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What are fair chance hiring and open hiring?

In 2017, employee turnover within the restaurant industry was 73 percent. At the Hot Chicken Takeover chain in Columbus, Ohio, that rate is only 39 percent. The difference could be that Hot Chicken Takeover earns employees' loyalty by giving people with complicated work histories or criminal records a real chance at getting a job. The chain is part of the fair chance hiring movement.

In addition to asking about traditional hiring criteria like work history, Hot Chicken Takeover's fair chance hiring process includes questions meant to gauge the applicant's work readiness and culture fit. Once a new person is hired, Hot Chicken Takeover offers a variety of benefits meant to help people thrive. In addition to the professional development and transit benefits many employers offer, the company provides interest-free cash advances, flexible scheduling, free meals and even counseling.

But aren't people with spotty work histories and criminal records a problem in the workforce? Most traditional hiring techniques intentionally weed them out.

The way Hot Chicken Takeover sees it, "Having a clean record doesn't necessarily indicate that an employee is honest or trustworthy. And on the flip side, a tarnished record doesn't necessarily indicate that an employee isn't honest or trustworthy."

Meanwhile, in Yonkers, New York, the Greyston Bakery has implemented an even more radical hiring process it calls "open hiring." It has been so successful that the company recently created an online, collaborative learning space called the Open Hiring Center to help companies who want to eliminate barriers to employment.

Greyston's recruitment process is based on the idea that "every single person coming through the door ... has the potential to be successful on the job." Interested applicants come to the factory and write their names down on a list. When a job opens up, Greyston simply calls the next person on the list and hires them. New employees enter a 6-10 month paid apprenticeship.

Other businesses are opening up the process to non-traditional applicants, too. Target, Walmart and Starbucks do conduct background checks -- but not until the end of the hiring process. Then, applicants are given a chance to explain and advocate for themselves.

Take some time to consider whether fair chance hiring, open hiring or another less-restrictive hiring model could be an opportunity for your organization to build loyalty and improve retention.

Before making major changes to your hiring process, however, check with your employment law attorney. While these hiring models have benefits, employing people without performing background checks is not appropriate for every organization or every industry.

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