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Causes of Job Turnovers and Staff Retention Issues

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Staff turnover has become the norm today in the manufacturing, service and merchandising / merchandise 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 muscle in the fastest growing industry executives in the merchandising industry are fighting hard the high trend of their staff consistently changing jobs (Omondi 2). 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 this 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 totaking 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.


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 merchandisers increased tremendously. Among the merchandising industry, garment sections are highest in demand for merchandisers. 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 labour 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.


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 merchandisers 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 organisations. The team of researchers used up considerable hours meeting with a variety of the team of people representing the merchandisers and giving important information related to the research and showing presentations that highlight the scope of the study. An agreement was made with these merchandisers 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 organisations 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 merchandisers, the merchandisers 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 merchandisers 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 with merchandisers 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 evironment (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 is described in the subsequent sections.


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 advise by the legal advise wing experts. It was agreed that 16 members be brought aboard the 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 merchandisers 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 national database, documenting the career paths of workers 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.

  • 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

3. Research Methodology

Having discussed the complexity of the retail industry and the related literature, the following chapter attempts to identify and describe the research design and sampling type. After which, the chosen research method will be introduce and how the collected data is being tabulated will be discuss. In addition, the hypotheses of this study will be derived at the later part of this chapter.

3.1 Research Design

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 behaviours of consumers. 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 Sampling 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 respondents. In addition, friends, colleagues and family members of both the respondents and the author would be approached as well.

3.3 Data Collection for this Study

According to Wong (1999), marketing data may be classified into two basic types: primary data and secondary data. Primary data refer to those collected

to meet the specific research needs at hand. Secondary data on the other hand, refer to existing information which has previously been collected and reported by some individual or organization, and which are other than the research problem at hand. Thus the distinction between primary and secondary data lies in the original purpose of data collection.

3.3.1 Secondary Research

Secondary data is an essential element of almost all research carried out. According to Churchill (1999, p. 253) secondary data possess significant cost and time advantages. This is because, the existence of secondary data can in many instances dismiss the need for potentially expensive and time-consuming field work as secondary data exists aplenty from internal and external data sources (Wong, 1999).

Apart from time-saving and cost economics, secondary data is less subject to intentional bias. Also as certain types of information may be impractically or virtually impossible to gather through data approach, secondary data are the only alternative (Wong, 1999). Therefore, secondary data enable this study to avoid biasness that might be made unintentionally by the author during the development of the hypotheses. Hence in this study, journals from electronic databases such as Emerald and Ebsco were reviewed to aid the development of the study. The use of journals was to serve as a basis to draw the hypotheses of this study.

However, Wong (1999) pointed out that one of the disadvantages of secondary data is that it became outdated easily in an ever-changing environment, and often, there were differences in classification or measurement as well as lack of accuracy. The above appeared true to the author as some of the journals being reviewed appeared to be outdated and inaccurate due to different areas of focus.

The author also found that there was limited access to many online research websites and the availability of journals on store atmosphere in the retail context was also limited. Therefore both the retail and service context were being reviewed in the process.

With the difficulties mentioned above, it was anticipated that the secondary research found would not be sufficient to fulfill the objectives of this study. As mentioned by Churchill (1999), when problem is not yet resolved with secondary data, the researcher should proceed to primary data. Therefore, the author of the study moved on to gather primary data for the completion of this study.

3.3.2 Primary Research

Primary data prove its importance when the required information for marketing research/evaluation may not be available from secondary data sources. For the purpose of this study, the author had decided to use quantitative research. This is because, according to Wong (1999, p.110), quantitative research is used when the primary objective is to derive numeric or quantifiable data which is statistically accurate and reliable. Quantitative

research is also recommended when there exists a need for accurate numeric data.

