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Innovative Hiring Practices Expand Local Economies and Create Career Opportunities
As the global population shifts to become older and more diverse, with the U.S. projected to become “minority white” in 2045, businesses face new concerns related to the economy, health care and retirement income. Those that are better able to adapt to these changes and create opportunities for the evolving workforce will be better positioned for future business success.
Businesses know the importance of who they hire, but some go further by emphasizing how they hire and adopting innovative hiring practices — broadening their pool of potential workers, expanding local economies and creating career options along the way.
While B Corps are legally required to consider their impact on workers, many go beyond the expected and stand out because of these innovative hiring practices.
At Upstreet Brewing on Prince Edward Island in Canada, co-founder and CEO Mitch Cobb has created breweries where customers enjoy good food and beer and employees feel valued. “When we started Upstreet, one of our motivating factors was to create great jobs in a great work environment for young people on PEI,” he says.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, outdoor gear brand Cotopaxi created a short-term employment program for refugees designed to help them adapt to life in a new home while gaining experience and references for future employment. Annie Agle of Cotopaxi says the program expands on the B Corp’s founding impact focus to alleviate poverty and help displaced people — around the globe and in Utah. “Locally we feel obligated to do what we can — right here, right now,” she says.
Read on for a deeper look at how these two B Corps and others are expanding employee horizons through their innovative hiring practices to build a stronger B Economy.
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Brewing Employment Opportunities at Upstreet
More than a decade after he and some friends started home-brewing as a hobby, co-founder Cobb helps lead a thriving Upstreet Brewing with three locations across two Canadian provinces, a line of craft sodas, and beer on shelves in four provinces. The business growth is worth a toast, he says, but so is the B Corp’s impact in the Prince Edward Island (PEI) community where Cobb grew up and now employs nearly 50 people.
“Growing up on PEI, it was always assumed that you had to move off the island to find a good job and have a successful and meaningful career. For a long time, I felt the same way until I moved back here in 2005 and fell back in love with the island,” Cobb says. “I met all kinds of interesting people doing interesting things and came to the realization that there are lots of opportunities on the island if you seek them out.”
Upstreet Brewing is in good company as a growing business offering job opportunities to young people looking to stay on the island. Typical job options on PEI have revolved around fishing, farming, tourism or government, Cobb says. But PEI is in a “bit of a boom” right now, he says, offering more opportunities for young people in industries like information technology, bioscience and aerospace.
“Plus there are a growing number of young people who are starting their own businesses or creating their own jobs,” he says. “It’s really an exciting time to be living on PEI.”
Reaching Out to Refugees at Cotopaxi
In addition to crafting one-of-a-kind outdoor apparel and products, Cotopaxi incorporates innovative hiring practices to create unique work opportunities for refugees. These programs are part of its newly launched foundation that supports the B Corp’s commitment to “Do Good” by building inclusive economies and alleviating poverty.
Agle, director of impact at Cotopaxi and executive director of the Cotopaxi Foundation, says the foundation solidifies the B Corp’s commitment to impact with support from its workers and customers.
When Cotopaxi started in 2014, CEO Davis Smith wanted to build connections with customers through its “gear for good” goal to alleviate poverty and human displacement that affected nearly 70 million people in 2018. From its inception, Cotopaxi has partnered with the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid program that is one of its grantees, to provide workplace opportunities for refugees new to Salt Lake City.
“We see the IRC as part of our company. The refugee issue is complex and as a small startup, we try to bring something more creative than just funding to the table,” Agle says.
By creating a path toward employment for refugees, Cotopaxi eases some of the initial strain that comes with moving to a new country.
“As families are first coming into this community, their job opportunities are minimal. We provide short-term, six-month employment contracts to refugees,” Agle says. “This allows them to work on their English, gives them exposure to the warehouse atmosphere, and helps them build references and work experience.”
Cotopaxi partners with the IRC on a program for young female scholars that includes a job shadow day, when the students learn about the variety of jobs at the B Corp. The students also can receive help in applying for college, internships and other professional opportunities.
“Refugee youth have a different set of responsibilities than other youth. When they come to a company like this, there are a whole lot of jobs they don’t know about — marketing, product design, accounting, events,” Agle says. “We really then try to break down those barriers that exist in their head where they’re already putting limitations on their future and help them think through possibilities.”
3 More Innovative Hiring Practice B Corp Leaders
Other B Corps have been leaders in the workplace by hiring workers who face employment barriers, offering financial programs to help employees build their credit rating, and providing at-work educational opportunities. Here’s a look at three that B the Change previously highlighted.
Open Hiring at Greyston Bakery
A pioneer of Open Hiring, this Yonkers, New York-based B Corp bakery brings on new employees through a no-questions-asked process that provides opportunities for people who might otherwise struggle to find a job. Last year it opened the Center for Open Hiring, which provides education and training, advisory services, and research and programs to spread the word. And the baked goods that workers produce are top-notch, as key ingredients in Ben & Jerry’s favorite flavors including Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Half Baked.
Income Advance at Rhino Foods
The financial benefits for workers at Rhino Foods go beyond a paycheck. Founder and CEO Ted Castle created a program that’s now known as Income Advance Program that provides quick access to loans of up to $1,000 for emergencies or other unplanned needs. Employees build a credit history in the process, and once the loan is paid off they can continue to have the automatic deductions go into a savings account.
“We were losing some of our best people,” Castle says. “So we decided to do something about it. It’s one thing to hang a sign on the wall saying, ‘Our employees are our most valuable asset’; it’s another to prove it by supporting them with innovative solutions.”
Welcoming Refugees at The Stroopie Co.
This Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based B Corp manufactures traditional Dutch cookies and follows hiring practices that reflect its community’s history and spirit. Each year, Lancaster invites hundreds of refugees to re-establish their home in Pennsylvania. Started in 2008, Stroopie’s has always aimed to provide “meaningful employment” to refugees, who also receive instruction from English as a Second Language instructors as part of their employment.
“The refugee women we’re hiring, they’re super-motivated, thankful, great workers — just a huge, huge asset to our company,” co-owner Jennie Groff says. “I just can’t imagine taking our family and having to start over in a new place. We view it as a deepest privilege to provide a job with dignity.”
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.
5 B Corp Innovative Hiring Practices Changing Lives was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.