Some Target Stores Employ Social Workers

The 69 stores that employ social workers reported a 17 percent average improvement in employee attendance between 2008 and 2009.

Target Corporation has begun employing a most unusual group at its stores: social workers.

In fact, 69 of the Minneapolis-based retailer's 1,752 locations now have a social worker, according to company spokeswoman Donna Egan.

Target contracts with Chicago-based ComPsych, which specializes in providing psychologists for the workplace, to find and bring in the social workers. The idea was first tried through a pilot program at a Chicago store in February 2007 and then at a store in Compton, California, in November of that year. The program was formalized in 2009.

The social workers typically spend about eight hours each week talking to store employees about a wide variety of problems, both large and small. A social worker at the Compton store, for example, has helped employees deal with issues surrounding depression, buying a home, and finances, according to a recent report by the Los Angeles Times.

Egan said that social workers are typically employed only in large, urban markets and-within those markets-at stores in which there is significant absenteeism and high turnover among employees.

According to Egan, the stores that have a social worker reported a 17 percent average improvement in employee attendance between 2008 and 2009.

Egan said there are no social workers at any Minnesota Target stores. The company has “no concrete plans right now” to expand the initiative but said: “Certainly, as we continue to open new stores in urban markets, we'll continue to assess the need for this program.”

Target serves guests at brick-and-mortar stores in 49 states and at It is Minnesota's second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $65.4 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.