The Body Shop is a global cosmetics brand that has been around since the 1970s – it is actually the world’s largest B Corp to be founded by a woman; its revenue sat at $800 million in 2022.
“We’ve always thought about how we can do things in a way that’s radical, different dynamic,” Nykeba King, global director of diversity, inclusion and belonging at The Body Shop, tells UNLEASH in an exclusive interview.
This doesn’t just apply to the brand’s sustainable and inclusive products – The Body Shop says it has a triple bottom line: “We equally prioritize profit, people and the wellbeing of the planet”.
Dialing into the people bucket, King shares that back in 2019, The Body Shop was inspired by another B Corp, Greyston Bakery in New York, to turn its recruitment processes on their head.
The resulting initiative is called Open Hiring and it dials into people’s potential, rather than their past experiences, as well as helps remove barriers and bias in hiring and employment.
King notes: “We think [about] education and employment as great equalizers, but because of inequity and systemic barriers that means that sometimes people don’t access to [the same] types of opportunities.
“Because people are denied those opportunities, or their past precludes them from ever getting an interview or reaching their potential, there are so many people that are overlooked.”
King describes Open Hiring as “a fair, non-judgmental, super inclusive hiring practice” – but how does it actually work?
“The first person that applies for a role gets the opportunity – no matter who they are.
“There is no traditional interview process”, they just have to answer three questions: are you legally eligible to work?
Can you work for up to eight hours (the maximum length of a shift) and can you carry a certain amount of weight (aka can you deal with the physical demands of retail and warehouse jobs).
“We don’t ask for resumes. There are no other types of pre-employment screens or checks – and if someone says yes to all three, they get the job,” adds King.
“It really is based on trust – we’re trusting the person to say to us ‘I want this job. I think I can do this job’.
“They are trusting us to help them develop or enhance their skills. We can give a lot of second chances, and even first chances, to [give] people the opportunities to succeed.”
Unleashing potential with Open Hiring
For The Body Shop, Open Hiring is a way to “really change lives”, it isn’t about fixing attrition problems.
However, it has had coincidental talent acquisition benefits – it helps the brand “tap into untapped pools of talent”, and it has driven engagement and retention across the organization.
“When you give people access to something they’ve been struggling to find, like employment, they will work hard for you, and they will work hard to keep that opportunity,” shares King.
“Many of our employees have said just…having somebody believe in them gives them a reason to get up in the morning, and look forward to the next day.”
She continues that Open Hiring has contributed to the culture at The Body Shop – “once you open up your candidate pool, you’ll never go back – they bring skills, experience and resilience”.
The data shows that Open Hiring has not impacted customer satisfaction stores across The Body Shop stores, and productivity and sales in stores with Open Hiring are actually double digits higher.
Although the program started in one distribution center in the US, The Body Shop is so pleased it is now in operation across Canada, Australia, the US, and includes retail roles too.
Of The Body Shop’s 10,000 employees globally, it is on a mission for around 1,500 a year to be recruited through Open Hiring. Since 2019, the brand has hired more than 5,600 people through Open Hiring.
The initiative has been a boom for converting seasonal hires into permanent workers – the figure has increased 19% to 35% since the introduction of Open Hiring proving “how great the talent the potential is of the people that we’re bringing in”.
King’s message to HR leaders who are unsure about copying this radically inclusive approach to hiring is to smart small; it could be as small as getting rid of educational requirements or drug screens – “the benefits far outweigh the risks”.
The Body Shop, Open Hiring and the refugee crisis
In 2021, The Body Shop decided to leverage Open Hiring to reach those who need the program the most.
Yes, Open Hiring is for anybody, “you can come from any community, but we really wanted to make sure that we hit marginalized communities, communities that are the most removed from employment and maybe needed these opportunities”.
To do this, the cosmetics brand partnered with a range of charities and non-governmental organizations from across the world to attract and recruit people from communities like young careers, those at risk of homelessness, and those who had previously been incarcerated.
And most recently, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, The Body Shop has started focusing on the refugee community in collaboration with the Tent Partnership for Refugees.
“Like many other businesses, were looking for how we could help, how we could support refugees, and in particular Ukrainian refugees,” King shares.
“We thought Open Hiring might be a way” to reconnect “people with some sort of stability”.
And the team had heard great things about Tent – “we were just so impressed by all the work they’ve done”.
Then in the summer of 2022, the relationship started in North America, and it has grown into other markets since. To date, The Body Shop has committed to hiring 200 refugees in the US, and the same across Europe. As things stand, 230 have been hired globally.
Beyond inclusion, towards belonging at The Body Shop
The Body Shop’s commitment to refugees – and in fact, the entire Open Hiring cohort – doesn’t end when they are hired into the business.
Specifically regarding refugees, the employer works with Tent, and other partners like CIWA in Canada, the Irish Refugee Council and APM in Australia, to ensure they can thrive in their role.
“We select [our partners] because they’re experts in those communities” and can provide “wraparound services” – they know what additional, tailored support they may need in their roles, “whether that is transportation, or a place to stay”, on-the-job mentoring or specific training, such as language lessons.
The Body Shop is always keen to learn from these external partners to ensure it is constantly challenging itself to be as inclusive as possible – for instance, in the learning and development sphere, “is it actually true that you can learn, develop and progress equitably regardless of your background?”
“We do think about every group, and their specific barriers and needs, and we address that through the partners that we select and work with,” shares King.
Plus, the HR team at The Body Shop talks one-on-one to individuals about their challenges, “which helps us to then link them to services that will be specific to their situation”.
Continuously listening is a core part of The Body Shop’s commitment to not just inclusion, but belonging.
“We’re very people-centered, and we want to ensure that voices are heard, and that we respond…We try to understand what we can do differently,” notes King.
When tech meets diversity and inclusion
Of course, Open Hiring is just one element of The Body Shop’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
For King, inclusion has “always been integral to what we do at The Body Shop” – “we have this belief that equality is a human right, and that every person has this inherent right to live their life free of bias, discrimination and unjust treatment”.
“We are really committed to using our voices, being allies and working with communities who are fighting for justice, human rights, and fair and equitable treatment,” adds King.
And the brand’s employees “really hold us to account” – “The Body Shop is a collective of people; they’re always raising the bar and challenging us” to walk the walk on diversity and inclusion.
They will send King and her team or direct email about concerns, or share their views on the Microsoft Engage internal communications site and with the employee inclusion networks.
King tells UNLEASH: “When you give people space to share, and then you illustrate that you’re going to hear them, and genuinely try to respond and take action around whatever they’re saying, that encourages people to tell you more things – that’s the type of environment we try to create.”
Data and analytics is also crucial here.
“We’re always checkpointing against our progress, we look at how we’re doing and where our gaps might still be, and what we can do to fix them.”
“We pulse all the time” – with the help of Inpulse – “we ask questions that [really] give us insight into how people are feeling about belonging or inclusion or diversity”.
For King, it would not possible for The Body Shop to have made the strides it has in diversity and inclusion without technology.
“There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of data. The tech can clearly help you with the data, insights and analytics; it can help you listen, and gain insights, but also distil the data down into something that’s bite-sized, easy to understand, actionable and meaningful.”
Then King can take the insights to “stakeholders to digest”, and that helps drive resources, investment and leadership buy-in into future inclusion initiatives.
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