Is culture the key to Target’s success?
Target had a lot to say about the importance of company culture in a keynote presentation at the 2023 NRF Big Show. Target CEO Brian Cornell led a discussion with Christina Hennington, chief growth officer, Cara Sylvester, chief guest experience officer, Kiera Fernandez, chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Alexis Sheppert, group vice president for stores, on the value of the company’s culture in successfully navigating the pandemic and the chain’s ongoing success.
“Our culture very simply we define as the ability to care, grow and win together,” said Ms. Fernandez. “That was [at no time] more critical to come together than the last few years. I would say the impetus of that culture was really putting into words the sentiment of our team.”
“If culture is the ‘who and how we work,’ then strategy is the ‘what we do’,” said Ms. Hennington. “We use [culture] as a guidepost, as a set of filters for the decisions we make in the business both big and small. That’s all in pursuit of our purpose, which is to help all families discover the joy of everyday life.”
Ms. Hennington explored a couple of ways that Target embeds culture into its strategy. She saw culture at work facilitating inclusivity and helping management meet diverse expectations and customer needs. For the latter, she gave the example of the store’s development of its “color for all” palette for designing own-brands, which contains colors verified to resonate better with people who have darker skin tones.
Ms. Sylvester saw a similar expression of culture in how Target builds its guest experience.
“When you interact with a target brand … we want you to feel something,” said Ms. Sylvester. “Those feelings that are evoked are because we think about designing our guest experience around a deep emotional connection with our guests, not a transactional or linear one.”
Ms. Sheppert found examples of Target’s culture in the way the company develops team and store leaders. She recounted a conversation with a store director who had joined Target in an hourly role and, through Target’s store leadership investing in her, rose to a leadership role at a store in her own community.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has “culture,” as Target defines it, been as important to the retailer’s success throughout the pandemic as the people on the panel believe? How can a retailer create and embody a culture that both staff and customers feel?