Whenever I come across news reporting on gun violence and mass shootings, which is almost daily, I remind myself what’s happening in our country is not normal.
Gun violence, which is often linked to domestic violence, is terrorism. And terrorism is happening more frequently at work.
Last week, the worst happened. A gunman shot five people in Aurora, IL. Their names are:
Clayton Parks, HR Manager
Trevor Wehner, HR Intern and Student at Northern Illinois University
Russell Beyer, Mold Operator & Union Representative
Vicente Juarez, Forklift operator
Josh Pinkard, Plant Manager
The shooting is the latest in a very long string of attacks by men who are disturbed, agitated, and take out their anger and aggression on colleagues. The individual in Aurora? Shocking nobody, he’s a convicted felon with a history of violence against women.
The GoFund Me for the victims of the Aurora shooting can be found here.
Right now, America’s largest HR association is engaged in a dialogue about how to help convicted felons find work after they are released from prison. It’s called “Getting Talent Back to Work.”
Getting Talent Back to Work is a national pledge open to all organizations that was signed even before the formal announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the American Staffing Association, SHRM, Koch Industries, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation and more. Organizations are pledging to give opportunities to qualified people with a criminal background, deserving of a second chance, which creates successful outcomes for employers, all employees, customers and communities. Ninety-five percent of people in prison will be released—that’s more than 650,000 people every year. As they re-enter society, people with criminal backgrounds are deprived of employment opportunities and organizations are deprived of qualified talent, creating harmful consequences for millions of people.
The argument goes that, once our neighbors and family members people have paid their debt to society, we should make it easier for them to find jobs and return to normal lives. SHRM believes that HR can be a positive force for change and help these men and women contribute to society.
I’m supportive of this initiative, but there’s more work to do.
While it makes sense for HR professionals to be recruiting advocates — and former criminals are an untapped talent pool — we should also be advocates for colleagues who are victims of domestic violence. We should push for better funding for mental health programs. And we should fight for commonsense gun reform to protect our employees from localized forms of terror, too.
Those three things alone would be game-changing for every American worker and might make a lot of people feel better about working alongside convicted felons.
So, tonight I’m going to say a prayer for the families in Aurora and also pray for SHRM to use its sizable lobbying powers and financial coffers to tackle the problem of criminal justice reform and physical and psychological safety at work.
That’s what HR should be all about.