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Factors Causing High Employee Turnover Rates

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Staff Retention

Human Resources Management

Chapter 1


Employee turnover in the industry has become the custom today in the manufacturing, service and merchandising industry. Employees are moving from one form of employment to another because of several factors that the employers have not yet grasped. In this regard many industry players are busy defining ways to protect turnover of its employees. The most affected part of this is the merchandising industry. In the bid to prove influence in the fastest upcoming sector executives in the merchandising industry are fighting hard the high trend of their staff consistently changing jobs (Rueben 22). Today generating an atmosphere favorable and valued by all employees in the ever changing employee market may not be as pain-streaking as it may appear to the larger population. It engages a number of issues may make the brilliant minds that make up your staffs want to stay in the organization. A combination of this contribution may eventually lead to higher number of employees and thus reduce turnover. The contributions made above require that they be performed in tandem for observable achievement to be achieved. Grasping the skill of staff retention requires that management delve deeply into what causes turnover of staff in institutions. Many questions should be put on the table in order to ascertain reasons why one would want to work in one organization and not prefer to work in another organization. The managements should not rest at that but proceed to look into the subsequent period that the employee has been absorbed into an organization. By asking these questions it is easy to discern that there are a lot of issues that have been left wanting for a long time. I find it easy to look at these issues by sympathizing with the employee and trying to assume his shoes at the company. This in real meaning requires doing proper research on standard ethical models that might be brought on board to encourage retention of employees. In the recent past the employers used to retain employees. The confidence thus gained goes down well with those in the precincts of work thus offering them purpose and presence. Boosting the moral of workers is one way of improving confidence of staff. In this regard even the general productivity of the company of the company can be noticed. Working closely and collectively in addition grants the staff presence. Al in all it's just a matter of saying thank you as morality demands.

There are different styles of leadership in institutions that influence how relationships in the work place take place. People in leadership roles should be in the fore front in show wing proper codes of conduct to their employees, as opposed to taking the hind seat. In turn the employees may feel very motivated within the working environments that they are working. This enabling environment will thus lead to a sense of belonging by the individuals and cohesiveness thus leading to teamwork translating into a proud team. For one to retain staff he or she has to consider several important issues of the work place.

  • Background

Draper Co. Ltd. Found in 1987 is a sweater manufacturer that employs more than 100 people in Hong Kong. Since garment companies had bloomed in recent years. The role for merchandising people become more difficult and the manpower is short in the labor market. Draper is facing the problem of high staff turnover rate. In addition, with opening of the mainland market, many foreign enterprises had set up their merchandising sections in Hong Kong and some enterprises also invite Hong Kong garment companies to cope with their expanding business. As a result, the job vacancies of staff increased tremendously. Among the merchandising industry, garment sections are highest in demand for staff. This is due to the fast growing of the sectors as well as the high employee turnover rate and the lack of talent in the labor market. With the goal of identifying predictors of turnover, factors and employee's intention to leave or stay with the company will be the major issue of Draper Co. Ltd.

  • Research Problems

Initially, the establishment of the project required the involvement of different parties who would provide data and statistical analysis. The study required involvement of external organizations which would require them to allow access their staff to cooperate during the course of the research. Unfortunately some of these merchants turned down request to take part a little after the project was already initialized, it was quite unfortunate. The team of researchers contacted several nationwide merchandise groups to request them to take part in the research as a subsequent measure. Within a short period of time, two particular staff articulated formal concern and primarily arranged to play a part in the project but with the approval of the Board of Governors of their respectful organizations. The team of researchers used up considerable hours meeting with a variety of the team of people representing the staff and giving important information related to the research and showing presentations that highlight the scope of the study. An agreement was made with these staff that the research panel would conduct industry job and staff retention survey within the merchandise organization, rather than concentrating on organizational loop holes as it would imply that there are indeed loop holes, in their respective organizations which might not be the truly case. However because of various unpredicted situations including the falling ill of one of the team members who acted as coordinator of the research team and these respectful staff, the staff in the end made the decision to withdraw its cooperation, leaving operation of the research between a rock a rock and a hard place. The research team then informed the Draper Co. Ltd of the current problems and suggesting a different research method design that would still be in line aims of the project and the objectives outlined before the research was initially flagged off. In this respect, a decision was made to advertise across various merchandise outlets to secure individual people working as staff to act as respondents from different retail outlets, thus eliminating the process of approaching company heads or Board of Governors for endorsement to guarantee a speedy and effortless contact with respondents. The Draper Co. Ltd was highly involved in endorsing the submission for change in the approach for the research. The research carried out by the team concerned conducting 100 partially controlled telephone interviews with staff from different merchandising firms including own staff at Draper Co. Ltd . The research method design of the survey was cautiously designed and conversant with preceding works that dwelled on employee equality and diversity concerns all over the work environment (e.g. Sutherland and Davidson, 1997). The design of the interviews was such that it could be in accordance with the aims and corresponding objectives of the Draper Co. Ltd and eventually deal with a array of concerns as well as the recognition of possible occupational improvement barriers and the recognition of approaches for conquering these limitations, chances for education and training, job promotions and provision for leadership. The partially controlled interview timetable was then stored in secure modules and safe websites secured with passwords, which eventually made it easy for members of the research panel to enter information directly into the research database and online pages, and at the same time carrying out interviews with respondents all over the merchandising industry. The details of the research methodology and what will be contained in the schedule for the research is described in the subsequent sections.

  • Research Objective

This study was led by a research team commissioned by the Draper Co. Ltd. The research team was selected by the management of the company with advice by the legal advice wing experts. It was agreed that 16 members be brought aboard the team of researchers. The main goal of identifying predictors of turnover, factors and employee's intention to leave or stay with the company will be the major issue of Draper Co. Ltd.

