Employing The ‘UnEmployable’

Imagine you’re a store manager, working another 12 hour day because you can’t find any reliable employees. Out of nowhere a large, middle-aged, scruffy looking guy with an arm full of tattoos walks into your establishment and asks if you’re hiring…

With one of those fake, business casual smiles you look into his war-torn eyes and robotically reply, “Sure, do you have a resume?”  The Scruffy guy hesitates, but eventually answers, “I don’t have a resume.  I’ve been in prison since I was 18 years old.  I just got out 5 days ago.”  What happens next?  If you are part of the hiring staff at Greyston Bakery, the answer could easily be, “You’re hired”.

In a recent Forbes article, Contributor Esha Chhabra provides insight into a successful company whose “workforce consists of people considered unemployable — ex-convicts, disabled, homeless, illiterate, and addicts.”  More surprising, she states this company doesn’t “ask for a resume, a working history, or even a skillset.”  Interesting. In essence, they employ the unemployable.

Greystone Bakery is located in Yonkers, NY and has been around for 30+ years.  They’re famous for their brownies which are “the key ingredient in the Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream” (Snapple Fact).  Their hiring process is called, “Open Hiring” and believe it or not simply showing up can provide those who have lost hope an opportunity of a lifetime.

“We need to drive systemic change but we recognize we can’t do this alone.” – Greystone Bakery CEO Mike Brady

The article goes into a question and answers session where Mr. BRADY provides us with a BUNCH (Get it?) of reasons why he believes that limiting your business’s workforce based on preconceived qualifications is counterproductive.  For instance, he states that “businesses that discriminate against people coming out of criminal justice systems are missing an opportunity to work with an excellent source of talent”.  While this sounds quite logical on the surface, I know what some of you are thinking right now.  Can I trust these people?

Okay, elephant in the room right?  If I was to hire ex-cons and homeless people, is there a chance someone might commit a crime such as; theft, assault, murder, or rape while employed?  Honestly…YES.  

While this “Open Hiring” thing seems like an interesting idea, it doesn’t come without its caveats.  As always, you have to look at all angles right?

When I dissect this issue I choose to believe that these guys are either doing some type of background check on these employees or they are so lucky they should be playing the lotto.  But, to their credit, it’s never asked or stated in the article if there were any ‘situations’ that had occurred over the years.  Before you think I’m raining on the parade here, just give me a minute.  All angles remember.

On average most people who come out of jail really don’t want to go back.  Especially if they went in at a young age and aren’t completely institutionalized or simply insane.  The best way to ensure your freedom is to immediately keep yourself positively occupied. 

Gainful employment is one of the best ways of keeping former inmates on the straight and narrow.  With that being said, cooking seems like one of the best ways to accomplish all of the above.

Another PRO to rival the CONS (Get it?) and naysayers, is the fact that this establishment is not only restricting employment to former criminals.  Remember as stated above they open their doors, kitchens, and wallets to; disabled, homeless, illiterate, and addicts as well.

So when you look at all angles, yes you have some risk, but the rewards look to be well worth it.  You could change the world.  So what continues to hold other businesses back?

“We understand that changing human capital strategies takes time so we encourage progressive companies to talk to us and work with us to evolve and tailor the model so that it becomes a reality to apply.”

Do you know that old saying, “stuck in their ways“?  Well, most companies are just that.  They are ‘stuck in their ways’.  Business models have operated a certain way for so many years and the standard hiring procedure has long been; hire the person with the best qualifications.  Needless to say, this isn’t always the best route.

If you’re at work right now, please look around.  If you aren’t at work close your eyes and imagine yourself at work.  Now, look around.  How many “qualified” people can you see around you that you believe should have never been hired?

This guy Brady is right.  A reliable workforce goes beyond biases and discrimination.  I remember a time in this country when hiring a Mexican immigrant was something business owners would never put above hiring a homegrown, red-blooded American.  Now, look around you.

Many businesses are so dependant on immigrant labor that I doubt they could stay in business without it.  “Hey, these guys work harder for less money?  Why didn’t we do this sooner?”  Yeah, act like that conversation hasn’t been repeated a million times over the last 20 years or so.

The bottom line here is that most people deserve a second chance and what you see on paper isn’t always what you get.  Unless the individual is a pedophile, rapist, or serial killer, you should at least give thought to hiring them.  Resume?  Ha!  Have you seen how many people are now lying through their fingers?  Oh, perplexed are we?

Take a look at this, 85 Percent of Job Applicants Lie on Resumes.  Out on Rikers Island, it means something entirely different, but out here a lot of you business owners need to “get with the program”.  When asked about their success rate, Mr. Brady didn’t hesitate to state, “we’ve seen our bakery profits double over the past four years. We are proof that the Open Hiring Model works, economically and socially.”  Think outside the damn BOX.  Pun intended.

If you’re looking for a job to pay the bills, LinkedIn expert Trevor Turnbull says he can help you optimize your LinkedIn profile and GET JOB OFFERS.  Click here to find out more.

If you have an opinion on employing the unemployable or if you’re a former inmate who’s been through these types of situations let me know what you think. Leave a reply in the comment box below.

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