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Supermarket chain improves its psychological work environment

Supermarket chain improves its psychological work environment

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: Tomas Bertelsen

The Danish supermarket chain Netto has been nominated for this year’s Danish work environment award for improving its psychological work environment by preparing the group’s 10,000 mainly young employees in how to prevent and handle robberies and violent customers.

The retail sector employs many young people and is also one of the sectors where employees are most at risk of experiencing robberies and violent customers. Robberies are on the increase, and as a result the supermarket chain Netto has introduced a new concept called NettoCare, aimed at helping workers deal with robberies and organised theft. 

The results have been so remarkable that Netto has been nominated for the ArbejdsmiljøPrisen (Work Environment Award) for best psychological work environment programme in 2014 — awarded by the Danish Work Environment Council. 12 workplaces have been nominated.

“We see frequent robberies and violent episodes, but there has been a marked fall in workers’ absence after such episodes since we introduced the NettoCare concept,” says Netto’s work environment manager Birgitte Oredson.

Few and simple messages

The concept focuses on prevention, conflict management, upgrading of safety equipment in exposed areas and it secures extra support for employees who despite all this become victims of violence. What makes the concept unique, however, is that it is built on few and easily understandable messages and direct dialogue with the individual workers in the shop during working hours. 

“This method has proven to be particularly efficient with young employees, and we have quite a lot of them,” says Birgitte Oredsen. 

NettoCare 2

Mathias Schou Sørensen, centre, is one of many young Netto employees. Shop manager Mukhtar Elmi (left) and Amin Mohammad Poor (right)

A Netto shop typically comprises one experienced shop manager and a deputy manager plus a number of regular workers. 20 percent of Netto’s employees are between 15 and 18, and 30-35 percent are between 18 and 24. Because robberies often happen during the last opening hour when there usually are many young people at work, it has been important to reach young employees with this concept, explains the work environment manager. New strategies have had to be put in place.

“So far we have been using meetings and flyers to inform employees about training and work environment, but we have realised that it is also necessary to talk about this in everyday life and with each other in the work place. That’s why we have appointed 454 NettoCare ambassadors across our outlets who train colleagues. NettoCare also has its own Facebook group.”

Community, training and feedback

She hopes and expects to reach more people by supplementing the traditional measures with these new strategies. Together with colleagues from HR and the group’s department of internal security, she often visits Netto shops in the evenings to talk to young employees about the concept and about their work environment in general.

“Young people are trained to carry out their routines, but they need backup and someone to explain to them why the routines are important. Many young people don’t understand, for instance, why you should never leave a lot of cash in the till. They need to have it explained to them why it matters — that rumours will spread among criminals if a shop does not have much cash. It means it is not worth robbing.”

She has worked with young people and work environments for many years, and agrees with the Danish Working Environment Information Centre (Videncenter for Arbejdsmiljø), which gives the following advice to young people seeking a good psychological work environment:

  • Community - seek support and backup
  • Training - ask for guidance and instruction
  • Feedback - give and receive feedback 

In addition to NettoCare, Netto has a range of classic work environment rules for young people, the most important being that nobody under 15 can ever be hired. This rule cannot be broken, underlines the work environment manager. Netto has also developed a list of safety rules which explain what 15-17 year old employees can and cannot do in the shop. They can for instance accept empty bottles and handle items lighter than 12 kilos, but they must not lift items heavier than 12 kilos, handle cases full of beer or soft drinks, and they must not work after 10pm.

About ArbejdsmiljøPrisen

The Danish Work Environment Council’s annual award for Denmark’s best work environment measures, divided into four categories: workplace accidents, skeletomuscular strain, psychological work environment and the work environment as a strategic element.

The aim of the award is to create attention around work environments and the three national priority areas: workplace accidents, psychological work environment and skeletomuscular strain.

Nominees and winners are selected in cooperation with the social partners. 

12 workplaces are nominated in 2014:

  • ISS Facility Services A/S Food Hygiene
  • DONG Energy
  • Botilbuddet Lyngdal
  • Herning Municipality DRIFT
  • The National Board of Social Services
  • Netto
  • Dentistry in Elsinore Municipality
  • Aarhus University Hospital
  • Center for Acquired Brain Injury in Kolding
  • Arriva Denmark A/S
  • The Vollsmose Secretariat
  • Arla Foods Amba ́s head office

The winners will be announced on 27 November 2014



Work environments: a government priority

Young and new employees’ work environments is one of the government’s priorities in its work environment strategy for 2020. So far this has resulted in:

  • The Danish Working Environment Authority has increased its focus on employers’ duties to train and instruct new employees and to make sure new employees carry out their work in a responsible manner. 
  • A targeted communication campaign to teach young people about work environments.

A specially appointed inspection group patrols workplaces each summer, when young Danes are doing holiday jobs. Results from last summer’s patrols show employers have become somewhat better at looking after employees under 18, but that one in three employers still fail to teach young employees under 18 how to avoid workplace injuries.  

Young people make up a separate group with different reasons for going to work, a fact which should be reflected in the work to protect young people from bad work environments. Many young people switch from studying to work, or they work while studying. This means more change between different tasks and types of jobs. As a result, young people of the same age are prepared in different ways and have very different expectations of work and the risks associated with it.


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