We’ve probably all been through the job-hiring process. Securing a job can come with all sorts of obstacles for even the most qualified applicants. But for job seekers who have disabilities, were incarcerated, or are otherwise marginalized, these can be insurmountable obstacles.
Many of the people who fit one of those descriptions want to work. However, when next to no businesses will hire them, unemployment and poverty may seem unavoidable. Fortunately, one business in Yonkers, New York, has shown that open hiring, based on a willingness to work rather than background, can lead to growth in employees, the business, and the community.
Humble Beginnings And Helping Hands
Greyston Bakery was founded in 1982 by Zen Buddhist teacher Bernie Glassman. While living with his students in Greyston Mansion, a place just north of Manhattan, Glassman decided to do more to develop his community. He wanted to help the homeless and the unemployed. He had previously opened a small bakery with the help of the Zen community of New York as a way to employ his students. Drawing from this experience and that of a Buddhist-owned bakery in San Francisco, Glassman opened Greyston Bakery in Yonkers. Using open hiring, he created a team without any bakers or businesspeople.
Reaching A Community In Need
At the time, Yonkers had the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the United States. Greyston Bakery used open hiring to employ workers from the community, many of whom were uneducated, had spent time in prison, or had unstable living situations. But, as long as they were willing to work, they had a place at Greyston Bakery. The bakery boomed, and just 5 years after opening, they partnered with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to make the brownies for their Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. They continue that partnership to this day.
Beyond Baking Brownies
Glassman and his wife Sandra didn’t just have a vision for a successful bakery or even to give jobs to people who needed them. They wanted an organization that gave back to the community by providing things like housing, health care, social services, and child care. And even though Glassman and his wife are pursuing other projects and have moved on from Greyston Bakery, their vision lives on. Now, Greyston Bakery acts as the for-profit arm of Greyston Foundation Inc., which also oversees the nonprofit organization, Greyston Health Services Inc.
‘No Questions Asked’: A Legacy
After 37 years, Greyston Bakery continues to use open hiring, “no questions asked.” Any prospective employee simply puts their name and phone number on the list of applicants, and they’re guaranteed a chance at having a job if there’s an opening. Last year, the bakery’s years of experience culminated in establishing the Center for Open Hiring at Greyston, a place that “evaluates, improves, and defines open hiring best practices.”
The Center offers education, training, advisory services, and research opportunities for businesses that are interested in Greyston Bakery’s open hiring model and achieving the same level of success. During the center’s first year, they hosted over 50 employers.
Greyston Bakery continues to grow. They produce 35,000 pounds of award-winning brownies a day for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They are also featured on Delta Airlines’ international flights, and their products are sold at Whole Foods Markets across the country. In 2015, Greyston Bakery was ranked in the top 10% of B corporations worldwide. Their open hiring process has created 3,500 living-wage jobs, and Greyston Bakery itself employs 150 full-time workers.
How Open Hiring Changes Lives
Greyston Bakery bases its success on how it can change lives and point its workers toward their mission. Dion Drew, a bakery supervisor at Greyston, exemplifies how open hiring can change lives. Drew got out of prison in 2009, returning to Yonkers with 3 felonies and no money. He had no luck finding a job and almost returned to a life of selling drugs to make ends meet. After he put his name on the job queue at Greyston, he received a call after a few months. Ten years later, Drew has received several promotions. He even recently bought a car and 3-bedroom house with his fiancée and their kids.
“I accomplished all the goals I set out for myself,” said Drew in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. “I want to be a positive influence now. I want to see Yonkers and my community grow.”