On Thursday, January 20th 2011, “Marketplace” on American Public Media reported on a surprising story related to one of America’s largest “big box” retailers.
Target, one of the nation’s leading retailers, announced that it would begin hiring and placing professional counselors in many of its inner-city branches and chains, in order to combat growing problems of inefficiency, absenteeism, and high employee turnover. And one of the reasons cited? Domestic violence, specifically on the part of employees who are victims.
According to the report, Target has already subcontracted ComPsych, a company that specializes in work place counseling, to begin placing work counselors in some of their more troubled inner-city branches. The company states that this decision came after a realization that poor employee performance in these chains stemmed in large part from broader social issues which seldom originate (but frequently permeate) the professional atmosphere of a store.
“Those things tend to keep them away,” says Rosana Trivino-Perez, of issues like teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and other health issues. As one of Target’s newer “workplace counselors,” she says it often falls to her to help employees fulfill their personal needs, which often become contributors to poor professional performance. “They don’t know how to resolve it. They don’t know what other resources they have — home, health, any other subsidy.”
Indeed, at least with respect to improvements in performance and attendance, the numbers seem to support this. Steve Laffery, director of health benefits for Target, says that since introducing the workplace counselors to their stores, there have been market improvements in both employee performance, and customer satisfaction. He credits employee counselors, for example, with contributing to a 24% decrease in workplace accidents, and a 17% in employee attendance, “they’re more productive. We have lower turnover. We have better guest service scores” he says. “Those are all business metrics that turn into better results.”
From a DV-perspective the move serves to illustrate a point FVPC has long taken pains to emphasize–that domestic violence isn’t just a “woman’s” issue, or even a “poverty” issue. Rather, domestic violence affects all walks of life; and rather than treating it as an isolated, “personal” problem–a collective attitude which frequently leaves victims feeling alone, afraid, and confused–DV must be seen as a “community” problem, and treated as such.
The measures taken by the Target corporation, while certainly welcome, are most significant because they illustrate not only the need but the efficacy of a community-based approach. Rather than target “problem employees” for termination, the company has instead opted for an open-door policy by which victims of violence (or any other social injustice) can come together and receive help without judgment or recrimination. More than just referring victims to appropriate social services, this process serves as a visible reminder that DV is a social problem, and helps victims realize that they are not alone, that there is help available to them, and that there is no shame in asking for help if it is required.
It is for this reason, that FVPC not only helps align victims of DV with available resources and social services, but also helps them regain some measure of control over their lives, and their self-esteem. In addition to resource referrals, FVPC offers weekly support groups for victims of DV, where women can come together and share their experiences, and draw strength from one another to help themselves recover from the loss of power and control they’ve experienced. Because as the executives at Target Co. have identified, being a victim of domestic violence doesn’t just affect one’s personal health–it can affect every aspect of one’s existence: emotional, physical, professional, and social.
What solutions does your workplace offer for employees who have challenges in their personal lives? Contact FVPC if you would like one of our trained community educators to come in to do an DV101 information session on best practices for employers.