Delicious brownies and a human-focused staffing model created a boomlet, even during trying times
For many in the food industry and the nonprofit sector, 2020 was beyond challenging. Yet in Yonkers, New York, a bakery staffed by those considered “unemployable” by others cranked out 40,000 pounds of brownies daily and managed to provide jobs to people who previously faced barriers to employment through its Open Hiring® staffing model and workforce development program.
When you add it all up, Greyston created approximately $11 million in positive economic impact in the local community, created in large part by its Greyston Bakery Open Hire employees, 80% of whom reside in the area.
A magic formula? Yes – one that’s focused on offering a path forward to anyone seeking a job, regardless of background or history. According to Greyston CEO Joe Kenner, it’s just good business. “For nearly 40 years, we’ve welcomed people who face rejection elsewhere, with no questions asked, no interviews, or background checks, and proven that a company can be both successful and a force for good.”
A leader in the conscious capitalism movement, Greyston has become synonymous with the term “social enterprise” via its work to promote a more inclusive economy, one person and one job at a time. It now is ramping up efforts to position itself as a vital resource that goes beyond providing jobs, and changes lives through comprehensive workforce development services and workplace innovations.
Focused on meeting the financial, social, and human needs of its neighbors, Greyston’s specific contributions in 2020 include:
- $4.5 million in public savings annually, with each Greyston Bakery Open Hire and workforce development trainee yielding $30,000 in reduced government costs.
- Job opportunities for 185 individuals who previously faced barriers to employment.
- Annual wages earned by Greyston Bakery Open Hire employees are approximately 27% higher than those earned by the average New York State food processing worker exceed the local minimal living wage by approximately 16%.
- Improved employment prospects for its Open Hires, with 83% of former employees reporting that they’ve obtained better jobs after working at the bakery.
- A robust workforce development program allowing graduates to earn approximately 24% above minimum wage.
According to Kenner, “Since 1982, we’ve been working to shift the collective consciousness around hiring practices, and our impact numbers prove that offering jobs and support to marginalized individuals is good for business and society. Our goal now is to get other companies to do it too; we don’t want to be unique anymore.”
- Since 2015, Greyston has trained an average of 115 individuals seeking employment each year, and has facilitated professional credentialing and employment placement of 519 unemployed individuals – approximately 75% of those who enrolled in training.
- Since 2017, it has provided training to 152 returning citizens through the Greyston Ranger Program.
- Greyston’s Youth Program has served 248 young adults since 2012, providing them with occupational skills training, life and soft skills training, educational intervention services, and other programs; of those, 187 have received nationally credentialed occupational skills training and 136 have secured permanent jobs.
- Since launching the Center for Open Hiring, five corporations have signed on as Open Hiring pilot partners, including The Body Shop, Rhino Foods, and Giant Eagle.
- Since fall 2019, the center’s efforts have led to employment for over 1,200 individuals via reduced screening practices.
- Greyston’s largest Open Hiring partner, The Body Shop, has reduced its turnover rate by 60% at its North Carolina distribution center since implementing the model, and has expanded the program to all its retail outlets in North America.
- Rhino Foods, which also provides ingredients to Ben & Jerry’s, reduced its turnover rate by 26% during its 2020 Open Hire pilot.
- Giant Eagle reduced its time-to-fill job openings from an average of 30 days to seven days since implementing Open Hiring.
Positioning for Growth
To increase its impact in the year ahead, Greyston has focused on building a solid leadership team, encouraging other organizations to successfully invest in human potential, and more effectively communicating Greyston’s story and the ROI of the Open Hiring model.
Last summer, the organization expanded its board of directors, adding seven members who now play a critical role in positioning the organization for future growth. The individuals – Candice Cook, Aleida Federico, Marcus Glover, Jeff Henderson, John Jove, Gabrielle Lesser, and Dr. Audrey Tomlinson – provide a broad range of expertise in the areas of finance, private equity, law, strategic planning, social impact investment, human resources, and consumer goods.
Greyston also welcomed two new vice presidents to its management team. Dr. Penny Jennings, vice president of strategic programs, joined in January 2021, and leads the Center for Open Hiring, the organization’s workforce development and community wellness efforts. Julie Tedford arrived in July 2020 as a vice president responsible for finance, development, marketing, communications, and information technology.
The organization also is working to expand its efforts to create employment opportunities for New Yorkers outside of Yonkers through regional Centers for Open Hiring in Rochester and other locations throughout Westchester. Beginning with the Rochester hub, which opened in July 2020, Greyston will partner with employers throughout the state to provide jobs to those who are willing and able to work, but often excluded in today’s economy.
“Greyston is well-positioned not only to expand its impact in the local community, but to lead companies in taking a more active, positive role in the communities where they do business,” said Andrew Yearley, Greyston Foundation’s board chairman. “In our post-Covid world, we will continue to exemplify how extending employment opportunities to underserved individuals serves the greater good and fuels the bottom line.”
As Diverse as the People it Serves
Over the past year, particularly via changes to its leadership team, Greyston has become even more reflective of the local community and the people it serves, enhancing efforts to understand the needs of its neighbors:
- Two-thirds of its staff reside within Westchester County, including over one-third who reside in Yonkers.
- Nearly all (95%) of Greyston Bakery’s Open Hires are people of color.
- Its Open Hire employees are supported by a highly diverse staff, 76% of whom are people of color from mostly Black and Hispanic backgrounds.
- Nearly one-third of Greyston board members are people of color.
- Close to one-third of bakery Open Hires are female, consistent with the industry average.
- Nearly 40% of all Greyston staff are female.
- The Greyston board has a near-equal number of men and women.
According to Kenner, “While others have been held back by the adversity around us, Greyston has been able to continue providing paths forward for our neighbors due to the talent, commitment, diversity, and empathy of our staff. Their unique skills and perspectives are critical in driving our continued success, and in fulfilling our mission to promote business as a force for good.”
http://greyston.org – Greyston Builds Stronger Communities, One Person And One Job At A Time.