Its been nearly 17 years since U.S. department store chain, Target, committed to data-driven growth in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. And during this time, the big-box retailer has seen sales grow as their Black team members, guests, and communities multiply.
“If I parse that out, and just think of the last 10 years, there's three really important things that have been on the continuum of our strategy around diversity and inclusion and then the additive of equity,” says Kiera Fernandez, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, and Senior Vice President of HR at Target. “And key to this was establishing an ecosystem.”
In that ecosystem, Fernandez says that individual team members and leaders work to champion the goals of the company’s DE&I strategy. Target sets these goals every three years and annualizes them to assess where they are in the progress toward the three year trend line. “We kind of recalibrate, make adjustments and determine additive items,” says Fernandez, who adds that this exercise is what alerted the company in 2018 to a concerning trend among the business: Black team members, were not progressing at the same rate as other people of color and women.
“We got to work and started building out a pretty robust plan and strategy coming out of the end of 2019 into 2020 to address this,” says Fernandez, who ended up leading the work that ultimately became the foundation of Target’s Racial Equity Action and Change committee (REACH). Keeping some of the key items from the 2016 - 2018 strategy, the 2019 -2021 goals integrated into its broader framework a focus on attracting diverse talent, Black talent, to Target for hiring. Beyond luring in new employees, Fernandez says the onus is on her to ensure that this new talent is learning and developing at a pace that would move them up the company’s corporate ladder.
“My team and I are responsible for that work. And I think that's important, because a strategy absent from an integration plan is not going to be effective,” Fernandez passionately asserts. “Otherwise, it's just words on a paper.” The DE&I leader says that an integrated model is essential to everything that her team does. Creating and championing a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone is tied to the company’s purpose to bring joy to all families, which is tied to its culture framework to care, grow, win together. “These things all nest into one another,” says Fernandez. “They're not agnostic of each other. They actually step into our total company purpose.”
Temperature checks among team members to ensure this work is being carried out are inclusive of one on one interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other listening mechanisms. “We take those insights, along with a pretty rigorous leadership development program where we're coaching and training leaders to ensure that they are capturing the sentiment of their team and incorporating that into their experience. And we pair that with our data,” Fernandez explains.
As Target looks ahead to its 2022 - 2024 goals, the seeds that have been planted appear to be bearing fruit. The company is seeing measurable results in the way of advancement, reduction in turnover, and “new and exciting” brokered relationships with HBCUs. “The way in which we show up in the community existed before REACH,” says Fernandez. “We've just strengthened them. We've amplified them. We've accelerated them. And what I would say, is that the wonderful accomplishment and outcome of that work is it's actually created a meaningful impact for other dimensions of difference across our organization.”
Fernandez shares that she's incredibly proud of the work that has been done and the progress that has been made. “I can't wait to see how it continues to mobilize the company and advance us forward.”