The Brave New World of ‘Open Hiring’

Greyston Bakery was founded 38 years ago in Yonkers, NY and per Mike Brady, CEO, the company “was founded on the idea that a profitable business could be the backbone of ethical practice.” 

Greyston Bakery pioneered the practice of Open Hiring ™ with a very simple premise: anyone who wants a job at Greyston’s can get one. People who are interested in working for the bakery sign up on a list and, when there’s an opening, they’re contacted in the order in which they’ve placed their name on the list. There are no interviews, background checks or drug tests. The company’s hiring philosophy is that if an individual is given a job they will do it and both skills and compensation will grow as they continue to work. 

Turnover in similar industries ranges from 30% – 70% while Greyston Bakery reports a turnover rate of just 12%. 

I call that success.

The company has now launched the Greyston Center for Open Hiring providing immersive learning experiences so that other companies can begin to think about their hiring and talent management practices in a new and inclusive way. And some companies are doing so.

After the entire U.S. HR team of the Body Shop visited Greyston’s manufacturing plant last summer they began to move quickly to implement an Open Hiring model. They launched Open Hiring for their seasonal hiring needs (200 seasonal hires) at a Distribution Center and saw dramatic results

“Monthly turnover in the distribution center dropped by 60%. In 2018, the Body Shop’s distribution center saw turnover rates of 38% in November and 43% in December. In 2019, after they began using open hiring, that decreased to 14% in November and 16% in December. The company only had to work with one temp agency instead of three.”

Impact to the business (ka-ching!) but also a profound impact on people’s lives; job seekers who were being left out of the hiring process with other organizations were now securing and maintaining employment.

I like it a lot. The whole thing.

Yet…there are many who don’t.

The topic was being discussed in an HR-themed Facebook Group the other day and there were minds being blown left-and-right. To paraphrase the gist of some of the comments:

  • “hiring without interviews? How can this possibly work?” <because, apparently, interviews have proven to be somarvelously effective>
  • “I would NEVER hire *certain* felons”
  • “no references? Getting references is critical!” <because talking to Joe’s pastor really gives you a lot of insight into how he’ll perform as an employee>
  • “I don’t want someone in a retail store touching me if they haven’t had a background check” (OK Karen) 
  • “negligent hiring!!” <what HR pros like to say when they have no other substantive argument>

What this online discussion demonstrated to me, sadly, was the utter inability of numerous HR professionals to move towards innovation. “Why can’t we find people?” they ask. “How come our turnover is so high? Maybe I should I do some more employee appreciation events” they ponder.

Rather, the tendency is to move into self-preservation mode. Preserve the interviews. Protect the 10-step selection decision process. Defend the decades-long ways of doing things.  

Very rarely though, even when supplied with data, do they seem willing to consider “maybe our process is shit and we should up-end it completely.”

That would be brave.

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Workplace Realities: Recruiting When Your Staff Turnover Exceeds 100%

I’ve lived, worked and managed HR in industries where turnover for certain positions and/or departments exceeded 100%. It’s not fun.

I recently read this article (“Panera losing nearly all workers in fast-food turnover crisis”) about the increasing challenges in the restaurant industry related to turnover and, I must admit, it induced numerous stress-inducing flashbacks.

While the article discusses automation – kiosks for customers and robots back-of-house – the highlights for me were related to the human impact:

  • “The job no one really wants– Experts who have studied the restaurant business for decades and work with national chains are divided over the extent to which fast-food jobs can be made better. Some do not believe there is no formula combining pay, benefits, training and culture that can save the human worker in this sector.”
  • “There are no other job segments in the U.S. that have higher turnover than the fast-food and fast-casual segments of the restaurant industry, according to DiPietro at the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. “Not even retail.””
  • “…the fast-food industry, which faces steep price competition, is handicapped by the inability to raise wages much, as well as its limited career advancement opportunities. It also has little history of offering competitive benefits. Only 14% of all fast-food restaurants offer sick leave, and only 16% offer paid time off.”
  • “She (Rosemary Battchair of HR Studies and International & Comparative Labor at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations) said the labor problems can be solved by methods other than robots, such as chains putting more effort into hiring better managers and treating workers with more respect. That requires companies being willing to give workers more hours and more predictable scheduling. “That is not very costly for HR to invest in. It just takes managers to be frankly more competent and pay more attention to the issue. … Maybe they won’t optimize labor costs to the extent they want to, but it will pay off in lower turnover and more satisfies workers and better operations. That should not be hard problem to fix.””

