Brownies for Jobs, Chocolate for a Stronger Community
They say that showing up is half the battle, and nowhere is that more true than at Greyston Bakery, where all entry-level jobs are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Julius Walls, Greyston’s CEO, instituted the profoundly democratic ‘open hiring’ policy following an epiphany: Job candidates who perform well in interviews don’t necessarily make the best employees.
“I discovered there were people who were better at speaking up for themselves in an interview, but that’s not the skills you need for the job,” he says. “We want to give everyone an opportunity.”
Or as the company tagline puts it: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.” It may not sound like a recipe for success, but it’s working for this Yonkers, N.Y. -based B Corp founded in 1982, which is the exclusive supplier of brownie products for Ben & Jerry’s and manufacturer of the Do-Goodie Brownie line as well as their new Do-Goodie Gluten-Free line.
The trick to making the open hiring policy work is the company’s apprenticeship program. While anyone who shows up can get a job (or, more accurately, get on the waiting list to get a job), that doesn’t mean everyone can become a permanent member of the team. New hires spend their first year as apprentices, doing real work but also being trained, monitored and frequently evaluated. Greyston pays them during this time, but does not guarantee them a place on the team until they graduate.
Not surprisingly, such an open hiring policy attracts many people who are systemically denied work elsewhere: ex-convicts and the homeless, for example. This is just fine with Walls. “It’s not about what they’ve done, it’s about what they’re going to do,” he says. “We give them an opportunity to prove they deserve the job.”
Walls says that 100 percent of the supervisors and lead operators at Greyston today got his or her start in the company’s apprenticeship program. Continuing with its commitment to the community, Greyston Bakery founded and donates all profits to the Greyston Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to help provide jobs, healthcare and affordable housing in Yonkers. Its goal is to help make Yonkers a self-sufficient community where residents don’t need to look beyond its borders for assistance.
To learn more about Greyston Bakery, click here.
This article was originally published in the 2009 B Corporation Annual Report by Douglas Quenqua.