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Why you should consider an open hiring model for your business

The bakery behind Ben & Jerry’s brownie ice cream hires with no questions asked. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

By Meredith Somers  |  March 16, 2018

open-doors

Why It Matters

If you want to tap into a wealth of overlooked skill sets, and also give someone an opportunity to change their life, an open hiring process might be right for your company.

Want a job at Greyston Bakery? Put your name on the list and wait for a call.

“It’s called open hiring,” said Mike Brady, CEO and president of the bakery in Yonkers, New York. “You walk through the door, put your name on a list, [and] when we have another job available we take the next name off the list [with] no questions asked. No background checks, no reference checks, no interviews.”

Greyston isn’t the only company with an inclusive hiring policy, but it’s one of the most well-known for its open hiring model. Other bakeries like Ovenly, another New York City bakery, and Dave’s Killer Bread, based in Milwaukie, Oregon, also have open hiring policies.

Greyston isn’t a “rolling pin, chef’s hat” kind of bakery, Brady said. It’s a food manufacturing facility that, at this time of year, is open 24 hours a day, six days a week, and churning out 35,000 pounds of brownies for its most well-known client: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

And the nearly four decades of baking success, Brady said, can be credited to the employees.

“The concept of open hiring is based on theories of non-judgement and embracing uncertainty. It’s not so much you’re willing to have uncertainty in business, but you need to make sure you manage for that uncertainty,” said Brady during the March 9 MIT Sustainability Summit in Boston. “So that when someone comes into your organization and you know they might not have a certain set of skills, how do you give them those skills to ensure they’re successful when they get on the floor and want to make their product. We think this has applications in organizations around the world.”

Finding opportunity
Brady said the areas that are ripe for an inclusive hiring model are also the most overlooked in an organization. Review your mail room, cafeteria, or janitorial jobs. If your company is large enough to outsource, ask that company about its hiring practices and whether there might be a place for inclusive hiring.

“Other areas where I find a lot of opportunity is in administration-type tasks, where there’s this bias toward someone already knowing how to communicate versus a bias toward helping someone communicate and reflecting your core values in the first interactions organizations have with someone,” Brady said.

As an organization started by a Buddhist monk, the bakery practices theories of non-judgement and loving action. That’s not to say Greyston forgives bad performance. But when someone makes a mistake, managers clearly explain what that employee needs to do better and that if they don’t, there might be repercussions, Brady said.

Commitment and investment
Brady admitted there is a perceived risk and bias around people with criminal backgrounds; that criminals are only bad people, not good people who’ve made mistakes.

“Seventy million people have criminal records, it’s an incredibly large and vast population with an incredible set of skills,” Brady said. “Tapping into that in a very competitive space can give you access to the greatest sets of people with a commitment to an organization.”

Other people who might not have been through the criminal justice system, but have gaps in their resumes — perhaps for military service or immigration — can also find themselves struggling to find a company that will give them a chance to work.

That’s key to an employee-employer relationship within an open hiring model, Brady explained. If a company shows an employee they’re invested in their success as a member of society or member of their family, there’s a returned investment from that person you’ve hired because you gave them an opportunity to improve their lives.

This hiring practice also resonates with outside stakeholders. Ben & Jerry’s could go buy its brownies from another bakery, Brady said, but Greyston not only meets the food standards and right price point, but it also is teaching the ice cream giant to be socially innovative.

And there is a bottom-line benefit to this hiring model. Brady said the average cost of onboarding a new employee is $4,500 nationwide. At Greyston it’s $1,900.

“I can just trust in the power of the person coming forward,” Brady said. “I don't have to believe I have to filter out thousands of people before I find the right one.”