Due to time constraint, the author decided to avoid open-ended questions and adopt close-ended questions on the questionnaire. This is because, close-ended questions are easily administered by an unskilled interviewer compared to open-ended questions and it is also much easier and faster for statistical data tabulation and data comparison. In addition, the checklist of responses in the questionnaire helps reduce difficulty in memory-recall that respondent might encounter in responding open-ended question (Wong, 1999). On the other hand, the checklist of responses may not be as comprehensive and alternate responses that appear in the checklist may create position bias, which will cause the respondent to be unable to freely express him or herself, and often detailed information is being missed (Wong, 1999, p.138).

3.3.3 Questionnaire Development

The questionnaire used for this study consists of three sections, namely demographics, Closed-ended questions (Dichotomous questions & Multiple-choice questions) and Scaling questions (Agree-disagree questions).

Section A served to gather data on respondents' personal particular such as gender, age group, highest education level attained, occupation and monthly Income level.

Section B aimed to gather data on respondents' view towards the impact of store atmosphere on consumers' emotions, purchase and repatronage behaviour. It will determine to what extent each atmospheric elements influence respondents' mood and purchasing behaviour. Five-point Likert-scale statement (1=Strongly Disagree and 5=Strongly Agree) was being used to allow respondents to rank and identify the degree of influence of each of the atmospheric elements. Responses were also sought regarding consumers' patronage behaviour.

3.3.4 Pre-testing

The objective of pre-testing is to ensure that the questionnaire used in this study is easily understood and not misinterpreted by the respondents. There should also be minimal possible difficulties faced by respondents in answering the questionnaire. For the reliability of this study, pre-testing is vital to ensure the accuracy of the data collected.

The questionnaire was pre-tested via a small-scale pilot test with 5 respondents and subsequent changes were made. The author sent the questionnaire via email to the 5 respondents and they where asked to attempt the questionnaire and provide comments and feedbacks. After gathering the feedbacks and comments, the questionnaire was being modified and refined to meet the objectives of this study.

In order to improve the clarity of the questionnaire, redevelopment of the questionnaire was required. The author had to refine the section A and rephrase some misleading questions in Section B. Some questions that were

being duplicated and confusing to the respondents were omitted. New questions were also developed and integrated into the questionnaire to achieve the objective of the study.

3.3.5 Final Data Collection

After redeveloping the questionnaire, the new questionnaire (appendix ) was ready for the actual distribution and data collection. The questionnaire was being distributed both online and offline to MIS part-time and full-time students as well as their friends, colleagues and family members.

Naturally, offline respondents are more responsive to the completion of the questionnaire. This is because they tend to complete the questionnaire the moment they receive it and return to the author right after completion.

Although online distributions of the questionnaire enable wider participation and easier distribution, it is commonly view as spam mails and ignored by receivers. Therefore, there were a total of 49 responses from offline distribution and 39

online responses which resulted in a total of 85 responses that served as primary data for this study.

3.3.6 Data Analysis Method

SPSS 13.0 version was being used for data analysis in this study. The author made use of one sample T-test, paired sample T-test, chi-square and correlation to conduct testing of the hypotheses.

The statements used to measure the variables were assessed on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree with numerical value of one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree.

3.4 Hypotheses

“A hypothesis is a statement that specifies how two or more measurable variables are related. A good hypothesis carries clear implications for testing stated relationships”, (Churchill, 1999, p.101). As stated, for this study, it was important to measure the impact of the influence of the atmospheric elements of a store on consumers' mood and behaviour. Hence, the following hypotheses were derived for this study.

Based upon the theories reviewed, it is hypothesized that:


  • H1a: Colours has a significant influence on consumers' mood in the store
  • H1b: Lighting have a significant effect on consumer's mood of the store
  • H1c: Music has a significant effect on consumer's mood of the store
  • H1d: Scent has a significant influence on consumer's mood of the store
  • H2: Mood is positively influencing consumer's length of stay in a store

Spontaneous Purchase

  • H3a: Consumers will have a more favourable attitude toward merchandise with the effects of store atmospheres
  • H3b: Effects of store atmospherics on merchandise is positively influencing spontaneous purchase in the store
  • H4: Income level is influencing spontaneous purchase that is caused by store atmospherics

Repatronage Intention

  • H5: Consumers will exhibit greater degree of patronage intention when the store atmosphere appeals to them
  • H6: Gender, Age and Education level influence consumer's evaluation of store's image

The responses gathered from the questionnaire were then entered into SPSS 13.0 for statistical analysis.

