On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Dr. Carr from Walmart.org and Tiesa from the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice about unlocking potential: how employers can use hiring to disrupt the prison pipeline.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 31 minutes
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Dr. Marvin Carr And Tiesa Leggett
Music: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s recruiting live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Makes sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, it’s William Tincup, and you’re listening to RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Marvin and Tiesa on and we’ll be talking… Our topic today is unlock potential, how employers can use hiring to disrupt the prison pipeline. I’ve talked to a couple people about this particular thing. So I can’t wait to talk to Marvin and Tiesa about this. So let’s do introductions first. Tiesa, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself? Then Marvin, would you introduce yourself?
Tiesa Leggett: 01:05 Absolutely. My name is Tiesa Leggett, and I am the director of special projects and partnerships at the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice. One of the areas that I help to manage is the Unlock Potential program. It’s just wonderful being here today.
William Tincup: 01:24 Awesome, and Marvin.
Marvin Carr: 01:26 Great. Good afternoon or good evening wherever you are in the world. Anyways. I’m Marvin Carr. I’m a director in the Center for Racial Equity at Walmart, particularly at walmart.org. I lead in two areas. I support the business as a subject matter expert and a supporter and work through the shared value networks, which are boots of amazing colleagues focusing on figuring out how Walmart uses internal resources to address systemic racism. Then the second part of my job is in walmart.org or the Walmart Foundation where I lead portfolio of grants and our philanthropic work dedicated to addressing criminal justice issues, specifically anti-blackness and systemic racism when it comes to those engaged in the criminal justice system. So it’s great to be here with you.
William Tincup: 02:23 Oh my goodness, both of y’all are doing amazing work. Marvin, I worked for Walmart for about seven years and actually relocated to Bentonville and worked for Sam Walton for two of those years. So I have some Walmart DNA running around. I could tell you some stories from the eighties, but you probably wouldn’t be interested in most of those stories.
Marvin Carr: 02:48 I actually just moved to Bentonville myself back well about nine months ago. So I understand the transition.
William Tincup: 02:55 Yes, yes. Back then, there wasn’t a corporate headquarters. It was a Walmart. That was the corporate headquarters. So y’all doing amazing work. A guy that I know was telling me about basically prison population because we were talking about talent and about how hard it is for how to get talent. He works for a background screening company and his whole bit was we got to get rid of this box that people click on and it’s like not all felonies are equal and not all felonies are recent. There’s 70 million-ish people with felonies, disproportionately brown and black folks. He goes, we want to actually help. We need to help here. So let’s just start with just some overviews of things that y’all see why disrupting the prison pipeline is critical to tackling racial inequality and economic immobility. Tiesa, why don’t you start us off? Just give us your take and tell us what you think.
Tiesa Leggett: 04:09 Absolutely. So when we talk about disrupting that pipeline, we’re talking also about poverty to prison pipeline. We believe at RBIJ that it is critically important that young people, especially those that are opportunity youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who’ve been affected by four factors. Either they have been impacted by the justice system because their parent was incarcerated while they were under the age of 18, or they are aging out of foster care, have been directly impacted by human trafficking or have been impacted by the juvenile justice system themself. So when you have those types of factors, the weight of the world consequences are stacked against you. By offering opportunities, career opportunities, livable wages opportunities, we believe that will give a young person some purpose. Not solving the problem completely, but it’s one of many solutions potentially. Statistics… I’m sorry.
William Tincup: 05:19 No, no. What’s interesting is it can be overwhelming when you think of that, the historical problems, current problems and what will obviously be some of the future problems. It can be overwhelming for folks to think about how do we write the wrongs of the past. How do we fix? Okay. Again, like 70 million people are incarcerated and some of those are rightfully so, but there’s a lot of the criminal… I mean, I’m old enough to remember the crack epidemic and how we treated cocaine, how the justice system treated cocaine and crack differently. It was disproportionately different.
Tiesa Leggett: 06:04 Yeah, absolutely.
William Tincup: 06:04 It’s like, okay, well, how do we fix that? What I love about the way that you’ve unpacked this is, it’s like, okay, we’re not going to trying to go backwards. We’re trying to just start with here’s what’s actually going on right now even before we can help. It ain’t going to fix it overnight.
Tiesa Leggett: 06:22 No.
William Tincup: 06:23 But it didn’t get sideways overnight either.
