Target Gets Personal with Associates
Big box retailers looking to open stores in urban neighborhoods
often have different considerations to take into account vs. when
moving into upscale suburban locations. Limited space for building along with
more expensive rents and higher crime rates, for example, make store size and
security higher priorities in urban areas.
Another consideration is employee
welfare. According to a Los Angeles
Times article, Target found that associates in stores in Compton and
other urban locations faced challenges that could be quite different than
those of its workers in other stores.
Before moving into Compton, Target was
aware of its reputation for gang violence, drugs and numerous other social
ills associated with extreme poverty. What it didn’t really see coming was
how it would affect those individuals who made up its workforce.
was domestic violence, teenage pregnancy. We’ve had situations where team
members were homeless and living in their cars but still coming to work," Alice
Reyes, head of human resources at the Compton Target, told the Times. "More
than half of my day was dealing with team member concerns — ‘What should
I do, where should I go?’ They needed someone to talk to, someone who would
Target made the decision to go out and get someone to help associates
with their problems. In stepped ComPsych, a company that provides workplace
counselors, and Saundra Edwards.
Ms. Edwards, or Miss Saundra as she is known
at the store, spends two days a week at the Compton Target. She told the Times her
job is "not
about giving advice, it’s about giving assistance."
One case where Ms.
Edwards provided assistance was with a sales clerk who worked at another Target
and feared for her safety from a former boyfriend. Issues with the man caused
her to miss work and almost cost her the job at Target. Ms. Edwards, learning
of the situation, helped the woman find space in a women’s shelter and arranged
for her to move to the Compton store. Since then, getting to work has not been
"Last year was terrible and it’s better now," the woman told
Ms. Edwards. "I didn’t know who to talk to. When you’re going through
things, you don’t want to take them to work and dump all over someone."
Compton store was the second in the chain to hire a social worker. Today, the
chain has 69 stores with social workers and those locations showed a 17 percent
improvement in attendance.
"Our Compton store has been a great success story," Gregg Steinhafel,
chairman and CEO of Target, told the Times. "I’m confident that
learnings from our three years in Compton will prove extremely beneficial as
we continue to expand."
Discussion Questions: Are there lessons for other chains from Target’s experience
with social workers? Would this approach also be effective in locations in areas
outside of urban areas?