The aims of the project were as follows:

  • To examine two sets of potential causes of job turnovers and eventual staff retention mechanisms: firstly, those that impede the retention of workers in the organization and secondly, those that speeds the exit of the players from the organizations.
  • Identify strategies for overcoming these barriers.
  • Investigate the feasibility of constructing a national database, documenting the career paths of women in the merchandise industry.
  • Develop, publish and disseminate good practice guidelines and recommendations using reports, conference presentations, feedback seminars, academic journals and merchandise specialist and national press.

The objectives of the project were to:

  • Investigate two sets of potential reasons for staff leaving the company: firstly, those that accelerate the exit of workers and staff and secondly, those that impede the efforts of retaining staff in the organization.
  • Identify strategies for overcoming these reasons.
  • Investigate the feasibility of constructing a company database, documenting the career paths of workers in the merchandise industry.
  • Develop a promotion system, which is more sensitive to the needs of employees
  • Develop an image of the company, which is based entirely upon team cohesion.
  • Provide a concept of role models, which can be utilized by young employees to resolve possible work life balance conflicts.
  • Produce a set of solutions, which can be applied to other retail settings.
  • Develop, publish and disseminate good practice guidelines and recommendations using reports, conference presentations, feedback seminars, academic journals and merchandise specialist and national press.

Research Questions:

  • Why this company has high staff turnover rate
  • Why staff relationship will make new comer difficult to fit in team work
  • What relationship caused high staff turnover rate
  • How to retain staff in this company
  • Does the management policy affect staff retention?
  • Does the company is responsive to employee's needs and wants
  • Does company's reputation retain staff?








Glass ceiling

  • Dissertation Outlines

Chapter 2

Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This Section looks at the main literature in this area. The first sections focus on the structure of merchandising and the broader profile of the sector. The section then moves on to its main concern which is the job retention of staff at junior and senior levels in merchandising. Merchandising is an economic sector, which has traditionally been associated with the employment of staff. Overall, 60% of staff are low skilled employees and 40% are highly skilled in terms of there educational background. Even as these figures show that the merchandising sector clearly employs a larger number of low skilled than the skilled, it is not a ‘balanced industry' (Stillsmart, 2004). The representation of low skill workers in the merchandising sector however, follows a number of important patterns. Official statistics are used to highlight the predominance of staff in part time work in the merchandising sector and the under representation of a section staff at senior levels. According to Stillsmart, (2004), official figures are general and are unlikely to provide a clear understanding of the dynamics relating to the position in which staff is employed in merchandising sector. The following sections therefore outline theories that have been offered to account for these disparities, particularly in relation to barriers for staff attempting to progress into senior management positions. An examination of managing diversity is then offered and potential mechanisms for ensuring merchandising organizations fully utilize the talents of all employees to maximize productivity is discussed.

2.2 The structure of the merchandising sector

The merchandising sector is the largest private sector employer in the Hong Kong yet it is rarely recognized as such. Stillsmart (a not for profit organization, set up and part funded by Government to identify and address the skills needs of the Hong Kong merchandising sector), suggest that this is, possibly because its workforce is not concentrated in any particular region or locality. In fact, the merchandising sector is the largest public sector employer in the Hong Kong. Furthermore, Wang XI Inc is the Hong Kong's second largest employer after the Jubilee (Stillsmart, 2004). Overall, the merchandising sector employs three million people throughout the Hong Kong, which accounts for approximately ten per cent of employment throughout the Hong Kong. However, the structure of the industry is unusual, and is described by Stillsmart, as ‘hourglass shaped'. The vast majority (95%) work in firms with less than ten employees. Consequently, there is significantly less (just over two thousand) merchandising employers with more than fifty staff, reflecting the “hourglass shape” of the industry profile.

2.3 Job Retention and improvement Strategies

The welfare reform programs of the 1990s moved many families from cash assistance into the work force. The strong economy provided an abundance of entry-level, low-skill job opportunities to support this transition. For most of these families, however, finding a job is only the first step in the difficult path toward self-sufficiency. Like other working parents, adults who leave welfare (“leavers”) often encounter barriers to job retention and advancement. Between 1994 and 2002, the welfare caseload declined drastically, by more than 2.5 million cases (or 50 percent). Simultaneously, the number of single mothers either divorced or never married— in the work force increased by more than 1.2 million (or 22 percent). Government welfare programs have been instituted to help keep women employed and off welfare. Job retention and improvement strategies are becoming increasingly important to state policymakers as unemployment rates rise and slowed economic growth, corporate lay-offs, and hiring freezes limit job opportunities for parents who are moving into the work force. Current and former welfare recipients and those who don't have a strong attachment to the work force may find it more difficult to gain employment in hard economic times, thus increasing the demand for job retention and improvement services for those who currently are employed.

2.4 Present profile of turnover of employees

Employment expectations have risen slightly in (Q1) from an already high level in Q4. Of the 514 sales executives surveyed, 54% expect to increase their hiring which is slightly up from 53% the previous. As the years go by, expectations have remained solid. The 54% planning to grow headcount this year is at the same level as Q1 2004, though there are some variations between the sectors surveyed. Companies are extremely confident about how they will perform in the next six months with 95% of respondents forecasting their company's performance to be excellent or good in the first half of 2007. Respondents in Hong Kong report higher levels of staff turnover than in any other market surveyed in Asia with 37% stating that turnover in the last twelve months has exceeded 10% (Hudson, 2007). Hudson, one of the world's leading professional recruitment, outsourcing and capacity management solution providers, today released findings of its broad quarterly Hudson Report for Asia. With a status as a key socio-economic indicator in the present market since its Asia launch in September 2000, the survey has been built on the premise that employers' expectations of an increase or decrease in staffing levels represent a significant indication of their optimism in the growth of their organization and their industry as a whole. The Hudson Report represents the expectations of over 1450 key employment decision makers from multinational organizations of all sizes in all major industry sectors, with 400 of these executives based in Hong Kong.