And, as Batt also pointed out, “Because turnover is getting so serious and because chains have the ability to do the HR analytics, they can begin to cost out turnover and say, ‘This is not a cost we have taken seriously, because historically we were counting on high turnover model as acceptable.'”

All of it. Just all of it. 

A few of the realities I experienced:

  • A mindset that employees are as replaceable as the other supplies and materials used to run the restaurants.
  • The cost of high turnover is anticipated, expected and budgeted for much as the company budgets the cost of replacing xx.x% of the kitchen equipment each fiscal year.
  • Jobs are ALWAYS open and hiring is ONGOING. Of course, when squiring candidates through the recruiting process it’s impossible to discuss specific schedules because the shift, days and availability of hours will change, undoubtedly, before the person even reports for Day 1. This is based, of course, on how many people will either quit or start between now and, oh, two days from now.  
  • Benefits will be offered and touted (tuition reimbursement! flexible schedules!) because there are sufficient qualifiers in place to ensure a minimal number of employees will even get to take advantage of them. (i.e. “tuition reimbursement is available for full-time employees with at least 12 months of continuous service who are enrolled in a curriculum related to their job.”)
  • Annual wage increases of 1.5% – 3% (and on $9 per hour, a 3% increase equals 27 cents) ensure that the INSTANT a competitor starts paying an additional .50 per hour, the staff will practically leave mid-shift and sprint down the street to start a new job.

But…yet…sitting up in the corporate HQs somewhere far, far away from the day-to-day realities of life in the kitchen, HR teams devise catchy tag line and launch compelling CAREER sites even though, let’s face it, most job seekers are not viewing these gigs as ‘careers.’ While some folks may, in fact, start in a restaurant and ‘move up the ladder’ (and there are, certainly, people who work at corporate offices in ‘careers,’) these sites are promoting employment to candidates who are applying for jobs paying anywhere from $7.25 to (maybe, if they’re a ‘manager’ with 10 years experience) $12 per hour. 

So I decided to take a look at what the talent acquisition teams (and the multitudinous employer branding consultants) at limited service restaurants have put together on their various career sites. 

Here’s what I found: 

Panera“Fresh, food, fun work”

Taco Bell Careers“Start with us…stay with us”

McDonald’s Careers“Where you want to be” 

Subway“Careers on the rise” 

Chipotle“The difference is real. Work with the food you love.” 

Burger King“Bring it @ BKC” 

Dunkin’ Donuts“Here today – here to stay” 

Chick-fil-a“Growing together, prospering together” 

Wendy’s“Are you a Wendy’s kind of person?” (“we love to have fun, and hopefully you do too”)

Whataburger“Do work that makes you proud” 

Raising Cane’s“We make fun of work” 

Sonic“This is how we Sonic” (“we encourage and attract wildly creative people”) 

KFC“Join our KFC Family” 

Dairy Queen“Create unbelievable moments in everyday lives” 

Popeyes“You belong at Popeyes” 

Qdoba – “Craveable food. Raveable careers.”

Well…if nothing else, I’ve now got a hankering for some good old-fashioned carbs and sodium delivered in a paper bag. 

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Hiring Henchmen, Underlings, and Evil Minions

Hello? Have I reached the Recruiting Department?

The other week, without much else going on, Mr. S. and I settled down on the couch and watched a marathon of James Bond movies. (editorial note: I never liked Pierce Brosnan in the role and, IMO, Roger Moore was the absolute worst.)

