Would you hire someone with no experience and no resume? This company makes a conscious effort to do so. It’s called open hiring, and it has paid them back in spades.
A young carer who spends all their time looking after a family member with a mental health issue or a disability might have no formal job experience to include on their resume. Someone from a lower socioeconomic background may not have the required education credentials to apply for a position through traditional recruitment. And a person with a criminal record, who has done their time and is looking to move on with their life, might struggle to get a foot in the door.
These barriers keep vulnerable people out of the workforce, says Michelle Nolan, Head of Inclusion and Belonging at The Body Shop, and they’ve motivated the company to adopt a bold recruitment approach – open hiring.
“Many of the people we hire through open hiring haven’t worked before,” she says. “They don’t have a typical resume, so we want to open doors for them.”
After the success of the program in The Body Shop’s North American stores, the open hiring program has recently been rolled out in Australia, the UK and Canada, with dedicated diversity, inclusion and belonging leads running the program in each country.
Christmas casuals, who require no references, job experience or background checks to secure the position, have already been employed via open hiring in states across Australia – and some of the stories have been “absolutely life-changing”, says Nolan.
“As their stories unfold, people are saying, ‘I can now work meaningfully in something that I want to do. I’m learning these great new skills, and all the reasons that I couldn’t previously work have now disappeared.’ Seeing this change really warms your heart.”
It’s a fantastic success story of meaningful diversity and inclusion in action, and data from The Body Shop’s North American stores, where open hiring is in its third year of operation, reveals that this radical hiring approach is delivering great return on investment for the company, including increased productivity and retention rates, according to Nolan.
So, how did they go about implementing open hiring, and what can other companies learn from The Body Shop’s forward-thinking recruitment process?
The roots of open hiring
The concept of open hiring – first launched by a New York-based company, Greyston Bakery – strongly connected with the Body Shop’s values and purpose.
“[We] believe that businesses should be used as a force for good. Greyston Bakery was creating jobs for the community, and we wanted to do something similar,” says Nolan.
Greyston’s philosophy of ‘first in, best dressed’ allows people with limited education or work experience to get their foot in the door, or have a second chance in life, she says.
To identify specific vulnerable groups – including young carers, First Nations people, single parents and people experiencing homelessness – The Body Shop partnered with NGOs that work with these groups, such as Little Dreamers, a charity for young carers, and Good Shepherd which provides crisis support to women in need.
“They don’t have a typical resume, so we want to open doors for them.” – Michelle Nolan, Head of Inclusion and Belonging, The Body Shop
As a first port of call, The Body Shop asked these NGOs to put forward candidates for the Christmas casual positions, before opening the opportunity to the wider public.
When applying for the position, applicants needed to answer three questions: Are you legally authorised to work in Australia? Can you lift up to 11kgs and work an eight-hour shift in one day? Are you happy to work in a customer-facing role?
If the candidate answers ‘yes’ to these questions, they are invited for a brief meeting with a store manager, who explains the inherent requirements of the role. It’s then up to the candidate to accept the position or not.
“We’re not looking at someone’s history, we’re looking at their potential,” says Nolan. “We believe that once people are in the program, we can support them to succeed. That’s the most important message in all of this.”
Hiring candidates with no job experience
New hires who have no job experience receive the same extensive Christmas casual training as casuals who are employed through traditional recruitment.
“I give [open hires] some added support to set them up for future success [beyond the casual position],” says Nolan.
This includes providing CV and interview skills training, bolstered with wide-reaching support from the relevant NGO.
“If we have someone facing a particular issue and our store manager isn’t equipped to deal with that issue, the NGO will help to educate and provide support to the store manager,” she says.
They’re also there through the new hire’s employment journey, helping them with financial or professional support.
“If someone is homeless and they don’t have transport, the NGO will pay for Ubers. Or they’ll give them money to buy black pants and a black top for work. What we’re trying to do is remove the barriers that typically get in the way of these applicants getting a job.”
At the conclusion of the Christmas casual period, employees brought on through open hiring can apply for a permanent position, and top-performing candidates will be tapped on the shoulder and encouraged to apply.