2.4 The general profile of employees in the merchandising sector

Traditionally the merchandising sector is associated with the employment of low level and unskilled workers, the vast majority of whom work in the lower ranks of the organizational hierarchy. The profile of employees in merchandising also follows a number of other patterns. The merchandising sector for example employs a large proportion of young people. According to recent estimates 29% of those employed in the sector are between the ages of 16 to 24. This is compared to the overall economy figure of 14%. It has been suggested that this figure may be due to the popularity of merchandising as a part-time occupation for young people and students (Stillsmart, 2004). Merchandising is also a popular choice for older workers (persons over 55). In terms of ethnic minority employment, the merchandising sector employs a similar fraction to those figures available nationally (Stillsmart, 2004). Recent research has shown however, that certain recruitment practices may prevent ethnic minorities from gaining employment in merchandising organizations. For example a study for Birmingham and Manchester cities in Britain for example, found that employers might specify jobs as a matter of course that require the staff to work on Saturdays without realizing that a large pool of potential workers would be unable to work on this day as it is their Sabbath (Vector research, 2003).

2.4 The trends common in the merchandising sector

Merchandising is an economic sector, which has customarily been associated with the employment of diverse people of different background. Overall, 55% of merchandising employees are women and 45% are men (Stillsmart, 2004). This gender factor in the merchandising sector remains fairly consistent throughout other nations and regions of the Hong Kong and this profile has been fairly consistent over the last 10 years. Skill level has also played a bigger part in influencing how long an employee is wiling to stay in a given organization. Better salaries in other organizations may lead to employees moving from their respective place of work in pursuit for better opportunities (Hudson, 2004). Level of qualification gives workers a broader scale of work opportunities that they willingly take into considerations. Stillsmart (2004) suggest that Hong Kong's larger ethnic population is likely to be the source of this greater proportion of the workers in the capital run by ethnic minorities may proprietorship driven by highly skilled male people. It is important to note however, that the representation of retention in the merchandising sector follows a number of important patterns discussed in the subsequent sections. Firstly the prevalence of staff turnover in the merchandising sector will be discussed. Secondly, evidence will be presented to show the under representation of employee needs at senior levels within the merchandising sector.

2.4.1 The prevalence of staff turnover in the merchandising sector

Statistics from Stillsmart (2004) indicate that merchandising sector employment occupy three quarters of all employment in the Hong Kong economic sector, which accounts for 40% of all employment. This is a significant figure when, compared to the economy overall, where only 25% of people are employed permanently. The other majority of those working are part time workers employed in sales and customer service occupations. Figure 2.1 outlines the proportion of full and part time employment in the merchandising sector by gender.

Source: Survey by National Employment Institute Job retention in the labor force as a whole

The prevalence of staff turnover when compared with other sectors of the economy is particularly evident in the merchandising sector. This trend is also reflected in employment across the Hong Kong, particularly in the service industries. The numbers of staff entering the labor market has dramatically increased over the past thirty years and this rise in numbers has mainly been in by young people with low skill (Burke and Nelson 2002; Davidson and Burke, 2002). Because of this influx of young energetic minds quickly induces training for the staff. After gaining much needed experience then leave the industry for more lucrative jobs in other sectors. Youthful persons in the Hong Kong are far more likely than middle and old aged persons to work as part-timers (EAC, 2004). According to the National Office of Statistics, in 2005, 42% of young employees in the Hong Kong worked in the sector compared to just 9% of old people. Interestingly, the number keeps on increasing in the industry whereas companies are reporting a high staff turnover hence posing a big threat to company survival in the highly competitive industry (EAC, 2004).

Source: Survey by National Employment Institute

2.4.3 Explanations for the prevalence of staff turnover among staff in the merchandising sector

Traditionally, the predominance of staff turnover is largely attributed to the level of education and other academic qualifications (e.g. those with degrees go for more lucrative jobs in other lucrative industries vacating there positions) traditionally occupied by them which limits the productivity of the company (Thompson, 2004; Stillsmart, 2004). When addressing the merchandising sector specifically, Lynch (2003) comments that it is the very nature of the merchandising industry that contributes to the high proportion of turnovers. In the merchandising industry, recruitment is largely secured from the local labor market, staff requirements vary due to seasonal demands and employees are often required to work unfriendly hours as outlets open longer. These are all factors that lead to the reduction of morale and interest in the jobs within any organizational sector, and specifically the merchandising sector. In addition, Lynch (2003) further suggests that due to these delimiting factors in the industry and the continuous fluctuation of workforce in particular, potential merchandising companies are provided with an available pool of labor that accepts inferior terms and conditions of employment, as staff attempt to resolve their need to educate and retain their staff. The under representation of staff interests in the merchandising sector by executives and senior officials

Official statistics show that there is a higher proportion of college educated in managerial and senior occupations in the merchandising sector than in comparison to the economy a whole. It is important to note, however, that if the representation of staff; male and female, skilled and unskilled were equal throughout the sector. Furthermore, low skilled staff tends to predominate in certain types of management positions including personnel, which are roles traditionally associated with low skilled.

2.5 Recruitment and Retention of Paid Staff

It can be surely asserted that, paid staff is a vital part of the retail and merchandising sector. Lynch (2003) further suggests that almost half (40%) of Canada's estimated 161,000 nonprofit and voluntary organizations has least one paid staff member. The sector as a whole employs just over 25% of the total economy. Twenty percent of paid staff in merchandising organizations is in permanent positions and 56% work full-time. The survey asked all organizations involved about the challenges they face recruiting the type of paid staff they need. Twenty-eight percent of organizations said that this is a problem for them; 8% said that the problem is serious. Organizations with paid staff were also asked if they have problems retaining staff. Nineteen percent said that they do, with 8% saying that the problem is serious. As a group, problems relating to paid staff were reported less frequently than other types of capacity challenges. Nevertheless, challenges relating to paid staff are significant for some organizations.

