The blog publishes articles on topical issues at the Ministry.

Salespersons caught in transition: EGR retail sector project attains target

Erja Nikula Published Date 7.1.2020 15.15 Blog

Erja NikulaA two-year reemployment project in the Finnish retail sector, co-financed by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), yielded unexpectedly favourable results: up to 85% of staff made redundant before the project had found a new job by the time the project ended.

The bankruptcy of the Anttila chain of department stores and lay-offs by the Stockmann chain in autumn 2016 left more than 1,600 retail sector employees out of work in Finland. Making use of a grant from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), Finland promptly launched a project providing services to help redundant staff find new employment.

This was a challenging task for the project promoters, as Anttila had stores all over Finland (under the brand Kodin1 as well as their own brand). Previous EGF projects in Finland had mainly concerned the ICT sector, and had been carried out almost exclusively within the area of the four largest Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres). The challenge was compounded by the lower than average level of education and fairly high average age of laid-off staff. In addition, the growing market share of e-commerce raised fears that there would not be enough new jobs to offset the redundancies.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, our project team kept in close touch with Service Union United (PAM) throughout the project. According to feedback from PAM, the customers were very satisfied from day one with the services provided.

Among the workers made redundant in the Anttila bankruptcy, in particular, many had a long and stable career behind them. The target group for the project included people who did not own a smartphone and were not accustomed to using a computer. Job-seekers today largely need to go online to access job offers. The public employment services no longer normally provide guidance on using computers or smartphones.

The EGF is an excellent tool for managing major redundancy situations

The EGF project made it possible to organise a traditional IT course customised for former retail sector workers. Participants received guidance in using computers and smartphones to search for jobs and help in tasks such as setting up their own e-mail addresses. These courses turned out to be highly popular and were all fully booked. Although less than 10 per cent of the target group needed this training, it provided a significant boost to the job-seeking skills of those who did.

The largest number of participants came from Uusimaa, which is where the Anttila headquarters and several department stores were located. Many of the people laid off by Stockmann had also worked in Uusimaa. The target group in Uusimaa was quite heterogeneous: besides sales staff, it included many other types of retail personnel. Owing to high demand, more training opportunities and other services could be offered in Uusimaa than elsewhere. Some customers from other regions were able to benefit from services provided in Uusimaa.

The number of customers from other parts of Finland was relatively small, making it difficult to set up groups and thus to organise a sufficiently diverse range of services. The Employment and Business Offices (‘TE Offices’) also had problems with the provision of expert services. Initially, they were only able to organise such services in areas where other EGF projects were already under way.

In areas where the number of customers was smaller, the TE office’s change security experts played a major role in successfully organising EGF services. We would like to thank them for their valuable contribution! Even in areas where there were few customers, it was possible to organise some customised job search training, as the target audience often consisted exclusively of sales personnel. Towards the end of the project, individual coaching services were provided to customers throughout Finland on the basis of a competitive tender. This coaching proved very helpful.

The EGF is an excellent tool for managing major redundancy situations. Finland has made use of EGF funding whenever possible. The favourable outcome of this particular project was in part due to a significant improvement in the general economic situation and job market. The relative ease with which project customers found new jobs was a pleasant surprise for the promoters. 

Erja Nikula, Coordinator, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) supports people who have lost their jobs by providing training, coaching and guidance to help them find another job or start their own business. EGF projects in Finland are managed jointly by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the ELY Centres and the TE Offices. The final report on the retail sector project was submitted to the Commission in early December 2019.

Read more about the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund on the Ministry website