‘Fair-Chance Hiring the Right Way’

When Dan Meyer wanted to entertain executives from Procter & Gamble earlier this week, he took them to Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse for dinner. Less than 24 hours later, executives from Jeff Ruby’s were at Nehemiah Manufacturing to learn from Meyer about his company’s success with fair-chance hiring.

“You guys are the best of the best, from everything I’ve read,” said Dillon Ruby, Executive Vice President of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment. “This is a great opportunity for us.”

Representatives from Jeff Ruby's meet with leaders from Nehemiah Manufacturing and Cincinnati Works
Representatives from Jeff Ruby’s meet with leaders from Nehemiah Manufacturing and Cincinnati Works

Moments later, Jeff Ruby’s and 3CDC officially signed on to the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, signaling their commitment to hiring and supporting individuals who are returning from incarceration.

The signing ceremony was organized by Rayshun Holt, Program Director of Beacon of Hope, to recognize Second Chance Month and National Reentry Week. It was held at Nehemiah to recognize the role Meyer and his company have played in advancing the issuenot just locally but across the country.

“This is capitalism done the right way,” Meyer said.

Jeff Ruby’s and 3CDC are not new to fair-chance hiring, but they want to do more to support those employees, recognizing that they face barriers beyond the challenges of poverty.

Deana Taylor, Vice President of Human Resources for 3CDC, said they have “just piecemealed it together” to this point. They joined Beacon of Hope in part because of the opportunity to partner with Cincinnati Works for coaching, counseling and other support services for their fair-chance employees. (Cincinnati Works is one of three social service agencies in Beacon of Hope, along with Center for Employment Opportunities and Life Learning Center.)

“You are here because you want to do fair-chance hiring the right way,” Holt said.

Nehemiah set the standard, investing in a support system of social workers on their staff and relationships with non-profit organizations that specialize in addressing specific issues. The support system is built on eight pillars, some of which can be handled in-house and some of which rely on partners: a sense of community, affordable housing, transportation, legal support, spiritual wellness, financial wellness, physical wellness, and continuing education.

Meyer and Chris Lahni, Chief Financial Officer at Nehemiah, encouraged Jeff Ruby’s and 3CDC to “start small” with their in-house services and lean on Cincinnati Works for additional services.

“The biggest thing is, you have to be intentional,” Lahni said.

“It’s important that everybody you hire has someone walking this journey with them,” Meyer said. “It can be overwhelming. That’s what they do,” he said, nodding to the Cincinnati Works staff nearby.

Jeff Ruby's and 3CDC signed on to Beacon of Hope in a ceremony at Nehemiah Manufacturing
Jeff Ruby’s and 3CDC signed on to Beacon of Hope in a ceremony at Nehemiah Manufacturing

Because of their commitment to fair-chance hiring and their investment in a support system, Nehemiah has lowered its turnover rate to around 15 percent, Meyer said, compared to the industry average of 50 percent.

For restaurants like Jeff Ruby’s, the pandemic has made it more difficult to find willing job-seekers, which makes it even more important to limit turnover and develop the talent they have. And beyond the obvious business case for fair-chance hiring, Dillon Ruby said they want to leverage their renown in the restaurant industry to make fair-chance hiring more common.

“It’s not about how many fair-chance employees we can hire, it’s about leading the industry,” Ruby said. “We are here to create opportunities.”