Beyond ban the box: Open Hiring creates jobs for ex-offenders and those with barriers to employment

Open Hiring

These Greyston bakers were hired without submitting a resume or going through an interview or a background check.

No resume, no interview, no background check. Just add your name to the hiring list, and you’ll eventually have a job.

Sound incredible? There’s actually a company that does just that. Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, conducts what it calls Open Hiring™. In other words, it will hire anyone who wants to work, a practice that could revolutionize the lives of those with criminal records. And it’s working to convince others to do the same.

Since 1982, the company has been baking the brownies that go into Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – seven million pounds of brownies each year. And it accomplishes this with a social mission.

“The company is known for saying, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people,” says Jennifer Ocean, vice president, marketing & communications at Greyston.

The bakery has been hiring anyone who wants to work throughout its 37 years of existence. The number of employees ranges between 150 and 175, and about 60 percent of them have criminal records.

Open Hiring provides job opportunities to people with barriers to employment

“Open Hiring is a model, a practice and a philosophy. It’s about providing job opportunities and resources to people who had barriers to employment in their past, working to remove those barriers and helping them achieve future potential. It’s about meeting people where they are and is based on the Buddhist principles of our founder Bernie Glassman,” says Ocean. “Open Hiring is not just about hiring, but it’s about everything we do as a company. How people are treated, how we help employees thrive in their communities and how we make an impact on the community at large.”

Once hired, all new employees go through an apprenticeship to teach them how to do the job. The company also has a care provider to help people solve any problems they may have either on the job or in their personal lives. The provider works for and is paid by a nonprofit organization to assist Greyston employees in areas where they need help, such has procuring housing or child care or resolving conflicts.

The system has worked well for Greyston, with dedicated workers who are happy to have a job. Twenty percent of apprentices who join Greyston make it to full-time employment, and 79 percent of these will remain for at least four years before moving up or on to something else.

Using what it has learned, the company is helping others carry out the practice through its Center for Open Hiring. Launched last year, the Center helps organizations figure out the best way to implement Open Hiring based on their own culture.

So far, its two biggest partners are the Start Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s. Located in the Netherlands, the Start Foundation is working with a large retailer there to implement Open Hiring. Ben & Jerry’s hopes to establish the process in some of its factories throughout the U.S. based on the Greyston model.

Why companies should do Open Hiring

Open Hiring as a practice can help create a better world. “It has benefits to society, to human beings and to business,” says Ocean. “Hiring costs are lower. The cost of bringing someone into a company is something like $5,000. It costs a lot of money to try to screen people out of an organization, when we can bring people into the organization who are willing to work and are good employees.

Open Hiring reduces recidivism. We’ve provided 3,500 jobs over the past 37 years. It’s also brought positive impact to one of the poorest communities in New York.”

In addition, the practice benefits business. “The good thing about Open Hiring is that you can start with small steps. It could be one job. It could be one job in the stock room. One job in the mail room,” she adds.

And that job could lead to more jobs and a new company culture of inclusion. Greyston is an example for others to follow and shows the impact that Open Hiring can have.

“Open Hiring is tremendous for morale. It has such a positive effect, because we believe in the potential of people, and we create a world of opportunities. All the bakers speak about what an impact it has on their lives. For some people it could be their first job ever. It could be their first chance,” says Ocean.

If your company is interested in implementing Open Hiring, feel free to contact the Center for Open Hiring at Greyston.

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