Sackett Says: Don’t Let Ideology Make Inclusion Exclusive

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Feb 5, 2019

Note: The following article is reposted from The Tim Sackett Project. In it Tim Sackett, an HR industry thought leader, offers his take on the controversy over SHRM’s partnership with Koch Industries, the private held conglomerate owned by the politically activist Koch brothers. For more about the issue see “#fixitSHRM Controversy Erupts Over HR Group’s Partnership With Political Financiers.”


When it comes to hiring bias in America we HATE hiring 3 types of candidates:

  • Old people
  • Fat people
  • People with a criminal record

SHRM decided to try and make an impact and help those with past criminal records get hired with their new initiative called Getting Talent Back to Work. 

GTBW is an initiative launched by SHRM to get employers to join in and take a pledge that their organizations will work to put people with criminal records back into their hiring pools. Koch Industries, a multi-billion dollar corporations with over 120,000 employees, was SHRM’s launch partner, which drew some ire from some of the HR blogging community.

When I first heard of the program, and HR blogging blow back, the first thing came to mind was the quote,“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” by William Shakespeare from the Tempest.

There are millions of American workers right now who are miserable because they have a record and we will not allow them to pay their debt to society.

This was the same language used by Torin Ellis and Julie Sowash on their entertaining podcast Crazy and The King. Julie was really upset by the Koch relationship because of their conservative political stance, and Torin saw it a little less so, which I thought brought great balance to this discussion. Not blind at all to what is going on, but also hopeful and realistic to how difficult this issue really is to change.

So, what do I think about all this?

Making change is messy business. Getting people with criminal records real jobs isn’t something we’ve done really well in our society. 1/3 of Americans have some sort of criminal record and we can’t just throw all of these people away. We have to start truly believing that a debt paid, is actually paid.

Johnny Taylor has a giant association to lead. Some SHRM members are ultra-liberal. Some are ultra-conservative. Some are socialist. Some are religious zealots. Some are atheist. While some HR bloggers hate him for allowing Koch Industries to be a part of this program, I find this view to be exclusive and not inclusive of all.

Odds are there are as many people who love that SHRM has Koch Industries as a partner, as there are people who hate that SHRM has Koch Industries as a partner. (With 300,000+ members the stats will play out like America in general.) By the way, SHRM also has over 500 other organizations that have stepped up and taken the pledge! Which is what this is really all about!

Like the ex-criminals we are trying to help get back to work, why is it we believe that Koch Industries can’t help in this situation? We all have things in our life, in our past, that some wouldn’t agree with, and things that people would love, no matter our political persuasion.

Our reality is almost every organization is, or has probably done some crap we all can’t agree on, but they probably are smaller, or keep a lower profile, or believe in what you believe in, so we give them a pass.

I have many friends who lean very heavily liberal. Also, some ultra-conservative. Also, some socialist, and libertarian and who knows what else! I don’t agree with their politics and they don’t agree with my moderate politics, yet we can work together to help others and solve problems. It’s not all or nothing. That’s not how our country works. If my neighbor views the world differently than I, I don’t watch his home burn down with him in it, I run in and save him.

We are intelligent beasts that have the ability to separate one ideology from another, and while we won’t always agree, it doesn’t mean we can’t find value in one another. We are HR! We own D&I. We need to stop making inclusion exclusive to one belief and not all beliefs.

So, kudos for SHRM in launching this initiative in getting organizations to really dig into this issue of hiring people with criminal records who have paid their debt to society. Kudos to each and every company that has taken the pledge to help these people who desperately need it.

I encourage you to go take a look at the site and decide if taking this pledge is right for your organization!