At Flagger Force, we are committed to cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and thriving workforce. This includes providing employment opportunities for those of all experience levels and backgrounds who want to work. As a fair-chance employer, we consider candidates for their capabilities first and offer employment and career development opportunities without the undue scrutiny these candidates often experience. Through resources such as a free GED program, industry training, and rapid advancement opportunities, we help individuals grow both professionally and personally.

It is a privilege to be a fair-chance employer and collaborate with other businesses who share our passion to enhance the lives of employees, families, communities, and the economy. We recently had the opportunity to connect with MOD Pizza’s vice president of social impact, Robin Hamm, to discuss the company’s workforce development programs and how they break down barriers to employment.  

Robin is responsible for leading the company’s social impact and talent acquisition strategy for the 540+ location fast-casual pizza brand. She helps deliver MOD Pizza’s social impact commitment—to be the leading employer providing opportunity, stability, and mobility to individuals facing barriers to employment. She started her journey at MOD in 2017 as the vice president of culinary, and later served as vice president of operations, where she led all field operations, including opening 100+ new locations across the United States. A 20-year industry veteran, Robin previously held leadership roles at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews and Safeway, Inc. She believes deeply in MOD’s purpose to serve people and frequently speaks about it in industry and academia. Robin holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Florida and a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech.

See what Robin Hamm shared during our recent conversation to learn how MOD Pizza is a force for good in the lives of the people they employ and the communities they serve.  

Could you share a bit of background about MOD Pizza?

Robin: MOD Pizza is a fast-casual pizza chain based in Seattle, Washington. We have approximately 540 locations across the United States and a handful of locations in Canada. MOD exists to serve people and we are proud to have over 12,000 employees, who we refer to as our Squad! Our founders, Scott and Ally Svenson, are very active and integrated into the business and play a key role in our social impact initiatives. 

What are the four pillars in MOD Pizza’s social impact strategy?

Robin: Our four pillars are opportunity, stability, mobility, and advocacy. We listened to our Squad to identify these pillars and have developed programs around each area to serve our employees.

Our social impact strategy starts with opportunity, which strives to break down barriers to employment for individuals in our communities who face extraordinary challenges. Last month, we launched the MOD Opportunity Network (MOD O.N.), a program that allows us to scale our fair-chance employment initiatives across the United States to provide jobs to people who are justice-involved as well as those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We have identified five partners to be a part of this program, including Goodwill Industries. Our goal with this program is to create a network of multi-regional and national partners across the country who support fair-chance employment and can help provide expertise and resources beyond the job, such as transportation, housing support, and counseling to break down barriers employees may face.

Stability is the second pillar and focuses on building resilience in all our people, specifically around mental and economic health. Our Bridge Fund, which is funded by MOD employees to help serve as a bridge from crisis to stability, has been around for 8 years. We can get vendor donations and do host occasional in-store promotions, such as special flavored Squad cakes, to benefit the Bridge Fund. Additionally, we are proud to offer MOD CLEAR, our record expungement program that we kicked off last year and which is fully funded by MOD. We hope to expand into four states by the end of 2023. In collaboration with our legal team, external law firms, who do pro bono work, and our vendor partner, Easy Expunctions, we help employees who have criminal records expunge, seal, or clear their charges. Having a criminal background can create barriers to affordable housing, employment, and more, so we are proud to play a role in breaking down those barriers for our Squad. We have had many success stories already and look forward to helping more Squad members find the relief associated with no longer having a record.

Next up is mobility. This pillar is about helping employees build wealth and develop their careers. Our Journey Program, which is operated in partnership with Guild Education, provides interested employees with access to a free education. About 4 to 5% of our workforce, including general managers and district managers, do not have a high school diploma. Through this partnership with Guild Education, Squad members can earn everything from certifications to a high school diploma and even a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Our team recognized there was a strong need to provide this service and since launching in 2022, we have received a tremendous amount of interest.

Lastly, we have advocacy. We currently are a member of the Workforce and Justice Alliance but are looking to get into more advocacy work in a strategic way. Having conversations with other fair-chance employers and joining our voices to improve equitable access for everyone across the country will help break down many barriers to employment, such as transportation, housing support, justice involvement, and more.

  “Having a criminal background can create barriers to affordable housing, employment, and more, so we are proud to play a role in breaking down those barriers for our employees.”

Where did the concept for MOD CLEAR come from?

Robin: The concept for MOD CLEAR came from both our employees and chief legal officer, who had done pro bono work at a previous company. As a fair-chance employer, we have a workforce that could really benefit from record expungement services. However, many do not pursue the process because they cannot afford it, or they think it is too complicated. About 75% of people can get their record expunged, sealed, or cleared, but only about 20% of people do it.

Our chief legal officer listened to our employees and had a vision for how she could use her legal mindset in a good way. She began working with leadership on a strategic process in 2019 and we began to pilot the initiative shortly thereafter, which has now evolved into the program it is today. 


“About 75% of people can get their record expunged, sealed, or cleared, but only about 20% of people do it.”

How do you communicate with employees about your workforce development resources and programs?

Robin: One way we communicate with our Squad is through an app called Beekeeper. Through this technology, we can provide quick access to files and documents and chat with team members. Beekeeper is voluntary for our hourly team members and 83% of those individuals choose to use the platform. About 60% of our workforce uses Beekeeper on a daily basis and in the past year, our Squad has made over 26,000 posts!