3.5 Summary of Chapter 3

Secondary data such as journals and textbooks were being reviewed before conducting the actual primary research. This was to allow the author to further understand the review on Store Atmospherics, mood and repatronage behaviour before developing the questionnaire for primary data collection and to develop the hypotheses of this study. A total of 89 responses were collected via online and offline distribution to enter into SPSS 13.0 for statistical analysis.

  • Conclusive Research Design
  • Descriptive Research
  • Method:
  • Data Analysis is quantitative
  • Secondary data survey
  • Questionnaire Survey

Data Collection

  • Survey analysis by launched an Employee Workplace Survey to gather data that would identity why do employees stay/leave the company?
  • Identifying factors influencing retention to gather data from across the employee population of the company.

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 merchandisers at junior and senior levels in merchandise. Merchandising is an economic sector, which has traditionally been associated with the employment of merchandisers. Overall, 60% of low skilled employees are merchandisers and 40% are skilled. Whilst these figures show that the merchandise sector clearly employs a larger number of low skilled than the skilled, it is not a ‘balanced industry' (Skillsmart, 2006). The representation of low skill workers in the merchandise sector however, follows a number of important patterns. Official statistics are used to highlight the predominance of merchandisers in part time work in the merchandise sector and the under representation of merchandisers at senior levels. According to Skillsmart, (2006), official figures are general and are unlikely to provide a clear understanding of the dynamics relating to the position in which merchandisers are employed in merchandise sector. The following sections therefore outline theories that have been offered to account for these gender disparities, particularly in relation to barriers for merchandisers attempting to progress into senior management positions. An examination of managing diversity is then offered and potential mechanisms for ensuring merchandise organisations fully utilise the talents of all employees to maximise productivity is discussed.

2.2 The structure of the merchandise sector

The merchandise sector is the largest private sector employer in the Hong Kong yet it is rarely recognized as such. Skill smart (a not for profit organisation, set up and part funded by Government to identify and address the skills needs of the Hong Kong merchandise sector), suggest that this is, possibly because its workforce is not concentrated in any particular region or locality. In fact, the merchandise 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 (Skillsmart, 2004). Overall, the merchandise 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

Skillsmart, as ‘hourglass shaped'. The overwhelming majority (95%) work in firms with less than ten employees. Consequently, there is significantly less (just over two hundred) merchandise employers with more than fifty staff, reflecting the “hourglass shape” of the industry profile.

2.3 Present profile of turnover of employees

Employment expectations have risen slightly in (Q1) from an already high level in Q4. Of the 514 executives surveyed, 54% expect to increase their hiring which is slightly up from 53% the previous.Year-on-year, expectations have remained

steady. The 54% planning to grow headcount this year is at the same level as Q1 2006, 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 talent management solution providers, today released findings of its comprehensive quarterly Hudson Report for Asia. With a reputation as a key socio-economic indicator in the current marketplace since its Asia launch in December 1998, 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 organisation and their industry as a whole. The Hudson Report represents the expectations of over 2,200 key employment decision makers from multinational organisations of all sizes in all major industry sectors, with 514 of these executives based in Hong Kong.

2.4 The general profile of employees in the merchandise sector

Traditionally the merchandise 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 merchandise also follows a number of other patterns. The merchandise 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 merchandise as a part-time occupation for young people and students (Skillsmart, 2006). Merchandise is also a popular choice for older workers (those over 55).