Tiesa Leggett: 06:25 That’s right.
William Tincup: 06:26 Interesting. Okay. I interrupted you. I’m sorry. You go.
Tiesa Leggett: 06:30 No, I think you bring up actually some even more important points that I hope that Dr. Carr unpacks a little bit more because he is very well versed in those areas. But I’d also add that economic empowerment in any community is helpful. If you think about the investments into communities, it’s based upon a person’s ability to make and earn a living. The health of a community depends upon economic development jobs and the like. Also, we need to think of transportation, all of the different barriers that surrounds the radius of a life cycle of a young person in a community, this is just bare bones foundation. So when we talk about disrupting, this is one of the disruptors, but I’ll pass the mic to Dr. Carr on this one, too.
William Tincup: 07:23 Sure. Marvin, what are you thinking?
Marvin Carr: 07:26 This conversation always brings up new thoughts in my mind. Tiesa, you said the word disruption and I think in business, but especially in philanthropy, we work so hard to simplify problems in order to address them. But one thing about this is that this is not a simple issue. So the pipeline example, it happens throughout the social conscious movement, but looking at this issue as a pipeline is too simplistic. The truth is, this is a harmful intercommunal intergenerational cycle. What Tiesa said, disrupts, that’s really what UP is about. How do we disrupt that cycle? I say oftentimes that it is the work of the world to repair the harm of the past, but you repair the harm of the past by investing in the future. So what UP does is that UP allows us to reach those who we have the most difficult time to reach.
So let me step back. The opportunities’ movement en large, so there are millions of young people across the country, across the world really, that are out of school, not at work. So a lot of philanthropy focuses on that population. But within that population, there are even more marginalized groups that nonprofits and philanthropy just doesn’t go after. They’re so hard to get to.
Tiesa Leggett: 09:06 Absolutely.
Marvin Carr: 09:07 Right. These four groups of young people are in that margin, even inside the opportunity seek space. So many folks in philanthropy are okay with not necessarily worrying about those groups who are on the margins, on the fringes because they’re so difficult to get to and so difficult to count and so difficult to understand the return on investment of those groups. What UP does, UP is a very, very conscious effort of focusing on those who no one is focusing on in this kind of way. The second thing that I do is that it thinks about, okay, we’re going to bring them in, but how do we disrupt the cycle? How do we ensure that the harmful experiences of their parents don’t inform their future? How do we ensure that the harmful experiences that they’ve had as a victim is understood in a way that supports them in their future as well?
William Tincup: 10:08 It’s interesting. I want to get y’all’s take on this because for years, we’ve approached outsider looking in. So we’ve approached this problem from a moral and ethical perspective, like this is the right thing to do. Again, I mean, I think we can all agree it’s the right thing to do. I think for most capitalists, and again we’ll step outside and we want y’all to tear this apart for me, but I think for most capitalists they become tone deaf to moral and ethical whatever is perceived as moral and ethical obligations. But if we made it about capitalism, hear me out, you’re just missing on talent. There’s 70 million people. Again, the number’s much larger than that when we think about it. You’re just missing on talent. There’s a talent shortage at the local Jack in the box. You’re missing on talent. You’re losing sales. You’re losing revenue. Now that’s not ethical or moral. That’s just capitalism.
Marvin Carr: 11:16 Yeah. William, you’re definitely right. So at Walmart, I would say, I would culture it in two things. In communities where people feel safer walking through a Walmart parking lot into the store, in communities where people feel safe shopping in the store, in the communities where Walmart associates feel safe and comfortable interacting with the community, Walmart thrives. Just one of the economic arguments there. But also, to your point, in these same communities, if we can tap into this talent pool, not just those who are leaving prison, but those who have this kind of high propensity of going to prison in the first place. You’re absolutely right that there is an economic argument.
So my second part of that is at Walmart, we approach our philanthropy in our business through what we call shared value, right. In our philanthropic work, our focus is how do we advance the work of the business in society? So I feel super empowered. I hear your question, and that is because there is a shared value for Walmart, for Walmart shareholders, for Walmart communities and for large society, for Walmart to invest in these young people, in the talent pool because what happens is that it is not just Walmart getting the labor that it needs or Walmart getting the talent it needs. It’s also communities. They need the young people.
Tiesa Leggett: 12:51 Agree.
