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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2 thoughts on “The Brave New World of ‘Open Hiring’

  1. I think open hiring is not a bad idea, depending on the skill level required for the position. I would not use it for all types of positions, but not a bad idea for seasonal or “trainable” positions.

  2. I would be concerned about negligent hiring, especially if you hired someone with violent incidents on their record and they attacked another employee or a customer. On the other hand, in a labor market like this, this would help you hire faster. If you can’t hire workers then you probably won’t be around for long anyway.

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