In terms of ethnic minority employment, the merchandise sector employs a similar proportion to those figures available nationally (Skillsmart, 2006). Recent research has shown however, that certain recruitment practices may prevent ethnic minorities from gaining employment in merchandise 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 merchandise sector

Merchandise is an economic sector, which has traditionally been associated with the

employment of diverse people of different background. Overall, 55% of merchandise employees are women and 45% are men (Skillsmart, 2006). This gender factor in the merchandise sector remains fairly consistent throughout the 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, 2006). Level of qualification gives workers a broader spectrum of work opportunities that they gladly take into considerations. Skillsmart (2006) 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 merchandise sector follows a number of important patterns discussed in the following sections. Firstly the predominance of staff turnover in the merchandise sector will be discussed. Secondly, evidence will be presented to show the under representation of employee needs at senior levels within the merchandise sector.

2.4.1 The predominance of staff turnover in the merchandise sector

Statistics from Skillsmart (2006) indicate that merchandise 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 merchandise sector by gender.

2.4.2 Job retention in the labour force as a whole

The predominance of staff turnover when compared with other sectors of the economy is particularly apparent in the merchandise sector. This trend is also reflected in employment across the Hong Kong, particularly in the service industries. The numbers of merchandisers entering the labour 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, 2004). Youthful persons in the Hong Kong are far more likely than middle and old aged persons to work part-time (EOC, 2006). 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 (EOC, 2006).

2.4.3 Explanations for the predominance of staff turnover among merchandisers in the merchandise 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 their productivity of the company (Wilson, 2003; Skillsmart, 2006). When addressing the merchandise sector specifically, Lynch (2002) comments that it is the very nature of the merchandise industry that contributes to the high proportion of turnovers. In the merchandise industry, recruitment is largely secured from the local labour market, staff requirements fluctuate due to seasonal demands and employees are often required to work unsociable hours as stores 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 merchandise sector. In addition, Lynch (2002) further suggests that due to this delimiting factors in the industry and the continuous fluctuation of workforce in particular, potential merchandising companies are provided with an available pool of labour that accepts inferior terms and conditions of employment, as merchandisers attempt to resolve their need to educate and retain their staff.

2.4.4 The under representation of staff interests in the merchandise sector: executives and senior officials

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

2.5 The ‘Glass ceiling'

The under representation of minority group in management positions in the merchandise and other occupational sectors has led theorists to assert that a ‘glass ceiling' exists. 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 white men, i.e. those who traditionally occupy positions of power within organizations, are prevented from accessing top jobs simply because they are minorities (Davidson, 1997; Powell, 1999; Konrad, Prasad and Pringle, 2006). 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 2005 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 Vinnicombe, 2005). These statistics largely reflect the experiences of white merchandisers. It is important to highlight that black and ethnic minority merchandisers across the globe often face significant barriers. Although there is a general lack of data on ethnicity and employment or physical handicap and employment, black and ethnic minority employees are under- represented at senior and professional levels in the labour market (Commission for Racial Equality, 2006). In Hong Kong in 2004 for example, 17% of ethnic minority men were managers or senior officials compared to 10% of ethnic minority merchandisers. The highest percentages of merchandisers and men in these positions were Indian and Chinese (Commission for Racial Equality, 2006). Research has highlighted that a glass ceiling exists even in occupations where merchandisers 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 law in England now outnumbers men (Davidson and Burke, 2004) but partners of top law firms continue to be predominantly men. An examination of data from the top 10 ten law firms in the Hong Kong in 2005 revealed that on average, 15% of female partners in the top 10 law firms are women (The Law 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' (Ryan and Haslam, 2005). According to Ryan and Haslam (2005), this is because merchandisers 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 merchandisers experience barriers 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 merchandise. 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 merchandisers remove themselves from the selection pool.

