An unpopular cause

Nov 16 2011 by Brian Amble Print This Article

As far as most employers are concerned, having a criminal record is the kiss of death for a job applicant. But that's not the case for Richard Branson's Virgin companies, however, where the message is "everybody deserves a second chance".

Encouraging a positive attitude towards ex-offenders isn't exactly the most popular of causes, but according to

This lengthy piece in the Guardian newspaper, it is one championed by Branson.

Branson has been encouraging Virgin Group companies to employ ex-offenders since hearing about an Australian transport company Toll, which has employed hundreds of ex-prisoners over the past decade, none of whom are known to have reoffended.

According to the piece, Branson's attitude stems from personal experience:

"I made some mistakes. I could easily have spent time in prison myself over importing records and not paying tax. Then I would have had great difficulty finding a job. Virgin might never have happened and the 60,000 people we now employ might not have had jobs. So I'm sympathetic from a human viewpoint."

He adds: "I've had people at Virgin who have been caught stealing and I've given them a second chance. We had one kid who was taking albums sent to us by record companies and selling them to a secondhand record shop. By giving him a second chance he became one of the best employees we ever had."

And whatever you attitude towards ex-offenders, Branson has another piece of advice that anyone involved in talent management should take notice of: "[give] people positions above what they would expect, [and] they will do everything to prove themselves."