SHRM CEO and crowd Johnny C.Taylor, Jr.'s message of inclusivity fit with this year'sconference theme, “Creating Better Workplaces,” as well as SHRM'snew tagline, “Better workplaces, better world.”

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With the unemployment rate at historical lows, manycompanies are struggling to find the talent they need to supporttheir operations. But are they really looking at all theoptions?

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Speaking before a crowd of more than 20,000 attendees at theSociety of Human Resource Management's (SHRM) annual conference,SHRM CEO and president Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. invited HRprofessionals to open their minds and rethink their definition ofwhat the “wrong candidate” looks like, to “put our biasto the back and look at the people who are different.”

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In particular, he called out people with criminal records, thosewith disabilities, returning veterans and older adults. And whilecasting a broader net to include these populations can help fill acompany's talent void, that wasn't the main driver of Taylor's callto action.

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Related: Expanding the talent pool: 10 groups employers areusing to fill vacancies

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“The workplace is where real social change begins,” Taylor said.“HR professionals are the center of all people hope for and aspireto. Unlike any other profession, we create workplaces that changelives.”

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His message of inclusivity fit with this year's conferencetheme, “Creating Better Workplaces,” as well as SHRM's new tagline,“Better workplaces, better world.”

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Taylor's keynote included profiles of individuals representingsome of these overlooked populations. Among them was Alice LeeJones, who, after being sentenced to life in prison for a one-timedrug offense, was released and given a second chance. Sherepresents the one in three Americans with a criminal record.

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Creating new opportunities for those with a criminal past is theheart of SHRM's new Getting Talent Back to Work initiative, whichasks employers to open their minds and make an effort to welcomereformed criminals. “People who have paid their debt to society,who want to work and who are qualified for the job should not bere-sentenced to joblessness,” Taylor said.

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Another overlooked source of talent? People with disabilities,including those with physical or developmental disabilities, aswell as intellectual, or even unseen. “Not all disabilities arevisible,” Taylor said, noting conditions such as ADHD ordepression. “People bring challenges to work that are much broaderthan disability.”

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When you make a place in your company for people withdisabilities, not only are you expanding your talent pool, but aspointed out by one guest, you're showing all of your employees thatempathy is a part of the company culture.

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Taylor also hit on the importance of returning veterans, who areoften discriminated against during the hiring process. Thereresumes look different but “they have skills you can't findanywhere else,” Taylor said.

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The last group Taylor called out was one that will seeincreasing attention in the coming years: older adults. These jobseekers often hear that they are “overqualified” or “unable toadapt,” which are just diplomatic ways of saying they're tooold.

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“Age discrimination starting to affect Gen X,” Taylor said,expounding on the talents and wealth of expertise that comes withan experienced working population. “We miss out on the mentoringand idea exchange that only comes from a multi-generationalworkforce.”

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Taylor stressed that he's not suggesting that HR professionalsgo out and hire someone for a position they're not right for justbecause they fit into one of these categories. But if companiesdon't change their recruiting strategies to be more inclusive,they'll never realize when they're overlooking key talent. “We needto let these people in,” Taylor said, “We need to create workplaceswhere everyone can thrive.”

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Emily Payne

Emily Payne is director, content analytics for ALM's Business & Finance Markets and former managing editor for BenefitsPRO. A Wisconsin native, she has spent the past decade writing and editing for various athletic and fitness publications. She holds an English degree and Business certificate from the University of Wisconsin.