Target hires counselors to help employees

Target logo on a storefront


JEREMY HOBSON: While we're talking about big box retailers, here's a problem many of them face especially those in the inner-city -- high turnover and absenteeism. But instead of getting tough, some stores have gotten a social worker.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler explains.

Jeff Tyler: For the past two years, this Target store in East Los Angeles has its own workplace counselor -- Rosana Trivino-Perez. Her job is sort of a social worker crossed with a reference librarian.

Rosana Trivino-Perez: It's like a concierge service of needs that can be addressed. And they can come to me. It's a one-stop shop.

These aren't your normal workplace issues. More private, personal stuff, like domestic violence, or teen pregnancy or health issues.

Trivino-Perez: Those things tend to keep them away. They don't know how to resolve it. They don't know what other resources they have -- home, health, any other subsidy.

And with the recession, more employees are facing financial problems like bankruptcy or foreclosure.

Richard Chaifetz: They're spending time at work trying to contact banks or credit card companies. Or lawyers. Or they're just missing work because these things are so overwhelming to them that they can't even focus on their job.

That's Richard Chaifetz, founder and CEO of ComPsych, the firm that supplies counselors to Target and other companies.

Chaifetz: They want to target the issue of turnover in the stores and the best way, we felt, to address that was by resources on-site for these people. For financial counseling, emotional counseling, legal counseling.

Now, you might ask, aren't these the kind of issues that the HR department could handle? Chaifetz says no.

Chaifetz: Because of issues of confidentiality, a lot of employees are not comfortable going to an HR person with these personal issues.

Adding a counselor does mean an extra expense. But in the long run, that position could save the company money.

Steve Laffery is director of health benefits for Target. He credits counselors for lowering workplace accidents by 24 percent and boosting attendance 17 percent. Investing in a counselor essentially paid off, in terms of better employees.

Laffery: They're more productive. We have lower turnover. We have better guest service scores. Those are all business metrics that turn into better results.

Employee loyalty may become even more valuable in the months ahead -- as the economy improves, and workers start getting other offers.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.
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If you have human beings in your organization, then the odds are 1:3 that anyone could benefit from the services of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at any given time. Ultimately as this story observes, confidential EAP counseling paid by the employer is progressive in terms of employee appreciation and a smart business move for retention and increased productivity.

I'm the president of Workplace Counselling Services (WCS). WE have been in operation from 1997 and have looked after the employees in smaller companies (10-250) and would be interested to look after your staff with our counsellors.

I am the Ontario Director for Corporate Chaplains Canada and we have seen huge benefits to both the employees as well as the employers. The employees receive face to face immediate, confidential personal care, and employers have reported a savings of about $4 for every $1 invested in such a service. Find out more at www.chaplains.ca

I think it's fantastic that Target has provided this service for their employees. EAP's are great but it's not a "right now" solution. Target has recently bought out their lease hold on HBC/Zellers here in Ontario/Canada. As a result I certainly hope to see much needed counseling happen in the stores here as well. There is one company I am aware of called Corporate Chaplains Canada that does the same for businesses here. Being raised in Long Lake, Minnesota I know how hard the CEO's of Target have worked to build it into the company it is. This is just one more thing that Target and it's Owners/CEO's will lead the way in!

I am a counselor with a local non-profit job training program. We have seen very similar results. In the past two years turnover has decreased by 50%! This is very encouraging to see in a major store such as Target. I hope in the future more organizations see the value in having Behavioral Health consultants on staff.

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