Retailer Finds Success with Open-Hiring Concept

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin March 9, 2020
man extending hand

​This summer, cosmetics company The Body Shop will start open hiring at its retail stores. This recruiting process does not require that applicants submit to background checks or drug screens, and job candidates are hired on a first-come, first-served basis.

Aiming to eliminate barriers to employment and reduce turnover, the company piloted the model in its distribution center late last year when hiring for seasonal holiday workers.

"This open-hiring initiative was transformative for our business and for the culture of our company," said Andrea Blieden, U.S. general manager for The Body Shop. "Our plan is to expand open hiring into our retail stores for customer consultant positions this summer."

Lower Turnover, Higher Loyalty

"What we've seen from this program so far is that when you remove barriers, you can secure great talent and increase productivity," Blieden said, explaining that the company experienced lower turnover and higher retention and productivity in its distribution center after implementing the open-hiring model.

"In addition to removing societal barriers and making the hiring process more fair, we also found that the seasonal employee talent was even more dedicated to the brand and the job," she said.

Before adopting the new hiring method, the beauty retailer saw 38 percent turnover in November 2018 and 43 percent the following month in its distribution center. In 2019, after implementing open hiring, Blieden said, the company realized "a notable decrease in monthly turnover, with 14 percent in November and 16 percent in December."

The Body Shop asks distribution center job applicants three questions: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? Can you stand for up to eight hours? Can you lift over 50 pounds? (The company is still working out the qualifying questions for retail applicants.)

In 2018, The Body Shop scheduled more than 1,200 interviews, cut 600 applicants and hired 332. Last year, in contrast, the retailer scheduled 719 meetings, asked only the three questions and hired 208 seasonal distribution-center workers.

The company lowered its reliance on staffing services, which typically required candidates to go to the agency's offices, take drug tests, submit applications online and undergo background checks.

For its 2019 holiday hires, The Body Shop conducted interviews, job fairs and tours onsite at the distribution center, immediately adding just-hired employees to the schedule for orientation and work. The company also set up mobile recruiting spots in parking lots outside unemployment offices, Walmart stores and other strategic locations.

Corporate Social Activism

The Body Shop, which says open hiring aligns with its corporate social activism, notes that research shows that immediate access to employment sharply cuts recidivism among those formerly incarcerated.

"Our ambition in rolling out the program wasn't out of a need to hire more people, but rather because we continue to be concerned about the level of inequality and exclusion in society," Blieden said.

In implementing its new hiring plan, The Body Shop partnered with Greyston Bakery and modeled its program on the process developed by Greyston, a for-profit company owned by a namesake nonprofit foundation that operates the Center for Open Hiring.

Greyston offers access to social services to help its hires handle issues including housing, mental health, substance abuse and conflict resolution, transportation and child care, since problems in these areas can hinder employment efforts.

A Recruiting Solution

Open hiring can make a difference in a time of historically low unemployment.

Employers that are begging people to apply for jobs need to knock down as many barriers as possible, noted Tim Sackett, HR thought leader and president of HRU Technical Resources, a staffing and recruiting firm in Lansing, Mich.

Open-door hiring isn't that high a risk for employers offering low-skill or no-skill jobs, Sackett said. "The fact the person showed up asking for a job is a great indicator they are actually motivated to work. Now, could you have some background [or] substance issue that pops up? Sure, and employers will work through those," he said.

"I've actually seen a few companies do some testing of [open hiring], and for the most part it was very positive. If you think of how we select normally, so much of the process is full of unconscious bias that has us de-selecting people for basically no reason at all," Sackett said.

"With processes like this, we are actually allowing everyone in and giving them a chance to shine and show us how wrong we can be with traditional processes," he added. "By hiring the first person who applies, or everyone who applies, you're virtually eliminating all bias to hiring."

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance reporter and writer based in Philadelphia.



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