William Tincup: 12:53 Tiesa, again, tear what I said apart.
Tiesa Leggett: 12:58 I don’t know that I could even explain or even dissect it any better than what Dr. Carr just said. I think it is increasingly important, I’ll add this to it, to recognize that it is just as much the business community’s job, or I’d say job to ensure that there is opportunities. I say that because when you’re entering communities, whether it be community of color or otherwise that it is important that those that live in those communities are a part of your organization. In my opinion, it’s unfortunate that it’s positioned as anything other than that. Why would you take from other communities and put those employees and communities that they don’t necessarily serve or have interest in?
So in my opinion UP is allowing going back to the basis, basics basically, Unlocked Potential is. It’s really encouraging people to go back to the community because of the aspect of even wraparound services. I want to go back just a bit, if you don’t mind.
William Tincup: 14:15 No, no.
Tiesa Leggett: 14:16 The Unlocked Potential candidate will also have support, wraparound care support from another Walmart grantee who’s our partner called Persevere. We are going to ensure that this young person has support from the community by the community, from people they know or know of in addition to the support from that particular organization. So it’s a community effort. It’s a joint effort. It’s a partnership and it’s not someone outside coming in telling them what to do. So I think that’s something. I guess I’m just adding to what you’re saying, but it always should have been this way, that communities should benefit from corporations coming into their community.
Marvin Carr: 15:02 Yeah. Another thing, Tiesa, is, and the growing ESG movement, William, that you’re probably aware of in that corporate space, one of the things that Walmart sticks really is starting to focus on is not necessarily going beyond ESG, but complimenting it with our work around regeneration. We don’t often talk about regeneration or being regenerative outside of sustainability. But Tiesa what you said made me think that there’s also a need to be regenerative and think about, we also take talent from communities. We use the talent of communities and it’s important for us to also think about regeneration in that aspect. How do we reinvest? How do we be regenerative when it comes to the people-
Tiesa Leggett: 15:59 Absolutely.
Marvin Carr: 16:01 … that we interact with in communities, the people that invest in Walmart and communities and from the people whose communities actually allow us to borrow their young people and their aunties and uncles for eight hours a day to help serve our [inaudible 00:16:17]?
William Tincup: 16:19 It seems like common sense, but it’s not. I mean, back in 100 years ago, I opened up Walmarts all over the country. We’d go into a community and we’d hire obviously local. It’s something I wanted to ask y’all about. We’d create opportunities for a lot of folks like kids, let’s just call it what it was back, in the eighties that didn’t have opportunities like this. So it was like their first job. It was their first bit. We have talked a little bit about second chance and how important that is to strip away a lot of the stigma and taboo around second chance. But I think what both of y’all are keyed in on is creating first chance inside of a community, for the community and with the community in a partnership. If you go into a community, as you should, then first chance opportunities are just as important probably if not more important than second chance opportunities.
Tiesa Leggett: 17:21 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 17:23 When you look at first and second chance opportunities, what do y’all see in so far as it relates to your work?
Tiesa Leggett: 17:30 I would say that I despise it being called first chance.
William Tincup: 17:38 It’s just a chance.
Tiesa Leggett: 17:40 My goodness.
William Tincup: 17:43 Fair enough.
Tiesa Leggett: 17:43 Internally we call it that. That’s where Unlocked Potential got its name. I have to say shout out to my CEO, Celia Ouellette, because when we were having discussions about this, I said that in our meeting. So she’s like, “Okay, well, let’s unpack that.” I said, “Well, with anyone else, it’s an opportunity.”
William Tincup: 18:01 That’s a right. That’s exactly right.
Tiesa Leggett: 18:03 It just is. You just apply you get in, right?
William Tincup: 18:05 That’s right. That’s right.
Tiesa Leggett: 18:06 So for the purpose of this conversation, because of second chance and because of the emphasis on opportunity youth, of course, I think in HR and otherwise we say first chance to kind of differentiate, but I want to be clear. That’s why I love the name unlock potential because we’re saying we’re unlocking potential and those candidates are young people with the opportunity that have been untapped.
William Tincup: 18:30 That’s right.
