Breaking the mould

It is widely reported that staff turnover in the contact centre industry is around 26% annually, considerably above the national average of 15%. Are we surprised by this? No, not in the least and we are all acutely aware of many reasons why this is the case. Some cited examples include staff being overworked, concerns over the lack of progression routes and the attraction of better salaries elsewhere.

The impact…

As expected, this has a commercial impact on every single business. Losing staff affects your bottom line, a fact I’m sure we can all agree on. This presents itself in many ways in relation to training costs, recruitment fees, loss in output and the concern that other staff may follow suit and jump ship. In some ways your business becomes a ‘short-term’ fix for employees as they begin their journey on the employment ladder. We decided to take a very unique and unusual approach.


Our experience in contact centre environments highlighted a significant frustration – we saw businesses letting well-trained, enthusiastic staff go when their DBS checks returned showing previous convictions. You may be surprised to know that 11.7 million people in the UK have a criminal conviction – 17% of the population. We quickly recognised that this presents a huge talent pool of people that our business, and others, can directly benefit from.

We launched Census Group in 2013 with the purpose of offering training and employment opportunities to people in prison and on release. We knew we could develop an incredibly competent workforce that would also have a wider impact on society

You may be forgiven at this point for thinking ‘are they mad?’ – just stay with me on this.

The rationale…

The cost of reoffending to society is in the region of £18 billion per year and as a taxpayer we all bear the brunt of these costs. From an economic standpoint alone, it’s hugely important that people are given the opportunity to move away from a life of crime and play an active part in their community – this benefits every single one of us.

Our entire business ethos is to support people back into society through meaningful employment and to educate and influence other businesses, decision-makers and policy-makers. Importantly, we enable people involved in the criminal justice system to thrive, by providing opportunities designed to deliver sustainable, social and economic integration. We want to see less crime, fewer victims and safer communities.


We seized the moment and embarked on developing contact centres in Her Majesty’s Prisons, with the vision to train and recruit the very best people. We developed a programme which provides careers advice, skills development and mentoring, all designed to prepare people for the world of work through a structured and authentic work-experience whilst still in prison.

Through our corporate social responsibility strategy we have consistently reinvested profits, to go the extra mile and support colleagues as they leave prison and reintegrate back into our communities, with a guaranteed offer of employment on release. However, to make this much more fundamental to our work, we have developed Census Life, our not-for-profit social enterprise, with a vision that every person should have the opportunity to create a better future for themselves.

What difference could this make to our business?

It’s not an easy route, it takes time and patience and it is very important to build links with those agencies that are there to support employers, but rest assured the benefits can be substantial. As a social enterprise we do this because it’s the right thing to do and we want our colleagues to achieve at the highest levels, but there’s nothing wrong with doing this to meet the economic needs of your business. 

From our experience, we can tell you that we’ve seen:

  • Increased retention rates;
  • Loyal employees willing to go the extra mile to deliver;
  • Reduced training and HR costs.

People are often overlooked as a result of their past mistakes, I urge you to look beyond that and see them for the skills they can bring to your business.

Imagine for a moment how it must feel to be accepted again by society, not to be on the outside looking in. That is a life changing moment.

We employ people on merit, on the basis they have the skills and attitude to do a great job. Maybe the time is right to start thinking about where your next talented people are coming from and ‘break the mould’ in terms of your recruitment practices – you may be pleasantly surprised.

Richard Rowley
Managing Director
Census Life

My Fight

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Corbett Award Winner

We are proud to announce that our social enterprise, Census Life, has won the 2019 Corbett Network SME of the Year Award.