2.5.1 Size of Paid Staff Complement

In general, the more paid staff an organization has, the more likely it is to report problems with staff recruitment and retention. Forty-one percent of organizations with 13% of paid staff members reported problems recruiting paid staff. This rises to 30% among organizations with 20 to 50 staff members, 63% among those with 100 to 500 staff members, and 73% among those with 1000 or more staff members. The relationship between the number of staff an organization has and staff retention problems is less pronounced. Seventeen percent of organizations with one to four staff members said this is a problem for them. This increases to 26% among organizations with 100 or more staff members (Stillsmart, 2004).

Source: Survey by National Employment Institute

2.5.2 Reliance on Paid Staff

Lynch (2003) suggests the greater the percentage of an organization's workforce that is comprised of paid staff (As opposed to volunteers), the more dependent on paid staff the organization can be said to be. The more reliant an organization is on paid staff, the more likely it is to report difficulties employing and retaining staff. Lynch (2003) further suggests that this relationship is particularly strong for staff recruitment. For example, among organizations in which staff makes up one-third or less of the workforce, 15% said that staff recruitment is a problem for them and 19% said that staff retention is a problem. Nevertheless, among organizations in which staff comprises two thirds or more of the workforce, 54% said that staff recruitment is a problem and 20% said that staff retention is a problem (Stillsmart, 2004)..

Source: Survey by National Employment Institute

2.6 The Glass ceiling theory

The under representation of minority group in management positions in the merchandising and other occupational sectors has led theorists to assert that a ‘glass ceiling' exists. The minority in this case includes: physically handicapped, less educated and women. The term ‘glass ceiling' is used to reflect the ability of and minorities to view the world above them but the metaphorical ceiling prevents the minorities from accessing the better opportunities they can view. This glass ceiling effect occurs when minorities with equivalent credentials as the other employees, i.e. those who traditionally occupy positions of power within organizations, are prevented from accessing top jobs simply because they have particularly weaknesses (Davidson, 1997; Powell, 1999; Konrad, Prasad and Pringle, 2004). Nevertheless, the proportion of minorities in management has increased over the past three decades in almost all countries and legislation in some countries (e.g. Affirmative Action Legislation in the U.S. and Canada) has contributed to this trend (Powell and Graves, 2003). Despite this encouraging increase, recent research by Catalyst (2005) has shown that the glass ceiling is firmly in place. In the U.K., seventy-eight Financial Times Share Index (FTSE 100) companies in 2004 had physically challenged directors, up 13% from the previous year. However, only eleven FTSE 100 companies had female executive directors, which was below the 2002 figure and twenty-two of the FTSE 100 boards in 2005 were all-male (Singh and Vinicrombe, 2005). These statistics largely reflect the experiences of white staff. It is important to highlight that black and ethnic minority staffs across the globe often face significant hurdles. Although there is a general lack of data on ethnicity and employment or physical handicap and employment, ethnic minority employees are under- represented at senior and professional levels in the labor market (Commission for Racial Equality, 2004). In Hong Kong in 2004 for example, 17% of ethnic minority men were managers or senior officials compared to 10% of ethnic minority staff. The highest percentages of staff and men in these positions were Indian and Chinese (Commission for Racial Equality, 2004). Research has highlighted that a glass ceiling exists even in occupations where staff predominate. Approximately 90% of nurses, for example, are female but male nurses often experience greater career success than female nurses (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2005). The number of women studying merchandise in England now outnumbers men (Davidson and Burke, 2004) but partners of top merchandise firms continue to be predominantly men. An examination of data from the top 10 ten merchandise firms in the Hong Kong in 2005 revealed that on average, 15% of female partners in the top 10 merchandise firms are women (The Merchandise Society, 2005). Recent research has highlighted that whilst women and physically challenged are now achieving more senior roles, they are more likely than men to find themselves on a ‘glass cliff' (Haslam, 2005). According to Haslam (2005), this is because staff are more likely to secure positions of leadership when organizations are not performing at their optimum level. This means that their appointments are made under more risky circumstances which make them more uncertain. This suggests that not only do staff experience hurdles to achieving senior roles; they are placed under greater scrutiny and face increased pressures when they do reach leadership positions. The disadvantaged experience of the glass ceiling is an important area of study and has implications for the future development of talent in organizations of all sectors including merchandising. Research has shown for example that frustrated by the glass ceiling, many workers quit and start their own businesses (Powell, 1999; Davidson and Fielden, 2003). This can have a detrimental affect within organizations as competent and experienced staffs remove themselves from the selection pool.

2.5.1 Pay Differences

However, research shows that staff leaders and staff at all levels of the workforce are generally paid less than men with equivalent skills, training and experience, for performing the same roles. In 2005, the percentage difference between the average hourly earnings of staff working full-time in Great Britain for example was 17.1 % (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2004). In the US, staffs earn approximately 77 cents for every dollar earned by men (Retailer's Bureau data, 2000, in Nelson and Michie, 2004). The Equal Opportunities Commission in the U.K. (2005) highlights three main reasons for this pay difference. Firstly, there is discrimination in pay systems. Staff are paid less than men for performing the same roles. Secondly, ‘occupational segregation' exists. Many employees is concentrated in low paid jobs. Thirdly, staffs assume caring responsibilities for children and other relatives/dependents, which affects their progression at work due to the lack of flexible working.

2.6 Perspectives on barriers to staff in management

Authors have identified an array of complex factors that contribute to the existence and pervasive nature of the ‘glass ceiling.' Three main perspectives have been offered to explain the adversity facing staff aspiring to senior levels within organizations. These are commonly referred to as the ‘person centered' or ‘gender-centered' approach (Powell, 1999), the organizational structure perspective (Fagenson, 1993; Kanter, 1977) and the social systems perspective. It is widely acknowledged that the glass ceiling is a result of a culmination of these three main perspectives (Omar and Davidson, 2001).

