Our Current Stories on Communities We Support

Global Social Development

Building New Skills to Succeed

Building New Skills to Succeed

As part of our commitment to ensure the well-being of people who produce our Nordstrom private-label products, Nordstrom Product Group (NPG) provides factory workers with training opportunities through our Professional Development Initiative. These trainings help them to develop skills that are important both in and out of the workplace.

A new kind of workforce
The nature of the garment factory labor force is changing in China. In the past, young men and women came to southern China to work temporarily. Today, many of these people are coming to the area with professional ambition and the hopes of establishing a long-term career. However, with limited training opportunities and resources, this can often be difficult. To help address this need, our NPG team began working with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to develop and offer training programs to selected factories in China.

"We're continuing to look for new ways to help workers become empowered."
—Laura Hodgson,
Nordstrom Product Group

To begin, NPG and BSR gathered input and feedback from factories in order to better understand their needs, goals and challenges. What they heard was that factory managers wanted to engage workers in a variety of ways—including those that might not be directly related to workers' day-to-day responsibilities. Feedback from workers was similar. While they were interested in training that would help them perform more effectively at work, they also wanted to develop a broader set of life skills.

A tailored offering
To create a tailored training program for a factory, Nordstrom first establishes a partnership with the factory. Representatives from BSR then meet with factory managers and workers to identify specific topics that would be most interesting and relevant for them. Based on this feedback, BSR crafts a curriculum that addresses the topics factory workers and managers are most interested in, such as stress management, workplace communication, financial literacy, computer and parenting skills. The selected topics are then presented to workers through either long-term training programs (some lasting a full year or more) or shorter "mini-training" programs.

"We're continuing to look for new ways to help workers become empowered and give them the tools they need to help address issues that are important to them in their workplace," said Laura Hodgson, director of Social Responsibility for Nordstrom Product Group. "These trainings also give us another way to create a strong relationship with our factory partners that ultimately ensures workers' rights are protected."

Positive feedback
Thus far, more than 1,600 line workers and mid-level managers have participated in the training programs, and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Employee feedback shows they value the new skills they develop and appreciate the factories' improved work environments. Managers are pleased with the new, open communication and are seeing reductions in absenteeism and turnover.

"This innovative approach to monitoring is centered on investing and empowering workers," said Jason Ho, Advisory and CTI Manager at BSR. "It prioritizes factory workers and their needs, which should always be the focus."

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