If you ever visit Senegal, it would be difficult to miss one of Auchan’s 32 stores. Auchan Retail is the 35th largest employer in the world and maintains a large market share in Senegal. The retailer strives to strengthen connections to the local communities in which it operates, and as such, buys most of its meat, fish, and produce directly from local Senegalese herders, fishermen, and farmers.
Auchan’s workforce is young—the retail chain employs more than 1,700 workers, 75 percent of whom are under 35 years old. So in January 2021, Auchan Senegal launched a partnership with EDC’s Projet de l’amélioration des performances de travail et d’entreprenariat (APTE-Senegal), a project funded by the Mastercard Foundation, to strengthen the professional skills of its workforce.
The partnership follows two years of collaboration between APTE-Senegal and the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to develop the soft and technical skills that young people will need for entrepreneurial or employment success.
“Late in 2019, we were looking into some of the largest private sector actors in Senegal and having discussions with them to see if they would be interested in partnering with us to expand youth internships or job opportunities,” says Helene Cyr, EDC international technical advisor to APTE-Senegal. “Auchan stood out in the pool of private sector leaders for their investments in young people in rural and urban areas throughout Senegal.”
The core content for Auchan Senegal’s professional staff development training is EDC’s Work Ready Now. Work Ready Now helps youth gain positive attitudes; model respectful behaviors; and develop skills in speaking and listening, teamwork, customer service, and leadership. The program has previously been used to support EDC’s workforce development efforts in Mali, Rwanda, and the Philippines.
Over the course of several months, Auchan and APTE-Senegal collaborated to integrate Work Ready Now competencies into the company’s existing professional development standards, performance protocols, and occupational safety and health standards. Together, they tailored a series of soft skills trainings relevant to the most common development challenges Auchan Senegal employees experience on the job.
Seni Diop, EDC’s program director for APTE-Senegal, says that he was impressed by Auchan’s commitment to support the development of its own workforce. Not only does it foster a positive workplace culture, but it also helps young employees build lifelong employment and entrepreneurship skills, benefiting the Senegalese economy.
“If more companies had this approach, the impact on both youth and workforce culture would be exponential,” Diop says.
The first of Auchan’s comprehensive employee soft skills trainings began in January 2021, and Auchan anticipates reaching about 700 employees, representing different roles and responsibilities throughout the company. Each training will target specific workplace behaviors and attitudes, organizational tools, and strategies for personal development, as well as options for civic engagement and a healthier work-life balance.
“The on-the-job training so far is really interesting. We are learning to improve communication and overall customer service, as well as set career goals for ourselves,” says Marthe Sophie Diouf, a deputy cash manager at Auchan Dakar-Plateau.
With this year’s training schedule in place, Auchan is already looking to the future and plans to continue its partnership with APTE-Senegal as part of further internal personal staff development and external corporate social responsibility efforts. Auchan will offer opportunities for job shadowing, internships, and even new employment to the graduates of the schools and TVETs supported by APTE-Senegal. The company also hopes to expand the Work Ready Now training to the most vulnerable youth (e.g., out-of-school youth or single mothers).
“It is really exciting to think how this partnership shines a light on what is possible,” says Cyr. “We hope this will attract even more private sector engagement so we can continue to enhance our training relevance and create more job opportunities for young people.”