Tiesa Leggett: 18:31 We’re not looking just to make them, and I want to be clear about even my role, is to look at the holistic young person because again we’ve got to be honest about our world inflation and the like and also realistic about affordable housing. It’s more to it. I just don’t want to come on here on your show and kind of mask the reality of living in America right now. So for this young person, this is an opportunity. It’s not a first chance. It’s a chance. We don’t want you to disrupt. We want to take out some of those barriers in your life or things that were of consequence to you by no fault of yours and ensure that you have the support you need to be successful. So that’s where that wraparound care support comes in. That’s where financial wellness comes in.
We have had interest from all different types of businesses, including the financial sector. I won’t speak on it too much, but I appreciated their input on even credit scores. Are these young people aware of that? Foster children specifically have the highest rate of people manipulating their credit scores. So you get a job, you try to buy a house or you try to rent an apartment and your score is not up to par. We want to support them. We want to help the holistic experience of that young person. So I just don’t want to come off that I think a job is going to fix everything because it’s not. What we’re saying is for this opportunity, we are going to give you more of a holistic opportunity.
William Tincup: 20:23 I love that because again it’s not simplistic because I think if-
Tiesa Leggett: 20:27 No.
William Tincup: 20:27 … we make it simplistic, then people are going to think, “Oh, okay, well we’ll just give folks jobs and that fixes everything.” It’s like, no.
Tiesa Leggett: 20:33 Well, no.
William Tincup: 20:33 No.
Tiesa Leggett: 20:34 You need a career. You need a career. I mean, if it feels dead end, you lose your purpose. I mean, that’s for anybody. If you don’t feel like you’re contributing to your goals or to your dream, anyone will feel like they’re at a dead. We’ve all felt that way, regardless of whether we’ve been impacted by the justice system. Everyone at some point feels like, okay, why am I doing what I’m doing? What gets me up every day? So we want to ensure that that question’s not necessarily solved for, but explored and explored with a social worker, someone who cares about them within their community.
William Tincup: 21:10 Yeah. Not all jobs or opportunities are created equal. So you can have that opportunity, but if that opportunity has a ceiling, then you’ll have to go and create another opportunity. So it’s actually something Walmart historically did really well is they take people from cashiers to CSMs, to out on the floor, to department managers. I mean, there’s a whole say hierarchy that’s not probably the right way to think of it, but there was internal mobility, which is nice, but that’s not everywhere. Marvin, did you have anything that… First of all, she crushed the first chance saying-
Marvin Carr: 21:52 Did she?
William Tincup: 21:53 She crushed it. She crushed it. I love it because she’s changed my mind. I love it because that’s part of doing podcasting is learning from folks. So I’ll never say first chance again. It’s done. It’s out of the lexicon. Tiesa, just take it and done. Wave a wand. I will never say that again. She’s right. We all need to retraining and reprogramming. So Marvin, did you have anything to add on first chance, second chance opportunity?
Marvin Carr: 22:28 I mean, Tiesa crushed it. What I will add is that it can be uncomfortable talking about equity. Equity is a very specific thing. I mean, outside of the financial no definition around equity, it’s a very specific thing and a very specific action. So that’s a thing about racial equity, that you have to do something to provide equity for specific group. That’s really what Unlocked Potential is. That there is something because of the past, because of the past along, because of experience that has this specific group starting 10 feet back in the race with the rest of the racers.
All Unlock Potential does is try to get them up closer to the starting line with everyone else’s. That is the work of racial equity. It is that some people… We had an amazing conversation with Darren Walker, the president of Ford Foundation, a few weeks back. He just made it so clear that we can choose as a company, as a people, as a society to give people a fair chance. It’s that simple. It’s not capitalism. It’s not democracy. It is just the right thing to do, to give people the things they need to be successful. I think that’s what we’re trying to focus on at the Center for Racial Equity and criminal justice and health and education and access to finance.
What can we do at Walmart, as the world’s biggest company? We give about 1.2 billion a year in giving. So what can we do through the company and philanthropy to bring people closer to the starting line? That’s what this project does. So Tiesa really hit out the part of that. These young people don’t get the same opportunities because of their past. We just want to help to get them to be treated like everyone else.
William Tincup: 24:39 Dumb question alert because I work with our HR a lot, GP officers and a lot of town acquisition folks. Especially when buying something, they always kind of fall back on ROI. I think it’s a bit of a crutch, but when we think of equity, how do we know when we’ve you run into this? How do we know that we’ve reached the goal?
