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.

Getting Talent Back to Work initiative encourages companies to hire those with criminal records

Getting Talent Back to WorkIn a long-overdue effort, the Society for Human Research Management (SHRM) has launched Getting Talent Back to Work. This national initiative encourages companies to change their hiring practices to include recruiting those with criminal records.

Associations and companies that represent more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce – the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Staffing Association and the National Retail Association, among others – have committed to the effort.

And you can too by signing the Getting Back to Work pledge.

Getting Back to Work follows the First Step Act, bipartisan criminal justice reform, passed by the U.S. Congress late last year. And it joins other longer running campaigns like Ban the Box and President Obama’s “Take the Fair Chance Pledge” in bringing national attention to giving those with a criminal record a second chance.

It’s time to eliminate the stigma of incarceration

“This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as one in three adults in the United States currently has a criminal background,” says Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM’s CEO. “Not only is it the right thing to do – to give a deserving person a second chance – but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate.”

Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association agrees. “Now is the time to quash the stigma of incarceration,” he says. “Employers need to embrace greater inclusivity when recruiting and hiring, and give qualified individuals a second chance at success in life – particularly when the U.S. labor market is the tightest in history.”

Not only is the labor market tight, but many companies say that people from this population make good, dependable employees. In a study by Northwestern University researchers found that employees with records have a lower turnover rate than those without. An ACLU report, “Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company,” came to the same conclusion.

And most managers and employees alike are willing to hire and work with people who have criminal records. A recent study commissioned by the SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute found that only:

  • 26% of managers and 14% of human resource professionals are unwilling to hire individuals with criminal records. (An additional 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to hire them.)
  • 13% of non-managers, 15% of managers and 26% of human resource professionals are unwilling to work with them. (Another 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to work with them.)
Why consider those with criminal records

A brief YouTube video produced by SHRM outlines why human resource managers should consider applicants with criminal records. The reasons for considering them are:

  • To address labor shortages due to low unemployment rates, an aging population and unavailability of skilled workers.
  • To avoid discrimination claims under state and federal law.
  • To reinforce fairness in our culture.
  • To reduce the social costs of recidivism.
  • To improve the GDP, which is reduced by $78 to $87 billion annually as a result of excluding formerly incarcerated job seekers from the workplace. States that lower recidivism by just 10% could save an average of $635 million annually.
Toolkit guides companies that want to hire those with criminal records

And so, beyond signing the Getting Back to Pledge, what can companies do to increase their hiring of formerly incarcerated job seekers and those with criminal records?

Based upon an extensive body of research and evidence-based practices from thousands of enterprises, SHRM developed a resource toolkit designed to guide businesses as they commit to hiring more employees with criminal records.

The “Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit: The Resources You Need to Advance the Hiring of Workers with a Criminal Background” takes people through the process and includes:

  • A quiz to determine how much one knows about background checks in hiring decisions.
  • Tips for using criminal records in hiring decisions.
  • Information on how to handle an applicant’s criminal record if it comes up in an interview.
  • Information on how to determine the nature and seriousness of an offense.
  • Tips for conducting a risk analysis of hiring someone with a record.

The toolkit also incorporates links to a wide variety of resources, including:

  • EEOC guidance and tips.
  • Ban the Box laws by state and municipality.
  • A Fair Credit Reporting Act Compliance Checklist.
  • A checklist for selecting a reliable Background Checking Company.
  • General resources on how to carry out an interview
  • Incentives and support, including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program

Now you know that by hiring those with criminal records you can be part of a national effort to reinforce fair hiring practices, reduce the social costs of recidivism and improve the nation’s GDP. With that in mind, please help us spread the word among your colleagues and business partners, and encourage them to use the Society for Human Research Management ‘s Getting Talent Back to Work resources.