Before the pandemic, 38% of manufacturers had trouble finding candidates with the right skills, and today that number is 54%, according to a report by The Workforce Institute at UKG thinktank. Yet, despite this labor crisis, Cincinnati-based Nehemiah Manufacturing has more applicants than it can handle, even as it navigates a pandemic-driven business boon.
When Co-Founder and CEO Dan Meyer started the company with five people in 2009, the dream was to bring manufacturing jobs back to Cincinnati’s inner city. His team connected with a local social services agency to find candidates looking for work during the recession. That led to the agency asking if Meyer would consider ex-felons as part of the candidate pool.
When Meyer learned about how hard it was for these candidates to find jobs only to be turned away due to their criminal record, he saw an opportunity to make a difference in the community. That insight led to the creation of Nehemiah’s Second Chance program which gave formerly incarcerated applicants a chance at a fresh start. Through the program, the company considers all candidates regardless of past work issues or substance abuse problems. The only factor they are concerned about is whether an applicant is ready and willing to work.
Nehemiah employs a full-time social service team of three and partners with a host of social service agencies in the Cincinnati area. The social support team meets with each new employee to conduct a full assessment of the individual’s immediate barriers to employment.Together they evaluate things like housing stability, available transportation, drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues, and outstanding fees and fines to develop a plan to remove the barriers that have historically kept that individual from holding a job.
The Second Chance program has given Nehemiah a considerable edge over its peers. With nearly 200 employees today, the company brings in about $60 million in revenue and ranks in the top 20% of manufacturing firms in terms of earnings. That lagging indicator of success correlates with leading underlying indicators, such as:
- 15% turnover rate (compared to up to 100% competitor turnover)
- 40% improvement in efficiency per employee after 90 days on the job
In addition to its internal key performance indicators, Nehemiah ranked among the Top Workplaces three years in a row by the Cincinnati Enquirer and has earned Best For The World recognition as a Certified B Corporation in 2021.
Kudos to Nehemiah for showing that doing well and doing good are performance multipliers. You can learn more about some of the company’s Second Chance stories here, and find resources for how to start a second chance hiring initiative in your workplace by visiting SHRM.