Marvin Carr: 25:09 This is where I get in trouble, William. So I’m going to pass it.
William Tincup: 25:13 Well, I love that. So yes. No, I don’t want you to get in trouble. I don’t want you to get in trouble. I’m struggling with how HR would look at this and go equity, yes, good, need to do it. How do I know that I’ve actually reached that target or that goal?
Marvin Carr: 25:29 Yeah. So I think I’ll start with the top line. I’m going to go back to the earlier question and I resist this, but it helps right around capitalism and around productivity. Very, very clear. My academic background is in racial equity, especially when it comes to the tech sector. It’s very clear that organization’s, company’s profit is directly positively correlated to how diverse their boards, their companies and their C-suites are. So on the front end, return on investment, when it comes to diversity in the DEI conversation, it’s clear. It’s very clear. It is measurable that companies that have more equitable access based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender make more money for their shareholders and their communities.
What makes your question difficult, I would say, is whenever you ask someone to measure diversity, it gets very, very, very political and it gets messy. The easiest thing to do just because of who we are as a society is to quantify return investment in terms of profit. For me though, as a kind of engineer term, social scientist, return investment for me is all qualitatives.
Tiesa Leggett: 27:16 Yes, it is.
Marvin Carr: 27:16 It is the lived experiences of a young people who will be the beneficiaries of Walmart’s billions of dollars of investments in DEI over the next 20, 30, however many years.
William Tincup: 27:32 Let’s just say generations. It’s going to-
Marvin Carr: 27:32 Generations.
William Tincup: 27:34 It’ll take generations to create that hope. That people feel like they… Potentially, if they feel like they have hope, opportunities, then you’re closer to equitable than not.
Marvin Carr: 27:48 Exactly. I mean, Walmart employs probably one of the top employees for African Americans in the United States, so black Americans. So say we have 400,000 black employees and they have an average of three children. Just Walmart itself giving access to free college for frontline employees can have a measurable impact on the black experience. That’s what Walmart does. Walmart, through our program, for those who work on the front lines in stores, if you want to go to school, if you want to go back and get your GED, if you want to get your bachelor’s degree in an area that connects to the business, Walmart will pay for your tuition and books. That is our approach to equity. We don’t call that racial equity, but we understand that because black people in America have the lowest completion rate, amongst lowest completion rates, in the academic spaces, given this opportunity is in itself racial equity and approach racial. Of course, [inaudible 00:28:56]. I’ll leave it right there.
William Tincup: 29:03 Tiesa, first of all, I wanted your take, but I know we’re going to need more time the next time we talk. So go ahead and tell me what you’re thinking, and then we’ll close out the show.
Tiesa Leggett: 29:11 It’s very hard to follow Dr. Carr on questions like that. Oh my gosh.
William Tincup: 29:19 I should have asked you first is what you said.
Tiesa Leggett: 29:19 Everything he said. I think one thing I would say is when I think of equity as a consumer, I want to know the percentage of staff who believe they’re treated fairly and with respect in the workplace. I want to know the percentage of staff who feel that their compensation is fair and their role industry standards. That their external vendors are owned by women, people of color, LGBTQ, veteran, disabled, whatever characteristics, those percentages and what those percentages are for them individually. So that to me is part of the measurement, I guess, aspect. It just depends, I guess, company by company, but to me, when you talk about return on investment, I think Dr. Carr summed it up beautifully. It is a proven fact when you are inclusive, the bottom line absolutely increases. That’s ESG in a nutshell. The human define it as sustainability is the balance of economic, social, and environmental. All three have to be in balance in order to really make the world a better place.
William Tincup: 30:28 Drops mic, walks off stage.
Tiesa Leggett: 30:31 That’s my thought on that.
William Tincup: 30:32 That’s what she just did, and I will never say first chance again. Done. Done. It’s out of my lexicon. It’s done.
Tiesa Leggett: 30:40 Unlock potential. Unlock potential.
William Tincup: 30:42 I love it. I love it. I’m so glad. Thank y’all both. I know you’re super busy. Thank you, literally. Thank you for carving out time for us and the audience.
Tiesa Leggett: 30:50 Oh, absolutely. Thank you for having us. We really appreciate it.
William Tincup: 30:53 Absolutely. Thanks for everyone listening to RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time.
Music: 30:59 You’ve been listening to the recruiting live podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruit-
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.