral grounds.”
The study authors pointed out that the study only accounted for data on individuals working in sales and customer service jobs, which limits how the results can be applied to other positions.
The research is published in the IZA Journal of Labor Policy.