2.6.1 The personality-centered approach

The first perspective focuses on the ways in which staff differ from others and hypothesis that the characteristics, attitudes, behavior, skills and education of men, places them at an advantage. According to this perspective, gender differences are attributed to men and women's biological difference and their different socialization patterns. The predominance of men at the upper echelons of organizations is a result of stereotypical beliefs that women lack the motivation, attitudes, commitments and skills to be good managers (Fagenson, 1993). Women, when compared to men, are regarded as deficient and therefore not as suitable as men for management positions. This, in turn, limits their career development. This has led researchers to identify the ‘think manager, think male' syndrome (Schein, 2001), which is a global phenomenon and prevalent even in countries with equal opportunities programs and legislation such as the UK and the US (Powell, Butterfield and Parent, 2002). This pattern implies that management is perceived as a masculine role, a role to be performed by dominant, aggressive, decisive and competitive individuals; attributes that are more suited to the male sex. Rather, management should be regarded as a role that can be performed by anyone with the appropriate skills and education. Although female leadership characteristics, such as interpersonal communication, nurturing, and mutual respect are beginning to warrant more value, they are yet to be regarded as important and effective (Wilson, 2003; Still, 2004). In a study conducted by Powell and Butterfield (2003) the researchers found that undergraduates and graduates still considered that masculine characteristics were predictive of aspirations to senior management. These results surprised the researchers who had conducted the same study 25 years previously and expected to find different results in their contemporary repetition of the study. According to Peck (2004), for female characteristics to warrant more value, men are required to re-evaluate in positive terms, behaviors that they have previously been critical of (Peck, 2004). Research evidence shows little or no difference in the traits, abilities, and education of professional persons (Powell, 1993). Therefore in terms of gender, women in the UK for example outnumber men as registered students (Wilson, 2004). Further research findings have shown that even when women are equally as qualified as men, their progress remains slow (Davidson and Cooper, 1992). Rather, female managers often complain of having to do better or over-perform at the same level of management as men (Davidson and Cooper, 1992; Davidson, 1997). These issues may be exacerbated for black and ethnic minority persons who may experience both racial and sexual discriminations (Davidson, 1997).

2.6.2 The organizational perception theory

The next theory, the ‘The organizational perception ' point of view, suggests that the organizational work environment in which staff operate influences the career development of staff in management rather than their own traits, skills and behaviors. Staffs are prevented from progressing in the same manner as their counterparts in other industries because they encounter organizational blockages imposed by power elites in organizations. Staffs are held back due to an array of organizational impasse including their lack of opportunity in organizations, tokenism, and lack of access to mentoring and lack of access to organizational networking (this is not an exhaustive list of organizational impasses, rather a reflection of potential organizational impasses). In some cases for example, low skilled staff are denied access to challenging assignments, which may enable them to prove their ability and potential for more senior roles. In addition, the merchandising inability to engage in challenging assignments means they remain less visible in organizations. Ragins, Townsend (1998) survey of over a thousand executive staff in the U.S. who held titles of vice president or above found that the female executives in their study had managed to navigate these barriers. The researchers found that the staff identified four career strategies that were vital to their career success. These were: consistently exceeding performance expectations; acting in a style with which managers identified, proactively taking on difficult or challenging assignments and having influential mentors. The research highlights the potential blockages staffs need to overcome to reach senior positions and raises issues with regards to culture change if barriers for staff are to be eradicated. The organizational perception on tokenism

Kanter (1977) hypothesized that whenever minority and challenged staff form only a small proportion of a total category in any organization (less than 15%) they would be labeled as ‘tokens' because of their uncommonness in the organization compared to their other counterparts. Research has shown that the heightened visibility afforded to such ‘tokens' often places them at a disadvantage as they are more likely to be highly criticized for mistakes, experience performance pressure and become isolated (Davidson, 1997). When ‘token' staff experience failure, it may be the case that decision makers are less willing to appoint another person with similar characteristics to the same position. Thus, some staffs are often used as test cases for the employment of future staff at senior levels (Cooper et al, 1992). The Culture of Employee Mentoring

Mentoring is increasingly regarded as an essential career development tool that aids individual development and contributes to a successful, progressive organization. The landscape of today's business environment is rapidly changing. As the ability to learn, grow and adapt becomes more essential to organizational effectiveness, organizations are increasingly recognizing the benefits of life-long learning through mechanisms such as mentoring (Allen and Poteet, 1999). It has been suggested that mentoring relationships are particularly crucial to the career development of staff (Davidson and Burke, 2004; Ragins and Cotton, 1996). In their study of 461 top-ranking female executives in Fortune 1000 companies, Ragins et. al. (1998) revealed that all the executives surveyed reported having a mentor during the course of their careers and the vast majority (81 per cent) regarded their mentor(s) as a critical or fairly important factor in their career success. Furthermore, mentoring was identified as a specific strategy that they employed to break through the glass ceiling (Ragins, Townsend and Mattis, 1998). This has led to Ragins (2002; 46) claim that mentoring may be the ‘ice pick' for breaking through the ‘glass ceiling.' Research has however highlighted that staff are likely to encounter barriers when acquiring mentors. This may be due to the under representation of senior staff for aspiring junior staff to choose from. In addition, staff may face damaging innuendos from others in the organization if approaching senior men to be mentors. For these reasons, formal mentoring relationships may be particularly useful when addressing issues of diversity (Woolnough, Davidson and Fielden, 2004). It is also important to note that mentoring is a reciprocal relationship and that mentors can learn a lot from their mentees, particularly in relation to career barriers (Woolnough, Davidson and Fielden, 2004). The Factor of Role Models in the Organization

