HSS Hire Group

HSS Hire Group are a leading hire provider of tools, equipment and support services to a broad range of customers – from those doing DIY projects at home, right through to construction sites who need specialist equipment, and everything in between. With branches across the UK and Ireland, HSS employ around 2,500 colleagues across their Group businesses.

Attracting and retaining the right people, with the right skill sets to each area of the business is always a key priority and with national unemployment at an all-time low there is a constant challenge to recruit and retain great people.

Lisa Crawford, Head of HR, attended a Corbett Network event in 2018 and, after hearing from other companies about their success in recruiting people with convictions, Lisa was inspired to start a similar programme at HSS.

Getting started

HSS met with a number of the great companies already working with people with convictions to get a better insight into their experiences and advice around how to set up a successful programme. The HSS team also had to consider how to land a programme internally, and created a manager pack to outline the benefits of recruiting colleagues with convictions, on a social as well as a business level.

HSS were keen to employ people on Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL). Lisa and her team visited a number of prisons to meet people with convictions, and realised there was a lot of talent that wasn’t being tapped into. Some of the senior management team also attended some sessions, as buy in from the top was key in landing the programme successfully. Working with charity partners made it much easier for HSS to set up a new programme, as they could refer candidates and make introductions to prisons.

Day to day issues

Recruitment of colleagues on ROTL or on release is managed by the HR team. They may inform relevant managers of the colleague’s circumstances but they don’t share this with any other colleagues unless absolutely necessary. It’s up to the people joining the business whether or not they want to share details of their past with their teams.

Lisa Crawford told us:

We want every colleague to have a positive start with our business, so if they choose to tell their team about their past that’s entirely up to them, but we would never disclose those details on their behalf. As far as we’re concerned, we are just focussed on attracting the best people to our business, those who have the right skill sets and attitude, and can make a really positive contribution.

Additional support

HSS recognise that colleagues recruited from prison may need support when they start work, and during their employment. The prospect of starting employment during or soon after a custodial sentence can be daunting, so HSS encourage managers to have regular catch ups with these colleagues, and to be aware of particular needs – such as allowing more time to show them how to use IT systems, to providing emotional support for adapting to life outside prison.

HSS also keep in contact with organisations who can provide specialist help and advice, such as Mind the Gap, Recycling Lives, A Fairer Chance and St Giles Trust. The HR team are always on hand to help colleagues and their managers make the transition as easy as possible, and ensure appropriate support is offered to colleagues wherever necessary.

Impact on the business

Currently HSS have four colleagues working on ROTL. Two previous colleagues on ROTL have now left prison and continue to work in the business. HSS have found a really high level of engagement, commitment and positive attitude from colleagues recruited so far through this programme. Some have chosen to tell their teams about their backgrounds, and there have been some really positive discussions about it, with existing colleagues offering support and extra help where needed. Thanks to this success, HSS are planning to widen their approach to recruiting people with convictions because they recognise the positive impact and valuable skills these people can bring to their business. Recruiting this way also has a positive impact on the communities HSS operate in and HSS are proud to be helping rehabilitate those with past convictions.

Lisa told us:

We play an active role in the rehabilitation of colleagues we recruit on ROTL and who are recommended by our partners. We support them in developing their skills and confidence which not only enables them to actively contribute to our business, it also helps them to get their lives back on track after their conviction. We really believe that everyone deserves a second chance.

What about people in the community with a criminal record?

HSS always aim to recruit and retain a diverse, inclusive workforce, and that means recruiting people from different backgrounds based on their skill set, not their past. Recruiting people with convictions is part of the wider recruitment strategy. HSS don’t ask about criminal records on application forms, or on their careers website. The HR and recruitment teams review all applications and, if an applicant is suitable for interview they are contacted by telephone and at that point are asked if they have any unspent convictions. If they have, they are asked for a disclosure letter to advise on the circumstances around the conviction/s. The disclosure is reviewed by the relevant Director and HR, before progressing the candidate. Lisa says:

We ask candidates for the full circumstances around any convictions so we can make a fair assessment about their suitability for a role with us. It also means that if any colleague raises a colleague’s conviction to us, we already know all the facts, and can say “yes, we’re aware thank you.” HSS have recruited people from prison and on release, as well as from the community, and continue to find increased retention rates and high performance within this group.

We think HSS are taking a proactive approach to recruiting people with criminal records. For more information see their website.

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Rachel Tynan