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From decadent cheesecakes and creamy cannoli to rich almond tortes and buttery muffins, most bakeries are best known for their confections. But Greyston Bakery has more to offer the community than just the iconic brownies that go into every container of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.
The Yonkers company has also earned a stellar reputation as a social enterprise, adopting an open-hiring policy in the establishment of its workforce. At Greyston, things like work history, criminal record, credit score, or homelessness just don’t matter.
“If someone wants a job [here], they put their name and cell number on a list,” explains Jonathan Halperin, head of External Affairs, about the policy, which has been in place for 35 years and accounts for 100 active positions at the company. “When they’re the next name on the list, they have a job. We hire people without asking any questions.”
But don’t think for a moment that Greyston’s sense of benevolence comes at the expense of either quality or good business. Open hiring has bottom-line benefits: “It drives brand value,” Halperin says, lowers onboarding costs, and leads to higher-than-average retention rates.
Now, Greyston is looking to export their open-hiring model nationwide. “We can’t change the world at the pace we want, even by quadrupling brownie production,” Halperin explains.
So, in 2018, the Greyston team is launching The Center for Open Hiring at Greyston in Yonkers, which will provide consulting, research, education, and toolkits to other companies. “[It’s] designed to refine, promote, and share open hiring with businesses across the country,” Halperin says, adding that the best-suited companies are “those with entry-level manual-labor jobs where skills can be reasonably, quickly acquired.”
He also cautions that interested companies must be patient and open-minded. “Change can be unsettling,” Halperin says. “Because it is a new idea for many, [open hiring] requires commitment and persistence.”
Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, says she’s not aware of any other organizations in Westchester practicing open hiring. Still, she’s intrigued. “We do see a lot of interest in exploring new ways to access talent, especially in today’s economy, which is facing a labor shortage,” Gordon notes.
At the end of the day, says Halperin, “People increasingly want to work at a place that is accomplishing something other than making a product.”
By Kevin Zawacki