2.5.1 The pay gap

However, research shows that merchandisers leaders and merchandisers 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 merchandisers working full-time in Great Britain for example was 17.1 % (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2006). In the US, merchandisers 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 gap. Firstly, there is discrimination in pay systems. Merchandisers are paid less than men for performing the same roles. Secondly, ‘occupational segregation' exists. Many merchandisers are concentrated in low paid jobs. Thirdly, merchandisers 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 merchandisers 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 merchandisers aspiring to senior levels within organisations. 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 ‘person-centered' approach

The first perspective focuses on the ways in which merchandisers differ from others

and hypothesises that the characteristics, attitudes, behaviour, skills and education of men, places them at an advantage. According to this perspective, gender differences are attributed to men and merchandisers's biological difference and their different socialisation patterns. The predominance of men at the upper echelons of organisations is a result of stereotypical beliefs that merchandisers lack the motivation, attitudes, commitments and skills to be good managers (Fagenson, 1993). Merchandisers, 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 programmes and legislation such as the UK and the US (Powell, Butterfield and Parent, 2002). This syndrome 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, 2006). 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 (2006), for female characteristics to warrant more value, men are required to re-evaluate in positive terms, behaviours that they have previously been critical of (Peck, 2006). Research evidence shows little or no difference in the traits, abilities, and education of professional persons (Powell, 1993). Thereforwe 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 structure' perspective

The second theory, the ‘organizational structure' perspective, suggests that

the organizational work environment in which merchandisers operate influences the career development of merchandisers in management rather than their own traits, skills and behaviours. Merchandisers 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. Merchandisers are held back due to an array of organizational blockages 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 blockages, rather a reflection of potential organizational blockages). In some cases for example, low skilled merchandisers are denied access to challenging assignments, which may enable them to prove their ability and potential for more senior roles. In addition, the merchandiser's inability to engage in challenging assignments means they remain less visible in organizations. Ragins, Townsend and Mattis' (1998) survey of over a thousand executive merchandisers 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 merchandisers 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 merchandisers need to overcome to reach senior positions and raises issues with regards to culture change if barriers for merchandisers are to be eradicated. The ‘organizational structure' perspective: Tokenism

Kanter (1977) hypothesized that if minority and challenged merchandisers form only a small proportion of a total category in any organization (less than 15%) they would be labeled as ‘tokens' because of their rarity 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' merchandisers 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 merchandisers are often used as test cases for the employment of future merchandisers at senior levels (Davidson and Cooper, 1992). The ‘organizational structure' perspective: 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 merchandisers (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; 44) claim that mentoring may be the ‘ice pick' for breaking through the ‘glass ceiling.' Research has however highlighted that merchandisers are likely to encounter barriers when acquiring mentors. This may be due to the under representation of senior merchandisers for aspiring junior merchandisers to choose from. In addition, merchandisers 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, 2006). The ‘organizational structure' perspective: Role Models

Research has shown how role models are vital to the successful development of younger merchandisers 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 (2006) 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 merchandisers, Singh et. al. (2006) found that the merchandisers in their research utilized multiple role models and preferred close or near role models to those more distant and not personally known. Importantly, the merchandisers interviewed in the study were not inspired by male business leaders. This has important implications for organizations as if merchandisers and minorities do not have role models to aspire to within their immediate environment, the attractiveness of more senior roles for talented and competent merchandisers 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 merchandisers are equally capable of acquiring. It has been argued that merchandisers 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 ‘homosocial 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 merchandisers are more likely to be hired and promoted into a particular management level when their matching merchandisers already occupy these positions. In these cases, the prospect of adding more merchandisers 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 merchandisers. Thus, the main challenge is to get merchandisers 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 merchandisers in work in general and management in particular. Rather, it highlights the main barriers within organizational systems that may occur to prevent merchandisers from accessing senior positions in the same way that men do.

2.6.3 The Social System perspective

This perspective rejects 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 merchandiser's behaviors and their abilities to acquire certain jobs are influenced by the social and institutional systems in which organizations are embedded. According to Wilson (2003), 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 ‘fall between theories and cannot be easily contained in one explanatory system.' 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 merchandisers 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 organisations cannot be understood separately from the society (culture) in which he or she works; and when the individual, the organisation or the system in which they are embedded changes, the other components change as well' (Fagenson, 1993).

