Women at War

Some pre-war staff had doubts about the quality of some of the new recruits. Howard Bell, who at the age of seventeen was given the task of devising a training programme for the new girls at the Colchester branch, recalled how many of those taken on from competitors fell 'very much below the standard of our training' Some allowances were therefore made. For example whereas male employees were expected to be able to add up in their heads, pads were provided for women whose mental arithmetic was rusty.

A well structured training programme was introduced for these new female recruits in which they received on-the-spot instruction from the men they were to replace. This meant that they were already known to customers and familiar with their new work when they instructors were eventually conscripted. From the middle of 1940 a variety of short courses were introduced at Blackfriars to ensure as far as possible that standards of customer service were maintained.

The rigid discipline of the pre-war period was relaxed. Managers were told not to make an issue over minor irregularities of dress and to be tactful over the use of make-up and the wearing of jewellery. The company recognised that it could not afford to lose staff to petty disagreements. In July 1943, when staffing levels became dangerously low, Robert Sainsbury sent a letter to the district supervisors stating that:

only if it can be said that the particular branch will definitely be better off without the employee ... should one make no effort to retain that employee.
Back recruitment. Copyright J Sainsbury plc, 2001. On to conscription.