Written by: Andrew Brady
At the international Conscious Capitalism conference this spring, there was a keynote about Greyston Bakery, which operates on an “Open Hiring” model. There are no applications, no interviews and no background checks. Essentially, the first person in the door is offered the job. Further, if an employee isn’t showing up to work, rather than being fired, management askes about challenges they’re facing and works to resolve them. Greyston is able to provide heavily subsidized day care, housing and other services that help to remove the barriers to employment for the populations they serve. Best of all, these services don’t require ongoing donations but are instead funded by the bakery operations! Sound crazy? Greyston has been operating on this model for over 35 years! At Greyston, they say that “they don’t hire people to make brownies, they make brownies to hire people.”
You may not have heard of Greyston, but if you’ve ever had a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor with any kind of brownies, you’ve enjoyed their products. Last week, I had the opportunity to tour Greyston with CEO Mike Brady (no relation). He is starting a “Center for Open Hiring” to share all that they’ve learned in 35 years of Open Hiring in hopes that more companies might commit to the model. While Mike recognizes that not every company might be able to fully integrate Open Hiring, he (and I) believe that many businesses could fill at least a few positions this way.
In some ways, Conscious Capitalism blurs the lines between the business and nonprofit sectors. Locally, we already have a few “conscious” businesses that, like Greyston, hire from populations that are otherwise disenfranchised in the job market. As one example, the Coffee Connection employs women recovering from addiction. Revenues from the coffee shop not only cover traditional costs of doing business, but also many of the social services and job training provided to their employees. It isn’t quite a self-sustaining model, but Executive Director Joy Bergfalk is determined to get there. Although the coffee roasting business currently covers 70% of the costs of the recovery services provided to employees, when the cost of incarceration is over $30,000 per year, paying just a fraction of that in the short term while also providing a path toward prosperity in the long term presents a clear return on investment.
I’d encourage you to watch Mike’s TED talk on “Hiring the Unemployable” at Greyston Bakery, which includes the story of an Open Hiring employee, Dion Drew. It might just challenge some of your assumptions. It certainly challenged mine. In speaking with Mike after his talk, I mentioned how Open Hiring is giving a “second” chance to so many, but he quickly corrected me that it was actually just giving them a “fair” chance. Some had been born into deep poverty, while others fell into the “school-to-prison pipeline” or faced other systemic challenges. Though they had certainly made mistakes, many had been unlucky enough to grow up in environments where their “first” chance was barely a chance at all.
So next time you’re picking a spot for a coffee meeting, check out the Coffee Connection on South Ave or East Main Street for “Coffee With a Cause!” Or if you’re picking up ice cream, make sure to not only buy Ben & Jerry’s, but to pick a flavor with brownies, to help Greyston “make brownies to hire people!”
FCP Note: Conscious businesses are businesses that are good, ethical, noble and heroic. Conscious businesses work to constantly provide their communities and workers with transformational experiences that inspire, educate and empower them to elevate humanity through business. Posts about conscious Rochester businesses on Flower City Philanthropy are made possible through our community partnership with Conscious Capitalism Rochester.
Guest Blogger: Andrew Brady
Andrew Brady is the Chief Evolutionary Officer at The XLR8 Team. He helps purpose-driven leaders evolve their organizational cultures, leading to the engagement of employees and the flourishing of their organizations. He Chairs Conscious Capitalism ROC, co-Chairs the RocCity Coalition and is a board member with Junior Achievement, Rochester Young Professionals, NextGen Rochester and the United Way Emerging Leaders Society.