As always, when watching any movie that features some evil-doer (ED) focused on disaster, mayhem, and taking over the world, I gave lots of attention to the ED’s side-kicks. Inevitably I began to wonder…

  • How did this guy/gal casually participating in nefarious activities decide this was the career path they wanted to follow?
  • Does one prepare a resume and create a LinkedIn profile in the hope that recruiters reach out?
  • Is there a job board for “Evil Underlings?”
  • Who is the head of TA for the evil organization? 
  • What about recruitment marketing? What sort of messaging is required? 
  • Is the recruiting team working diligently to eliminate bias when creating an applicant pool?
  • Does Susie Recruiter conduct phone screens? Skype? Scheduled/recorded video interviews?
  • What are the competencies and behavioral attributes against which she is hiring?
  • Has Susie Recruiter executed an SLA with the ED? How do those regular check-in meetings go?
  • Are there any skills tests or assessments utilized during the screening process?
  • Who extends the job offer?
  • What does the compensation package look like?
  • Is there a head of HR? A policy manual? An employee handbook?
  • Do evil minions get PTO? Full medical/dental/vision? What about Life Insurance and AD&D?
  • Can you even imagine the premiums for workers comp coverage? 
  • What, exactly, is the projected and actual turnover rate in the organization?
  • If a henchman resigns, who conducts the exit interview?
  • CAN a henchman resign?
  • Does the organization provide letters of reference for an ex-employee’s next gig?

I thought my time in the hospitality/gaming industry presented mad-paced recruiting, sufficiently high turnover and challenging employee relations issues. 

Probably a cake-walk compared to that which is faced by the CHRO of Evil Empire, LLC.

********* 

mage: Lady Penelope Peasoup; Batman 

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The Dark Web of EMPLOYER References

It goes both ways of course; candidates seek information on a prospective employer AND companies search for nuggets of digestible content on a new hire.

LinkedIn profiles are examined and mined not only for information but also for contacts, connections and leads. Various and assorted chrome extensions are added to the recruiters’ toolkit and every nugget of publicly available information is dissected and served up on the new-hire-prospectus. Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat? Who are the candidate’s friends and what, if anything, can we see about what s/he posted, liked, or retweeted?

Fancy and techy and useful…sure. But sweet baby Moses if we’ve sat through one presentation or demo on this sort of stuff…we’ve sat through 100. We get it; tech is our savior and time saver. We can source and search and seek intel all day long.

Yet…

… now, here’s a guy.

He’s a friend and former co-worker who got recruited for a job. He’s been phone interviewing and in-person interviewing. He’s been researching and calling people. He’s been immersed in the voir dire phase with a bunch of know-nothings as he attempts to find out “who knows who and what and when and how did they know it?” He’s been navigating this discovery for a role, and an industry, where people are not online. Glassdoor and Indeed feedback is minimal. (I know ya’ll find that hard to believe. But it’s true.)

His personal research has revealed data-less LinkedIn profiles (if they have one at all) for all the big players. The gig is in an Amish-style industry (who said incestuous? not me?!) where outsiders are rare. Still, at the same time, previous employees and his own personal industry contacts, once known, have fallen off the grid.

Phone calls? Unanswered.

Google searches? In vain.

How, one asks, can he find any meat about that prospective employer when the only food being served is pablum? There are only slim morsels available; lovingly and expensively regurgitated on the company career page. (#EmployeeBranding!! #JazzHands!!)

“Time,” said I, “to head to the Dark Web.”

And then we giggled. Because neither one of us have any freaking idea how to actually ‘get’ to the Dark Web.

BUT… how cool would that be? A secret bitcoin/botnet place where candidates could find info – the real deal! – about their prospective employer.

Priceless.

(not Collinsworth-less) 

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Human Centered Hiring and Culture Fit

The importance of aligning hiring to organizational culture is endlessly discussed, debated, and analyzed. Everyone from researchers to C-suite leaders to HR professionals has an opinion on how to achieve this seemingly elusive nirvana. We constantly ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to ensure the individuals we’re hiring are a ‘fit’ with our culture?”

Most of us have a clear definition of organizational culture; we understand it’s the collective behavior of the people who are part of the organization, as formed by vision, values, norms, systems, beliefs, symbols, and traditions. We know that culture affects the way individual employees and groups interact with each other, as well as customers, clients, and other stakeholders.

[click here to read the rest of this post that recently ran over at Globoforce….]

 

For more on this topic, check out the WorkHuman Radio interview with myself and Bill Boorman, embedded here.

******

image: American Horror Story: Cult (season 7; creepy) 

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