In today’s tight labor market, businesses hungry for talent are increasingly interested in new strategies to attract and retain high-performing workers. This need is particularly acute in the retail sector, a high-turnover industry that employs as many as 42 million workers (when incorporating adjacent sectors), according to National Retail Federation estimates. Workforce development organizations, retail businesses, public workforce boards, small business lenders, worker voice organizations, and others can seize this moment to collaborate to improve the quality of jobs for workers in entry-level positions, create pathways for advancement in retail and related sectors, and increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention to strengthen business performance.
In 2016, in collaboration with the Walmart Foundation, the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program launched Reimagine Retail, a project to explore ways to enhance job quality and mobility for workers in the retail sector. Working with partners across six regions, this program is testing innovative strategies to improve retail jobs and career pathways and to develop win-win relationships that strengthen outcomes for retailers and their workforces.
Two years into the project, we are learning from partners’ experiences and beginning to answer important questions for the field: What types of relationships do workforce organizations build with retail businesses, and what outcomes are they achieving? Which businesses have chosen to make changes to workplace practices or training that have resulted in improvements to worker experience and performance, and what motivated these changes? How do we leverage lessons learned to support economic stability and mobility for entry-level workers across the sector?
Today, we release the first publication in a new series on Promising Workforce Strategies from Across the Reimagine Retail Network. This series aims to lift up partnerships between workforce providers and retailers and the approaches they have developed together that are improving stability, mobility, and performance for workers. By sharing their stories and practices, we hope to inspire other businesses and service providers to learn from and integrate their strategies, and to race to the top in their quest for talent.
The first piece in this series, Chicago’s Fresh Approach to Incumbent Worker Training, profiles the innovative partnership between Pete’s Fresh Market, a family-owned grocer, and Instituto del Progreso Latino, a nonprofit organization that supports Latino immigrants and their families through education, training, and employment. As the US grocery industry faces increasing competition and consolidation, Pete’s has grown from a small produce stand on the South Side of Chicago to a 13-store chain, with five more stores opening in the coming years.
One key to this food retailer’s success is an engaged workforce that delivers strong customer service tailored to local communities. What sets Pete’s apart in attracting and retaining talent is stable jobs and advancement opportunities – employees have an average tenure of five years. In an industry where part-time work predominates, Pete’s provides full-time jobs to about 80 percent of employees. These employees are eligible for benefits including health care and a 401(k) plan with an employer match. Business-savvy training provider Instituto plays an important role in setting up workers for success. Together, Pete’s and Instituto designed a customer service and sales training curriculum customized for Pete’s workers, based on the National Retail Federation (NRF) credential program. Their mutually beneficial relationship meets business needs and improves worker performance and opportunity.
This profile takes an in-depth look into how these two innovative organizations work together, and how this partnership supports growth for Pete’s — and for Pete’s workers. We talked with Alita Bezanis, director of organizational development at Pete’s, and Yesenia Cervantes, dean of student services and community affairs at Instituto, who generously shared their practices to help the field learn from their experience.
We’re excited to share the lessons this partnership has to offer and look forward to highlighting the valuable work of other organizations around the country in this series.
Tweet A new profile by @AspenWorkforce takes an in-depth look into how @PetesFreshMkt & @Instituto1977 work together, and how this partnership supports growth for both the business and its workers. #ReimagineRetail
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Reimagine Retail is a project of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. Learn how EOP is helping low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, and other announcements.