Research has shown how role models are vital to the successful development of younger staff and minorities. According to Shapiro (1978), role models are individuals whose behaviors and styles and attributes are attractive to others are therefore emulated. Singh, Vinnicombe and James (2004) state that unlike mentors who are in some form of relationship with junior members of staff due to the nature of that particular developmental relationship, role models are often not acquainted with the individual that regards them as a role model. Role models therefore have a powerful influence without being known to the role model user. From their in-depth interviews with young professional staff, Singh et. al. (2004) found that the staff in their research utilized multiple role models and preferred close or near role models to those more distant and not personally known. Importantly, the staffs interviewed in the study were not inspired by male business leaders. This has important implications for organizations as if staff and minorities do not have role models to aspire to within their immediate environment, the attractiveness of more senior roles for talented and competent staff may be reduced. Promotional procedures

Powell and Graves (2003) highlight the lack of systematic promotional procedures for entry into top management positions in organizations. Rather than being a fair and just process, cases are handled on a makeshift basis and the promotional process invariably goes un-checked. As a result, biased decisions can be made without question. This is in contrast to lower-level managerial positions. Promotional decisions in these instances tend to be more structured and based on clearly defined skills and characteristics, such as education, that staffs are equally capable of acquiring. It has been argued that staffs are disadvantaged when promotional decisions are made for ‘top' jobs because decision makers tend to evaluate those they regard as similar to them in a positive way. This is opposed to those they regard as dissimilar, who are consequently less likely to receive positive evaluations. As most decision makers are highly skilled technocrats, they tend to gravitate towards maintaining the status quo. Kanter (1977) characterized the results of such a preference in top management ranks as ‘homo-social reproduction.' She argued that the primary motivation in bureaucracies is to minimize uncertainty. This is because uncertainty is regarded as risky and has the potential to prove costly to the organization. Authors have confirmed this theory, reporting that women and low educated staff are more likely to be hired and promoted into a particular management level when their matching staffs already occupy these positions. In these cases, the prospect of adding more staff into positions of power is less fraught with uncertainty, as some male and highly skilled managers are likely to be more accustomed to working alongside lower cadre staff. Thus, the main challenge is to get staff into positions of power in the first place (Kanter, 1977; Stroh, Langlands and Simpson, 2004). This is not an exhaustive list of organizational blockages that may impact on the career development of staff in work in general and management in particular. Rather, it highlights the main obstacles within organizational systems that may occur to prevent staff from accessing senior positions in the same way that men do.

2.6.3 The Social System perspective

This perspective refuses the assumption that organizations are gender neutral. This perspective asserts that the way in which organizations operate reflect some basic, taken for granted social beliefs about gender. In contrast to the two perspectives previously discussed, this perspective maintains that female merchandising behaviors and their abilities to acquire certain jobs are influenced by the social and institutional systems in which organizations are embedded. According to Wilson (2001), patriarchal social systems and expectations are part of everyday organizational realities and consequently impact on the ability of women and persons with disability to rise through the organizational hierarchy. Researchers have shown however, how the minority experiences are multifaceted by nature (Omar and Davidson, 2001). According to Gray (1994), many of the experiences of women in management only exist in theory and cannot be substantiated through any means.' Indeed women's experiences at work generally and in management specifically, are multifaceted and complex (Powell and Graves, 2003). In line with the complex and multi-faceted nature of issues highlighted in the research of staff in management, a useful framework for future research is based on theory proposed by Fagenson (1993) that incorporates the above perspectives (Omar and Davidson, 2001). The Gender-Organization-System (GOS) framework highlights the complex person-organization-societal interaction, whilst acknowledging the integral significance of local social context that can determine the extent to which issues for women in management are prevalent and in turn, result in the under-representation of women and even the people with disability in management. The GOS approach asserts that:

‘An individual and his/her organizations cannot be understood separately from the society (culture) in which he or she works; and when the individual, the organization or the system in which they are embedded changes, the other components change as well' (Fagenson,1993). The GOS framework has been utilized by more recent researchers examining the experiences of staff and minorities in management in light of the complex nature of the glass ceiling (Omar and Davidson, 2001).

2.7 Educational differences in representation of career advancement

Merchandising career development does not simply lag behind that of employees but it may proceed in a completely different manner' (Mavin 2000:13). It is also important to note when addressing the issue of barriers to promotion for staff that in relation to career development differs to that of other employees. Most research on career theories however, has adopted the view that models of career improvement should be the same for all and sundry, particularly if staff are entering the same occupational vocations similar to persons in other industrial sectors in view of their abilities and ambitions. The traditional college going graduates career model of education, continuous full-time career and retirement, has formed the focus for judging career progress in most organizations. Subsequent work has however suggested that staff and men may experience career development differently due to the nature of the industry. The personal, organizational and societal influences on people, impacts their career development which has led to a call for a new approach to understanding their personal careers (Burke and Nelson, 2002; Davidson and Burke, 2004; Mavin, 2000). Powell and Mainerio (1992) suggest an approach to understanding employee careers that is significantly different from traditional models of men's careers. Their approach incorporates three unique elements:

It includes both work and non-work issues;

It uses both objective and subjective measures of career success;

It includes the influence of personal, organizational and societal factors on personal choices and outcomes and it does not assume that a person's careers go through a predictable sequence of stages over time.

