Hundreds of hopeful workers have applied to work at The Body Shop over the Christmas period, after the retailer last week became one of the first employers in Australia to adopt an ‘open hiring’ policy for its in-store seasonal staff.
The skincare and cosmetics brand is looking to hire up to 438 seasonal casuals this holiday season and has already received strong interest since launching its new policy on September 13, with applications not yet open for most stores in Victoria and New South Wales.
Open hiring policies remove traditional employment barriers that may prevent certain groups of people from finding employment. They are designed to improve the employment opportunities for minorities, as well as people who have experienced homelessness or who have previously been incarcerated.
In The Body Shop’s case, the policy means that staff applying for the seasonal positions only need to answer three questions, including if they are legally authorised to work in Australia; can lift up to 11kgs and work an eight-hour shift in one day; and are happy to work with customers — although this last one is not a disqualifier.
Michelle Nolan, inclusion and belonging lead at The Body Shop Australia, explains there is no screening, background checks or formal education requirements under the policy.
Workers are essentially selected on a first-in basis after applying online and invited to meet with the manager of one of their preferred stores. A conversation is then had about the inherent requirements of the job to ensure the worker understands what is required in terms of the length and frequency of their shifts.
“There’s no interview, no resume, no experience,” Nolan tells SmartCompany.
“If they can meet the inherent requirements, the manager will say, ‘yes, you’ve got the job’ and then they go through the same onboarding process as all other staff.”
The Body Shop has partnered with charities Launch Housing, Little Dreamers, Good Shepherd and APM to target potential candidates in four key groups: people experiencing homelessness, single parents, young carers and Indigenous Australians.
“We believe employment is one of the biggest and greatest equalisers,” Nolan says of why The Body Shop has adopted the policy.
“Our goal is to create a fairer and more beautiful world, and we believe this fits with that. We want to be representative of the world we live in.”
Nolan says The Body Shop, which was founded by Anita Roddick in 1976 and is now part of global cosmetics group Natura & Co, has been exploring open hiring practices for a number of years in the US, having worked closely with Greyston Bakery, a supplier to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a pioneer in this space.
The Body Shop ran a successful trial in the US, developed in partnership with Greyston Bakery, for its US stores and distribution centres. Under the program, the company hired 733 seasonal employees and saw an uplift in overall employee retention and the number of items produced per hour.
As well as Australia, the retailer is now rolling out the in-store seasonal program in its three other biggest markets: the US, UK and Canada.
While the positions are initially casual ones, Nolan says the employees hired through the program will then be able to apply for any permanent positions that become available after the holiday season.
The Body Shop plans to use the same open hiring policy each Christmas, and there’s potential for it to be rolled out further across other roles in the business, says Nolan.
“At the moment it is just Christmas casuals, but who knows?” she says.
“It is still so much in its infancy, but over the next 12 months we’ll have the opportunity to improve it and take lessons from it.”
However, open hiring policies sit within the broader banner of inclusive employment practices, which Nolan says are an area of focus for the business. Her position itself is a new one, having joined the retailer only five weeks ago, and The Body Shop has also recently introduced a living wage for all employees.
Open hiring is a “forward thinking” approach, says Nolan, as it means moving away from hiring practices that have been used by many businesses for a long time, including background checks.
But traditional background checks don’t always serve their intended purpose anyway, says Nolan.
“The world over, in any working environment there are issues regardless of whether you’ve done a background check or not,” she says.
Working with specialist charity partners and having a thorough onboarding process means the retailer is well-positioned to support individuals who might need it, says Michelle, and the experience in other countries has shown open hiring practices has a positive effect on employee loyalty.
The likes of multibillion-dollar design business Canva are also increasingly adopting inclusive hiring practices, and Nolan is clear that “this is where society needs to go”.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for a number of really great individuals who have traditionally faced barriers when they shouldn’t have,” she says.