We also distribute weekly field communications to all our store leaders. Within the communications, there are specific topics that must be discussed during daily huddles, or internal meetings. All messaging is posted in the store for employees to read. Storytelling has played a huge role in inspiring our Squad and building our culture. When an employee shares their experience with one of our programs with a colleague, the story travels much further than program information and data.

What common misconceptions do you hear from either employees or other businesses about being a fair-chance employer?

Robin: We all have biases. It is very natural for concerns to arise, especially if an individual or their family and friends do not have life experiences with the justice system. One of the main misconceptions we hear is that people with justice involvement are not reliable—that they cannot hold down a job and that they need a lot of flexibility to go get drug tests, see their probation officer, attend court dates, and more. The truth is, we all have things happening in our lives that require flexibility. At MOD, our managers do not make special exceptions for these individuals. They still need to request time off just like everybody else, but we make sure that we are there to provide flexible scheduling for our workforce.

Another misconception is that employees with criminal records can only work in entry-level roles. At MOD, team members who are justice-involved get promoted at a higher rate than those who are not. For all of 2022 and into early 2023, Squad members with justice-involvement were promoted at a rate 1.2% greater than our company baseline. We have leaders in our stores and our support center who have been formerly incarcerated and now serve as general managers, district managers, and regional directors.

Theft is also a concern that many individuals bring up. We do not have a lot of thefts at MOD, but in those occasions that we do, 9 out of 10 times, it is someone who has not been previously justice-involved. Generally, it is linked back to supporting an addiction, where the individual has relapsed. If that has been identified as the cause, MOD will provide the Squad member with access and support to services to get into rehab. We do not report these incidents to the police or add to an individual’s record. We take a very opposite approach and try to get to the root of the problem, figure out what is going on, and try to determine if there is a way that MOD can be a part of the solution. We have hired back former employees that have shown growth and are in a different spot than they were previously.

It is important to remember that we are all people and have had some rough days where we have made choices we are not proud of. Imagine it is the worst day of your life, and people continually judge you by that day. We strive to support individuals and give them the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. And, when the right support is offered, they tend to follow the rules well and do what is right, which shows in our data. For all of 2022 and into early 2023, Squad members with justice-involvement were retained at a rate 6% greater than the company baseline. Additionally, 90% of Squad members with justice-involvement feel a sense of belonging at MOD, and 87% would gladly recommend MOD as a place to work to people they know and respect, according to our 2021 MOD employee engagement survey.

“Squad members with justice-involvement were promoted at a rate 1.2% greater than our company baseline...and were retained at a rate 6% greater than our company baseline.”


How has MOD Pizza addressed these misconceptions through education and communication?

Robin: Part of MOD’s recruiting strategy is to seek out diverse candidate sources, and we leverage non-traditional hiring methods, such as working with community organizations who specifically support underserved members of the community. As a fair-chance employer, we have fostered a company culture that makes all employees feel included, accepted, and like they belong. Individuals who have a criminal record do not come in on their first day with a flag saying, “I have a criminal background, so treat me differently.” If someone wants to tell their story, they can. Often when their story is shared, other employees realize it could have been themselves, a family member, or friend who faced a similar situation.

We have broad, open communication about what we are trying to do. MOD exists to serve people. The intent is that when you walk into one of our locations or when you are working there, what you did in your past does not matter. We say what matters most is what you do next!   

If you were talking to an organization that currently does not have a workforce development program, what are some of the tips that you would provide them?

Robin: It is important for organizations to remove judgment and have empathy. Try to understand what is going on in an individual’s life and the circumstances behind it. It is also critical to talk to businesses about inclusive hiring overall and look to organizations, like MOD Pizza and Flagger Force, who have implemented successful programs. If we do not engage in fair-chance hiring as a country, we may have some workforce issues in the future. If businesses want to stay in place and have employees who are going to be there, leaders will need to consider non-traditional methods.

Research now shows that if you engage culturally and from a purpose perspective to have not just a workplace, but an overall environment where employees really are accepted, people are kind, and leaders are inclusive in building up a company culture of diversity, that is the way to a successful business. A diverse group of team members leads to innovation and creativity.

Another factor to think through is the power of partnership. At MOD, we have learned that we cannot do it alone. We are a business, and it takes everybody. Government is a key piece of this. Local government can have an impact on businesses so paying attention there and understanding what is going on will be beneficial. Nonprofit organizations also make great partners since they have the closest proximity to individuals with barriers, whether it is individuals with justice involvement, disabilities, or refugees. Using your community nonprofits as a resource for expertise, support, and wraparound services will be critical.

I would also recommend looking at your organization’s background check procedures and education requirements. Do you really need a college degree to perform the role or is experience enough?

Whether you are a huge public company or a small private company, I encourage all organizations who are considering fair-chance hiring to understand it is really about the collective culture and then give it a shot. Take a pathway that is uncomfortable. It does not have to be for the whole company. Hire one or two individuals who are justice involved or pilot a new initiative at one location. Then, reflect and I think you will be amazed at what you see.

  “It is important for organizations to remove judgement and have empathy. Try to understand what is going on in an individual’s life and the circumstances behind it.”

At Flagger Force, we are honored to collaborate with other fair-chance organizations who share our passion for making a positive impact in the communities we serve and who are committed to enhancing the lives of their employees, their families, and society as a whole.

Flagger Force thanks MOD Pizza for making this thoughtful discussion possible. And we thank Robin Hamm for her contributions to breaking down barriers to employment.