Kirchmeyer (1999) compared the career progression of men and women managers using a longitudinal design. The groups of men and women in her study were selected to have similar education and experience profiles. Kirchmeyer (1999) found evidence to support the theory that staff's careers unfolded differently than men's. In particular, staff experienced gaps in income and their number of promotions widened over time. Kirchmeyer (1999) found that training was associated with greater income for educated and job tenure had a positive effect on perceived success for them only. Some Staff reported a lower payoff from education and experience than did people with high education. Her results led her to conclude that attempting to understand career choice using the traditional model is ‘a case of comparing apples and oranges.' The differences in perceptions of career success are also an important factor in an examination of the career development of staff. Both objective and subjective assessments are used to evaluate career success, although most research studies consider objective variables when measuring career success. These include pay and promotion. Subjective measures include job satisfaction, work-life balance and job security. People tend to use different types of measures in assessing their own career success with others focusing on more objective measures and staff focusing on subjective measures (Sturges, 1999). Although not focusing on gender specifically, Heslin (2005) argued that there is a need to be sensitive to the criteria that people in different contexts use to judge their own career success. This has significant implications for the career development of staff and suggests that organizations need to be more adaptable to the way in which employees view success, which ultimately impacts on their choices with regards to their career development.

2.8 Barriers to employee promotion in the merchandising sector

The following sections have highlighted contemporary theories offered by researchers to account for the disparity of staff in senior positions. The following section addresses empirical research directly relating to the under representation of staff in senior positions in the merchandising sector. Generally there is a lack of recent experimental work addressing the lack of high school graduates, women and the physically challenged in merchandising. Broadbridge (1998) in her quantitative research addressing barriers to the career development of retail managers found that women face more barriers in their career development than men for any of the reasons documented in gender theories highlighted in some studies. In Broadbridge's study, women were significantly less likely than men to consider that they had been given the same opportunities as men to develop. In addition, the lack of child-care responsibilities and flexible time together with the long anti-social hours of merchandising was highlighted as a barrier (Broadbridge, 1998). This reflects the need for a shift in organisational culture, particularly in light of the fact that 57% of female employees and 23% of male employees in the United Kingdom use one or more of the following work arrangements: part-time, flextime, annualised hours, term-time working, job share and home working (EAC, 2004). In a more recent study conducted by Benigson (2005), similar issues were raised as in Broadbridge's (1998) research. The study also shed some light on why there is few very senior “minorities” in management in merchandising. In her attempts to uncover why there are only three female chief executives among the 66 merchandising store groups listed on the London Stock Exchange, Benigson (2005) surveyed around 40 staff managers on the board or just below in merchandising. The writer found that around 40 % of female managers did not want to be CEOs. This was because women were unwilling to sacrifice their family life, for them to be perceived themselves as less aggressive than their male counterparts and were less concerned about their job status than men. A further explanation for the lack of female chief executives offered by the author is that many female board directors are from human resources or communications department, which are not traditionally breeding grounds for future CEOs. Interestingly, supermarkets were perceived as the most male dominated at senior management level and therefore the most difficult to penetrate of all merchandising environments, largely because of the direct contact with male dominated industries such as meat and farming necessary in the supermarket sector. Although not specifically focused on the merchandising sector, Hewlett and Luce (2005) reflect these findings and state that successful low educated people and the female gender are ‘off ramping'; the term they use for the fact that this group is leaving the corporate world in greater numbers than men. Particularly concerning is that when these group decide to move back into the corporate world, none of them stated they would return to their previous employers. Singh et. al. (2004) call for the reorganization of how work is conducted and an end to the lack of flexibility due to the client focused nature of work to counteract this loss of talent. It is important to note that often there is no shortage of goodwill towards the provision of equal opportunities for staff. Brockbank and Airey (1994) in their survey of 42 mixed merchandising employees, using a postal interviews and personal interviews from 16 companies found this to be the case but despite this, they again found that working conditions in merchandising, the absence of senior role models and the problem of balancing family and career remained problematic for many especially female staff. Research has also shown that occupational segregation exists even when variables between male and female employees are considered equal within the organization. Tolich and Briar (1999) looked at task segregation among male and female employees in American supermarkets. The male and female employees in the supermarkets under review had identical job descriptions, the same pay, formal promotion opportunities and fringe benefits. Yet, the staff reported a very different experience and quality of working life compared with their male counterparts. According to Tolich and Briar (1999), this was largely due to line managers who allocated different tasks and responsibilities to male and female employees. This led the staff in the study to experience frustration as they were fully aware of their differential treatment. The study suggests that the problem of sex discrimination in the workplace is not eliminated by the sheer presence of company policy. Rather, organisational reality means that gender and educational differences may still be prevalent. Furthermore, Lynch's (2002) case study research of three multiple store merchandising organizations in the UK highlighted that line managers played a key role in maintaining the staff segregation of the workforce. The segregated nature of the workforce in the case study outlets was perpetuated by the personal attitudes and stereotypes of store level managers. These perceptions often undermined organisational equal opportunities policy across all three case study sites and were prevalent across all three organizations. Although this section and the study in general is focused on the social structure and how it influences job retention in merchandising, other minority groups also face significant problems. In his study of lower cadre staff workers in the merchandising sector, Hahlo (2004) found that barriers to career development existed. The respondents perceived barriers to exist in the form of, among other things, family pressures at home, racism, the existence of young children, access to job rotation, cultural values and beliefs, flexible shift work and personal assertiveness. Furthermore, Sheridan (2004) states that every one also experience career barriers. The dual emphasis on gender norms and long working hours can place people with children, for example, at a disadvantage. In this respect, men may feel unable to take advantage of flexible working arrangements to spend more time with their family. Little is known as to the extent to which this may be the case in the merchandising sector.