“They [then] fall into the traditional recruitment process, but they’re at a huge advantage because they’re trained in the products; they’ve already worked in the stores for two or three months.”
They also might choose to take their learnings and put them to good use in a position outside The Body Shop, she adds.
“Once you understand the difference it makes for people, it’s quite incredible.”
Outcomes of open hiring
You might think that employees with fewer credentials or experience would negatively impact a team’s performance or dent a company’s bottom line, but The Body Shop had the opposite experience.
Promising outcomes have emerged in data collated from America, says Nolan, who anticipates Australian stores will mimic these trends.
“The results are really interesting… They show a higher retention rate, higher loyalty rate and greater productivity,” she says.
“I think the participant retention rates are higher because traditionally some of these people may have found getting employment more difficult, so when they do get one, they hold onto the job, whereas a typical Christmas casual can ride in and ride out.”
“If someone is homeless and they don’t have transport, the NGO will pay for Ubers. Or they’ll give them money to buy black pants and a black top for work. What we’re trying to do is remove the barriers that typically get in the way of these applicants getting a job.” – Michelle Nolan, Head of Inclusion and Belonging, The Body Shop
“Having people who understand the benefit to the organisation [means] the return on investments is huge. It’s wonderful to be able to do it, but it’s also important that it’s good for the business.”
It’s also a part of The Body Shop’s approach to survey people as open hiring unfolds.
“We survey as we go to ensure that we’re understanding how people are doing. We survey store managers, and employees during their time in the program up until they finish up as a Christmas casual.”
Learnings from this recruitment process
Challenges experienced at The Body Shop as the team has rolled out open hiring in Australia provide fertile learnings that other companies considering a similar approach can keep in mind.
Most companies have a system that’s set up for a typical recruitment process, says Nolan.
The Body Shop’s Human Resources Information System is a global platform that requires HR to submit, and then sort through, the resumes submitted for a vacant position, explains Nolan.
Open hiring can be more onerous by comparison.
“We need to allocate [a certain amount of] people per store. I manually allocate all the people to the stores. That’s quite time consuming, but it’s worth doing because you get people where they need to be.”
“People are saying, ‘I can now work meaningfully in something that I want to do. I’m learning these great new skills… Seeing this change really warms your heart.” – Michelle Nolan, Head of Inclusion and Belonging, The Body Shop
From a systems perspective, if you were to start building an HRIS from scratch, you could probably develop a system from the outset that’s designed for open hiring, she says.
Companies considering employing people with no experience or resume needn’t roll out the program on a company-wide scale. They can start small, advises Nolan.
“If they have a manufacturing plant or a distribution centre, and there are five jobs available, and if the company has a group that is particularly aligned to their organisation, you could fill the jobs in partnership with this organisation,” says Nolan. “You don’t have to start by looking to bring on 400 casuals.”
She also advises to hire people with no job experience for roles that are task-oriented, such as hospitality or retail positions. However, don’t be too strict with limitations. There could be plenty of people with fantastic IT skills, for instance, and you’ll miss out on that value if you pigeon-hole them into a role based on your assumptions. Get to know the candidates and learn about their skills. Sometimes all they’ll need is some brief upskilling to learn the lay of the land.
Training also needs to happen higher up the organisational ladder.
Rolling out training for store managers, and securing their buy-in, has been essential to The Body Shop program’s success.
The company’s global inclusion and belonging lead ran training to address the fundamentals of inclusive hiring. An external facilitator then did a thorough deep dive around the values driving The Body Shop and its approach to open hiring.
“This covered what motivates us and how we align to the program personally. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining why we’re doing it and had people find that inner belief themselves because we can’t speak for them.
“That’s a very important piece of the puzzle. People have to understand why you’re doing it. If you just thrust them upon them, they’ll think, ‘That just makes my life a bit harder because I haven’t always done it like that.’ Change is hard for people.”
That’s why they need to see the results, and know that the change will result in some greater good – for them, the business and the individuals who are getting their shot at success.
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