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Recent Projects:

Chicago Fair Chance Hiring Initiative

In partnership with the Corporate Coalition of Chicago and the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, Afton is facilitating the inaugural Fair Chance Hiring Initiative, a business-led effort to reduce barriers to hiring individuals with criminal justice involvement. The goals of the Initiative are to demonstrate and promote local models of successful fair-chance hiring, to build a cross-industry group of local champions for fair chance hiring to scale the effort, and ultimately to increase the number of people with criminal records gaining productive, family-supportive employment. Companies represent a diverse mix of industries, company sizes, level of regulation, and progress in their fair chance hiring journey. Some companies are Chicago-focused, while others operate nationally or globally.

Over the course of nine months—January through September 2023—human resources, diversity, and culture representatives from ten companies gather monthly to engage in peer-to-peer learning, learn from experts about potential solutions, and identify internal changes they can make to their talent acquisition processes to more effectively include candidates with criminal histories. Cohort members are also provided with individualized technical assistance and tailored connections to industry experts and other workforce supports over the duration of the program.

Topics covered in the monthly sessions include:

  • Reframing common concerns about regulatory barriers
  • Recruiting and building a talent pool
  • Shaping inclusive background check practices
  • Offering wrap-around supports and engaging partners
  • Getting buy-in
  • Developing an inclusive culture
  • Compiling and reporting data
  • Setting up talent for success
  • Launching a pilot

Our Insights

Building trust and rapport among cohort members is key to generating buy-in and spurring action. In order to engage in peer-to-peer learning, members of the cohort need to feel secure that what they share will remain confidential, that their colleagues will refrain from judgement, and that that the learning environment is conducive to trial and error. Setting grounded agreements and group norms can help with this, as can cross-company small group discussion to create camaraderie. Additionally, having expert check-ins with each company on a regular basis ensures the facilitation team can connect with team members individually and support group connection.

Industry diversity is one of the cohort’s greatest assets. Hearing what other companies are doing in different industries across different geographies helps cohort members imagine what is possible. Each of the ten companies is at a different point in their fair chance hiring journey, so sharing what works, what’s been challenging, and how roadblocks have been overcome has led to new insights and actions.

Stats & Impact

Afton believes that developing fair chance employer champions will:

  • Decrease the unemployment rate for justice involved individuals.
    • In Illinois, the unemployment rate is 27% for those who were formerly incarcerated compared to ~4% for the general population​.
  • Address racial disparities in the labor market.
    • ~35% of people convicted of crime in Illinois are Black
  • Reduce turnover and hiring costs for individual employers.
    • At Dave’s Killer Bread, fair chance hires outperformed traditional hires in attendance, policy, and behavioral violations, and were promoted faster over a three-year period