retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Fast Company has a story about how the Body Shop, the cosmetics and skin care retailer, has adopted a new approach to hiring people for its stores:

The first person in the front door gets the job.

That's not hyperbole.  According to the story, this is an approach called "open hiring."  So when a store has an opening, "nearly anyone who applies and meets the most basic requirements will be able to get a job, on a first-come, first-served basis."

No background checks.  No drug screenings.

There are just three questions asked of applicants:  "Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? Can you stand for up to eight hours? And can you lift over 50 pounds?"

The approach was piloted at the Body's Shop's warehouse last year, and this is what it found:  "Monthly turnover in the distribution center dropped by 60%. In 2018, the Body Shop’s distribution center saw turnover rates of 38% in November and 43% in December. In 2019, after they began using open hiring, that decreased to 14% in November and 16% in December. The company only had to work with one temp agency instead of three."

Now, Fast Company writes, "The Body Shop plans to expand the practice to all of its retail stores this summer, where it employs around 800 people, and as many as 1,000 during the holidays. It’s not a pilot, but a permanent shift in how it handles hiring."

The story notes that this approach to hiring "was pioneered by the New York social enterprise Greyston Bakery … which sells baked goods to customers such as Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry’s."  According to the story, "When there’s an opening, the job is filled from a list of people looking for work. New hires start as apprentices and get training in both how to do the job and basic life skills; those who decide to stay after the apprenticeship get an entry-level job and the opportunity to advance. The system works well enough that the company sold 8 million pounds of brownies in 2019, making $22 million. This year, Greyston launched a nonprofit, the Center for Open Hiring, in 2018 to help other businesses implement the same process."

KC's View:

It sounds like, at least in these cases, the inherent risks of such an approach are paying off.  So good for them.

But we are in a seller's market when it comes to labor.  I have to wonder if the policy will stay in place when things turn, unemployment rises, and suddenly it becomes a buyer's market.  

When you can be picky, shouldn't you be picky?