The GOS framework has been utilised by more recent researchers examining the experiences of merchandisers 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

‘Merchandiser's career development does not simply lag behind that of men 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 merchandisers that merchandiser's career development differs to that of men. Most research on career theories however, has adopted the view that models of career advancement should be the same for all and sundry, particularly if merchandisers 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 merchandisers 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 found evidence to support the theory that merchandisers's careers unfolded differently than men's. In particular, merchandisers experienced gaps in income and their number of promotions widened over time. Kirchmeyer (1999) found that training was associated with greater income for men and job tenure had a positive effect on perceived success for men only. Merchandisers reported a lower payoff from education and experience than did men. 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 merchandisers. Both objective and subjective measures are used to assess 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 merchandisers 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 merchandisers 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 merchandise sector

The following sections have highlighted contemporary theories offered by researchers to account for the disparity of merchandisers in senior positions. The following section addresses empirical research directly relating to the under representation of merchandisers in senior positions in the merchandise sector. Generally there is a dearth of recent empirical work addressing the lack of senior merchandisers in merchandise. Broadbridge (1998) in her quantitative research addressing barriers to the career development of merchandise managers found that merchandisers face more barriers in their career development than men for any of the reasons documented in gender theories highlighted earlier. In Broadbridge's study, merchandisers 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 merchandise 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 UK use one or more of the following work arrangements: part-time, flexitime, annualised hours, term-time working, job share and home working (EOC, 2006). 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 are few very senior merchandisers in management in merchandise. In her attempts to uncover why there are only three female chief executives among the 66 merchandise store groups listed on the London Stock Exchange, Benigson (2005) surveyed around 40 merchandisers managers on the board or just below in merchandise. The author found that around 40 % of merchandisers managers did not want to be CEOs. This was because merchandisers were unwilling to sacrifice their family life, 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 merchandise environments, largely because of the direct contact with male dominated industries such as meat and farming necessary in the supermarket sector. Although not specifically focussed on the merchandise sector, Hewlett and Luce (2005) reflect these findings and state that successful merchandisers are ‘off ramping', the term they use for the fact that merchandisers are leaving the corporate world in greater numbers than men. Particularly concerning is that when these merchandisers decide to move back into the corporate world, none of them stated they would return to their previous employers. Singh et. al. (2006) call for the reorganisation of how work is conducted and an end to the lack of flexibility due to the client focussed 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 merchandisers. Brockbank and Airey (1994) in their survey of 42 mixed merchandiseers, using a postal questionnaire and personal interviews from 16 companies found this to be the case but despite this, again found that working conditions in merchandise, the absence of senior female role models and the problem of balancing a family and career remained problematic for merchandisers.

Research has also shown that occupational segregation exists even whenvariables between male and female employees are considered equal withinthe organisation. Tolich and Briar (1999) looked at task segregation amongmale and female employees in American supermarkets. The male and femaleemployees in the supermarkets under review had identical job descriptions,the same pay, formal promotion opportunities and fringe benefits. Yet, themerchandisers reported a very different experience and quality of working lifecompared with their male counterparts. According to Tolich and Briar (1999),this was largely due to line managers who allocated different tasks andresponsibilities to male and female employees. This led the merchandisers in thestudy to experience frustration as they were fully aware of their differentialtreatment. The study suggests that the problem of sex discrimination in theworkplace is not eliminated by the sheer presence of company policy. Rather,organisational reality means that gender divisions may still be prevalent.Furthermore, Lynch's (2002) case study research of three multiple store merchandiseorganisations in the UK highlighted that line managers played a key role inmaintaining the gendered segregation of the workforce. The gendered natureof the workforce in the case study stores was perpetuated by the personalattitudes and stereotypes of store level managers. These perceptions oftenundermined organisational equal opportunities policy across all three c

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