“Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup” was the headline in a fairly recent story in the Star News. The story interested me on a number of levels. My firm, EASI Consult, is in the talent management business. We help organizations figure out the requirements for a position, whether it be CEO, president or another high-level executive role. We then assess potential candidates through testing, interviews and other criteria. Finally, we tell the hiring team where a candidate will be strong and a good fit, and also where he or she may lack a capability and struggle.
The Target story also interested me as my firm knows several people in the Talent Management area at Target. I know the person who heads Talent Management at Pepsico. Brian Cornell, the new CEO at Target, left the position of CEO Pepsico America Foods. The Star News article went on to say that Cornell was the first outsider to be appointed at Target. Cornell replaced CEO Greg Steinhafel, who resigned after the data breach during the run-up to the holidays. Cornell also brings experience as a CEO at Sam’s Club, which is a plus in terms of understanding Target’s competition.
One area where my firm sometimes gets involved with an organization is in helping it articulate a plan or way forward. When a person takes on a new role, like Cornell, there is often talk about the first 100 days. A new CEO needs to be laser-focused in terms of his or her priorities. What the CEO is able to accomplish in that first 100 days will in large part set the tone for the rest of his or her tenure.
So what are the issues that Brian Cornell must address? Here are a few, according to the Star News and a July 31 USA Today article:
- The looming aftermath of the data breach. Target may have convinced consumers that this problem has been fixed and will not crop up again. Let’s hope so, because it will not get a third chance with consumers.
- Pricing. The economy is still affecting consumers. Walmart continues to be aggressive on pricing and to force Target and others to follow suit. Some are questioning whether Target has lost its touch with cheap chic.
- Focus on its priorities. Target wants to improve its performance and evolve into a retailer that seamlessly integrates online and brick-and-mortar for its shoppers.
- Fix Canada. Target has 125 stores. It has struggled with supply chain problems, resulting in both empty shelves and overstocked items. Canada lost more than $900 million last year.
- Return to its roots. Target has been known for its cheap chic in the past. It needs to drive that priority.
- Grow its online business. It is not a question of online or in-store but both, and integrated. Edward Jones’ Brian Yarborough reported that Target did not control its own website until 2011.
With those priorities, what does the new CEO do? Given where we are in the calendar year, he is not going to make an impact for the most part on holiday shopping. Target probably is beginning its annual planning cycle. This should include a talent review. This is something Pepsi does extremely well. If Target has a similar process, this could be a very important component to Cornwell’s 100-day plan.
Here's where I would focus my attention:
- Making sure I had the right talent in the IT function. Target needs people running its systems that will ensure its impenetrability. People in the systems and logistics area need systems in place that will ensure product availability and overstocks that can be managed down. There are behavioral and technical competencies that can be used to determine whether Target has the right people in the right places with the right skills.
- Finding a strong #2 who can address the online experience. Target should conduct a search to find a person with these online and media capabilities who has successfully undertaken a similar challenge, preferably in a retail environment. Other industries also should be considered. This person needs to be seen as a potential heir-apparent, because without that carrot you won’t get the best people to apply.
- Make sure I have the right talent to run the stores and overall Canada business. There are people at the business-unit level and the store level. Both groups need competencies to be able to work in an international environment and execute a successful turnaround. These marketing and behavioral skills can be assessed to determine if the right people are in place.
- Review the talent in the merchandising and marketing area and understand their plans to regain Target’s position to be low-cost chic. This means evaluating their proposed plans and believing with confidence that they will be successful.
I hope Target and Cornell are successful. It would be interesting a year from now to revisit this list and see how things turned out.
EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call 800.922.EASI.