A day after Target Corp. laid off 1,700 staffers at its Minneapolis headquarters, a new scramble began — among companies looking to hire them.
SPS Commerce, a fast-growing retail software company a few blocks from Target’s corporate tower, started actively recruiting laid-off Target employees to fill its 170 openings.
On websites and message boards aimed at the new ex-Target workers, notices appeared from other technology companies and retailers with job opportunities. College alumni groups and state career counselors kicked into gear with offers of help. The University of St. Thomas offered discounts on certification programs to help laid-off Target employees learn something new.
Tuesday’s cuts at Target were the largest ever at the company’s headquarters and the biggest one-day reduction by a Minnesota company since 2002. For a number of reasons, however, they may not be as damaging as other headline-grabbing downsizings in the past.
“Logically, these are not people to be pitied,” said Isaac Cheifetz, a former headhunter who specializes in talent strategy for Trexin Consulting in Minnetonka. “They will do well, aside from the temporary personal disruption, which is not trivial.”
The people suddenly on the market are attractive job candidates, he said. Most are well-educated and they carry the pedigree of having worked for a company that is mostly admired in the region and across the country.
They’re entering a local economy that supports a deep bench of businesses across many industries. Growth in professional jobs has been strong in Minnesota since 2009, and the state unemployment rate is as low as it has been in eight years. Even if they choose to leave the Twin Cities, there are more jobs open across the U.S. now than at any time in 14 years, the government reported earlier this week.
Because Target laid off people across the company, the market won’t be flooded with workers with only one skill. As well, the massive nature of the layoff reduces stigma on the former employees. “It wasn’t about the people in the jobs,” Cheifetz said.
One employee who worked in accounting at Target and lost her job Tuesday morning said she received four inquiries on LinkedIn before the end of the day and applied for six jobs on Wednesday.
“There’s so many opportunities,” she said. “I think other companies are taking advantage.”
She said her former colleagues are well-connected around town and have promised to help her find a job. “I’m not too worried about it,” she said.
At SPS, jobs are open for people with expertise in supply chain, logistics, data analytics, project management and business analysis — all areas in which Target trimmed staffing.
Mike Carey, vice president of human resources for SPS, said former Target workers carry “a level of credibility” because they survived its tough hiring process. “I think they’re going to do just fine, and we’d like to help them,” Carey said.
Layoffs in some industries can be crippling to workers. When the Ford Motor Co. plant closed in St. Paul in 2011, similar jobs at similar pay weren’t as available locally.
A woman who was laid off in marketing at Target said she feels far more confident today than she did seven years ago when she lost a different job. The economic climate is better, and businesses around the Twin Cities seem eager to help where they can. She’s been using social media to get the word out, and the response has been overwhelming.
“I’ve received tons of support and offerings of help,” the woman said. “These people are very empathetic and want to help me.”
Target said each employee who is cut will receive at least 15 weeks’ pay plus additional severance amounts based on their length of time with the retailer. The company said benefits will continue for six months and employees will receive outplacement support and other services.
Some of the positions that were eliminated at Target were specific to retail, but most apply across industries.
“The prospects are very, very good,” said Jim Kwapick, district director for Robert Half, a professional staffing firm.
Job candidates with Target on their résumés have cachet with smaller companies who are looking to raise their level of sophistication.
“Your best employers usually can attract and retain good people, and prospective employers know that,” Kwapick said. “Usually midsize companies find big to be attractive.”
This does not mean all Target employees will find the job search easy.
Carey said the best candidates for SPS Commerce will have spent no more than seven years at Target and ideally will have worked somewhere else too.
“There’s also for us, being a much smaller organization, a bit of hesitation for people that have been there years and years and years, just because it’s this gigantic organization,” Carey said. “They may be a bit slower-moving, a bit more bureaucratic, a bit more policy-driven than those at a small, nimble company that’s growing really quickly like us.”
Some former Target employees see a silver lining in the forced transition.
“With the bigger corporations, you just get in the habit and it gets really hard, because of the financial reward, to let go of it,” said one who lost her job Tuesday.
She said she loved the project she was working on for Target but is excited to figure out what she will do next.
“It does seem like an incredible opportunity to do something else,” she said. “Just make a giant shift.”