June 18, 2024


Future Depends on What You Do

Target Workers Reveal Downsides of Perks, Including Wage and Benefits

  • Target has over 400,000 employees in the US and offers more in wages and benefits than other stores.
  • But employees told Insider the perks lose some of their luster when confronted with daily realities.
  • They said mounting pressure’s eroding what’s widely considered one of the top hourly jobs in the US.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in April 2023. 

Workers looking for a retail job will almost certainly consider a job with Target, which, in recent years, has been a leader in raising the standard for hourly roles in the industry.

Last year, the company announced its starting wage would range from $15 to $24 per hour, depending on the position, and that the hours needed for full-time status would be reduced from 30 to 25.

It also offers benefits for hourly workers that the company says support employees’ mental, physical, and financial health, as well as care for their families and even their pets.

The bull’s-eye brand ranks 26th on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2023, and is the only big-box retailer to make the list. In the retail category, Target comes in second after Wegman’s, the beloved regional-grocery chain.

But as attractive as the incentives may be for new applicants, some Target workers say the daily realities of working for the company can make those perks lose their luster.

Insider spoke with more than a dozen current and former Target employees in eight states across the US who voiced similar themes regarding the pros and cons of working for the company. The sources requested anonymity due to concerns about professional repercussions, as they are not authorized to speak to the media. Insider has verified their identities.

Kayla Castañeda, the spokesperson for Target, declined to respond to specific questions for this piece but did provide links to company websites and the following statement:

“We have a track record of providing market-leading benefits and providing all team members with a work experience that centers on equitable opportunities to build meaningful careers and experience success at all levels,” the statement reads. “We repeatedly rank as one of the best places to work in the country and are proud to be nationally recognized for our competitive starting wage, accessible healthcare benefits, and opportunities for growth.”

1. The wage is high, but the demands are higher

Target was years ahead of its peers in implementing a $15 starting wage for its employees, and the company’s average hourly pay today is about $17 an hour. While that’s more than most hourly jobs pay in many markets, some workers say their responsibilities and expectations go beyond those of a typical retail job.

Most employees, including back-room workers and department managers, must be well-versed in ringing up cash-register transactions and able to lift and move merchandise up to 40 pounds, according to job descriptions and conversations with workers. 

Most workers who spoke to Insider said that managers often pull them from one task to another to support a lean-staffing model.

Most workers who spoke to Insider said that they often get pulled from one task to another to support a lean-staffing model.

Most workers who spoke to Insider said that they often get pulled from one task to another to support a lean-staffing model.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Additionally, all the workers Insider spoke with agreed that the company’s interest in tracking metrics on activities from restocking and repricing to drive-up-order fulfillment can increase the pressure on workers.

“I feel like they’re just trying to squeeze us out of a rag when it comes to hours and work efficiency, where we’ll work as thin as possible to achieve the metrics that we’re supposed to be achieving,” a Target worker in Northern California said.

Some workers fear that those demands are only increasing as new services like drive-up returns and Starbucks-order pickup begin rolling out. 

2. Available benefits are nice, but accessing them can be challenging

The company provides a substantial education benefit, which Caroline Hogan, a team lead in Michigan, said she is using to pursue an MBA. “It’s all online classes, which works for people like me,” Hogan said. Target says more than 75,000 employees signed up for the service in its first year. 

But two undergraduate employees in Minnesota said the 250 “business-aligned” academic programs felt limited and aren’t aligned with their educational goals.

The Minnesota workers also pointed out that the 25-hour threshold for full-time employee status — while far lower than the typical 35-hour requirement — can still be hard to meet with irregular scheduling. The company’s benefits website says hourly workers’ benefit eligibility is reviewed annually and averaged over the prior twelve months.

As a result, workers transitioning from part-time to full-time hours may not be eligible for certain benefits until they’ve worked enough full-time hours to compensate for their prior schedule.

3. Being a Guest is great, but some guests take that too far

Most of the sources Insider spoke with said a big reason they sought a job at Target was that they love shopping there — and they still do.

A former Target worker in Minnesota said she especially misses the employee discount — 10% off everything and an additional 20% off private-label brands and fresh groceries — that would save her roughly $50 to $60 on groceries each week.

A majority of the sources Insider spoke with said a big reason they sought a job at Target was that they love shopping there — and they still do.

A majority of the sources Insider spoke with said a big reason they sought a job at Target was that they love shopping there — and they still do.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Target takes great pride in delighting its guests, but satisfying some customers can leave workers feeling demoralized and degraded, with little recourse for customers’ poor behavior.

“When you welcome someone into your home, there’s a level of respect on both ends — as a guest, you are very respectful of that person’s house,” a worker in Southern California said. “Instead of creating that mutual-respect environment, some people fall into a little bit of a power trip and see us not as employees, but as their personal servants.”

“The eggshells that we walk on is incredible at Target, and what sometimes you have to tell the guests is, ‘No,'” a worker in Texas said. “Sometimes the guest is wrong.”

4. It really is ‘the best team in retail,’ but great colleagues aren’t staying

Target executives like to say the company has “the best team in retail,” and nearly all of the sources Insider spoke with said their teammates were one of the top three best things about working for the company — if not the best thing.

“It sounds corny, but it does help me get through my day,” one of the current Minnesota workers said. “I’d say that’s probably the biggest reason I’m working here is that I’ve built outstanding relationships.”

The company employs over 400,000 people and its ability to attract talented and thoughtful workers, combined with the intensity of the job, fosters a deep sense of camaraderie among the team members, many of the employees Insider spoke to said.

But mounting challenges in recent years appear to be leading more of these workers to leave.

“Our turnover rate is ridiculous now,” a manager in the Midwest said.

Despite the company’s statements about growing careers within the company, several workers said they could see few avenues for promotion or advancement and that there is an apparent preference for outside hires to fill store-leadership roles.

“What I’ve seen with Target is that people tend to get stuck, and it’s hard to move up,” a worker in Southern California said. “And then above a Team Lead? That’s just seen as a fairy tale.”

The former employee in Minnesota said she worked for the company for four years, including several months of training, to advance to a leadership role. When a junior employee that she had trained was promoted over her, she quit.

“That really pushed my hand to say, ‘OK, you know what? I’m done,'” she said.


If you are a Target worker who would like to share your perspective, please get in touch with Dominick via email. Responses will be kept confidential and Insider strongly recommends using a personal email and a non-work device when reaching out.