Working at Greyston Bakery requires no formal qualifications or an interview. “Open Hiring” is the name of the US bakery’s concept. Is it going to school soon?
Applying to Greyston Bakery is quick and easy. You write your name and phone number on a list and wait – on average six months – for a call back. “They don’t judge you. There are no background checks on what you did before or whether you have an education,” says 32-year-old Vome. “They call, and then you come here and start working. First you are trained, and then after a while you can move up – like me. I started in 2015 and then took advantage of my opportunities. And now I’m here .”
From the fringes of society back to work
Vone is now a supervisor in production. In any other company, he probably wouldn’t even have been invited to an interview because he has a criminal record: an exclusion criterion for pretty much every US company.
But not for Greyston Bakery, says managing director Joseph Kenner. “We focus on people with employment barriers: ex-convicts, single parents, the homeless, people with mental health issues or who cannot speak English. 43 percent of our workers speak Spanish. Our mission statement is: Unleash the power of human potential through inclusive employment – one person at a time .”
Joseph Kenner is the managing director of Greyston Bakery. The problems that exist in the bakery staff are everywhere, he says.
Image: ARD Studio New York/Peter Mücke
From café to large bakery
In the spirit of Greyston Bakery founder Bernie Glassman, a Zen Buddhist from Brooklyn. In 1982 he came to Yonkers, the city with the highest rate of homelessness in the USA at the time, and opened a small café and bakery here – a few kilometers outside of New York City. 40 years later it has grown into a large industrial company with 120 employees.
“It’s part of what we call our big bakery. This is where the brownies are baked, which then come in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream,” says Kenner. “The ingredients are mixed and then the batter is pumped onto trays, which then go into a long tunnel oven. Then they go into a cooling tower – and then the brownies are chopped up into small pieces.” Yonkers cookie crumbs are bagged and shipped throughout North America and Europe, where they end up in ice cream.
“Same problems as other companies”
In addition, Greyston Bakery produces brownies of various flavors for US supermarket chains. And earns money with it – despite the “open hiring” type of employee recruitment. “Many people think that if we do ‘open hiring’ and don’t ask questions, then chaos must break out in the company,” says Kenner.
“But we have the same problems as other companies: people don’t come to work, there are problems with discipline. But companies that hire according to a conventional concept also have problems with substance abuse and underperforming in the workforce. We are facing the same challenges as other companies.” With the difference that Greyston tries to solve such problems without putting the employees on the street right away.
More than a job: The brownies baked at Greyston Bakery are available in a variety of flavors at many US supermarkets.
Image: ARD Studio New York/Peter Mücke
Help for employees in need
To this end, the company has been working for some time with the largest non-profit organization for social services in Westchester County: “It all started six or seven years ago when suddenly many employees stopped coming to work,” Kenner recalls. “We asked why. Sometimes they had problems with their children or addiction problems themselves. Or they had lost their apartment and had to sleep in the car. We then try to support and help. It’s a win-win situation: the people things are getting better and we have good employees.”
Foundation promotes a new approach
Just like 50-year-old John, who has been working at Greyston Bakery for five years: “Before that, I didn’t have my own apartment. I slept on my mother’s couch. I haven’t had a job for a long time, I have bad depression didn’t do anything all day. Now I have an apartment and recently a car. I have my own independence now.” It would be unthinkable without the “open hiring” system that the Greyston Foundation, which has since been set up, is trying to make tempting for other companies.