2.9 The management of diversity

In the UK ‘equal opportunities' is the term predominantly used by organizations to describe their approach to managing difference, discrimination and disadvantage (Davidson and Fielden, 2003). These policies tend to advocate treating everybody the same. More recent academic debate has moved towards the concept of managing diversity based on the premise that people are not the same and that difference should be recognized and celebrated. Diversity therefore consists of visible and no visible factors, which include personal characteristics such as sex, race, age, background, culture, disability, personality and work-style. According to Davidson and Fielden (2003): ‘Managing Diversity initiatives seek to fully develop the potential of each employee and turn the different skills that each employee brings into a business advantage… Having a diverse workforce not only enables organizations to understand and meet customer demand better, but also helps attract investors and clients, as well as reduce the costs associated with discrimination'. Advocates of diversity management highlight that good diversity management leads to increased profitability and this business case for managing diversity is gaining credibility. A survey of HR professionals conducted by SHRM and Fortune Magazine reported that the majority believed their diversity initiatives had improved the organization's culture, employee recruitment, relations with clients, creativity and productivity (Bowl, 2001, in Stockdale and Crosby, 2004). Valuing diversity within organizations however, still has progress to make. A recent CIPD annual survey of training and development for example reported that although an increasing number of employers identifying diversity training as important, it was still regarded as the least important of any of the training provided and 10 per cent saw it as being of no importance at all. Research in the merchandising sector has also highlighted differences in the interpretation of the management of diversity among line managers which leads to disparities in its implementation. In their qualitative research in a large long-established British merchandising company, Foster and Harris (2005) found that the concept of managing diversity was unclear among line managers both in terms of what it is and how it should be implemented. The researchers call for more diversity training to increase understanding and improve the quality of implementing diversity initiatives in organizations.

2.10 Summary

This section has outlined the main literature in relation to how to solve staff retention in the merchandising sector. There are many efforts being made to encourage employees to participate in organisational restructure disregarding their status and although the status quo will, for the most part, be slow to change, advances are being made. Changing family roles and expectations, supportive company policies and practices including flexible working and improved labour market conditions have all opened up new opportunities for staff (Davidson and Burke, 2004). To assist merchandising organizations in their growth and profitability, their workforce at all levels needs to reflect the customers they serve and the society in which we live. Embracing diversity and implementing diversity initiatives will ensure barriers for staff and minorities are broken down, thereby harnessing rich talent and adding to the future success of merchandising.

Chapter 3

Research Method

3.1 Interviewing

Research design specifies the methods and procedures for conducting a specific research project. It is a detailed blueprint used to guide the implementation of a research study towards the realization of its objectives (Wong, 1999). According to many authors (Churchill, 1999; Wong, 1999; and Zikmund, 2000), there are three types of research design, namely the exploratory research, descriptive research and causal research.

Exploratory research is known to be the best suited for situations that have relatively little or nothing known about the study. The essence of this research design is to focus on two main ingredients - listening and discovering, in order to provide a great understanding of a concept (Wong, 1999) and to clarify and define the nature of a problem (Zikmund, 2000). These authors also pointed out that exploratory research can be conducted with four approaches which are literature search, experience survey, focus group discussion and in-depth interview. These open-ended, flexible and interactive qualitative approaches help to formulate problems more precisely but not providing accurate statistical information.

Descriptive research aims a describing the characteristics of the population under the study such as the behaviors of employees. It is primarily concerned with the gathering of numeric, measurable data and it is recommended when the research purpose is centered on providing accurate, statistically reliable data. Descriptive research is being broken down into both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies (Zikmund, 2000 and Wong, 1999). Longitudinal studies involve panels (Churchill, 1991) and provide measurements at successive points of time of an event. On the other hand, being the most common and familiar (Churchill, 1991), cross-sectional studies describe an event at one particular point of time and it is useful in facilitating comparisons between different population subgroups (Wong, 1999).

Finally, causal research is to explore and establish a cause-and-effect relationship, if any, between variables through laboratory and/or field experiments (Wong, 1999, p58).

Cross-sectional study was chosen for this study. This is because cross-sectional study relies on a sample of elements from the population of interest that are measured at a single point in time (Churchill, 1999) and it can at best yield measurement data (Wong, 1999, p. 57). Hence, this research design suit in this study because it attempted to measure how consumers make decision.

3.2 Study Aim and Objectives

The main aim of this study was to investigate career development issues in the retail sector and explore the experiences, barriers and problems to career advancement faced by women and men in management in the retail sector across England. The study also included shop floor workers to determine any barriers female and male employees at shop floor level encountered to accessing retail management positions. Findings from this study were used to formulate preliminary recommendations for policy changes and to develop further exploration of these issues. The project fully addressed the aims and priorities set out in the HE ESF objective 3, theme 4: ‘Research into gender discrimination.' More specifically, the overall objectives were to:

  • Investigate two sets of potential reasons for staff leaving the company: firstly, those that accelerate the exit of workers and staff and secondly, those that impede the efforts of retaining staff in the organization.
  • Identify strategies for overcoming these reasons.
  • Investigate the feasibility of constructing a company database, documenting the career paths of workers in the merchandise industry.
  • Develop a promotion system, which is more sensitive to the needs of employees
  • Develop an image of the company, which is based entirely upon team cohesion.
  • Provide a concept of role models, which can be utilized by employees to resolve possible work life balance conflicts.
  • Produce a set of solutions, which can be applied to other merchandising settings.
  • Develop, publish and disseminate good practice guidelines and recommendations using reports, conference presentations, feedback seminars, academic journals and merchandise specialist and national press.

3.2 Interview Design

Wong (1999, p.54) pointed out that descriptive research requires a reasonably large number of respondents (i.e., sample size) to supply the required information.

Although it is recognized that a convenience sample is not always truly representative of the population, the author of this study had decided to adopt this method due to time restraints. The author adopted convenience sampling of non-probability sampling as it aids convenience and efficiency and also generates a large number of sample sizes. This is because it involves the selection of people who are most conveniently available to the interviewer (Wong, 1999). Due to time constraint, the gathering of responses for this study would be greatly base on convenience. Convenience gathering of responses and ability to contact the respondents (if necessary), has allowed the author of this study to choose both Marketing Institute of Singapore's (MIS) part-time and full-time students as the main target res

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