How Target creates a great workplace for millennials

Target is hitting the bullseye when it comes to creating a millennial-friendly workplace culture.

The giant retailer ranked 10th on this year’s ranking of the Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials, large company category. The ranking is based on research and employee surveys by Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture.

The list was produced based on employee survey data from before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. But Target and other Best Workplaces for Millennials have demonstrated their people-first, caring cultures amid the health crisis and during the racial justice uprising that followed the killing of George Floyd—protests that erupted first in Minneapolis, where Target is headquartered.

Great Place to Work asked Target’s Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer about the company’s appeal to the millennial generation, as well as about its responses to COVID-19 and the racial justice movement.

Great Place to Work: In your view, why has Target succeeded in creating a great workplace experience for millennials?

Melissa Kremer: We know millennials are focused on purpose-driven companies, and that’s one of their top considerations as they think about the organizations they choose to engage with. Their values closely align with how we’ve invested in putting our purpose and values at the center of our culture.

We also know that millennials value rich and rewarding career experiences and development. They’re eager to learn and grow in their careers and expand their skill sets both formally and informally. We’ve developed a culture of learning, backed by the more than seven million payroll hours that we invest into training each year. That training investment includes a broad portfolio of programs and initiatives that help our millennial team members build skills at all levels and gain rich and rewarding experiences to grow in their careers.

When I think about the richness of our career experiences, we give our team members a great deal of responsibility early in their careers – whether it’s within their role in a store serving guests, or supporting the functions of merchandising or supply chain.

We’ve heard from our millennial team members that they really care about the kind of leader they work for. They don’t want a “boss.” They want a coach who is invested in their career, offering them rich and meaningful always-on feedback so they can continue to learn and grow. Investing in both how our leaders show up as coaches coupled with our learning culture creates an environment that’s compelling for our millennial team members. When you layer that on top of the foundation of our purpose and values, it’s bringing together the things that we know are most important to them.

Is there a story that you can tell that captures what’s working for millennial employees at Target?

A wide spectrum of millennials see Target as an entry-point to lifelong career development. We have a broad portfolio of programs and learning initiatives intended to help them further develop their careers.

One of the students from the first class was a millennial-age hairstylist with no background in tech before going back to school to become an engineer. After he completed his internship, he went on to join our Technology Leadership Program and is now an engineer and program manager at Target.

Target Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer speaks at a company event.
Great Place to Work

Target has taken a number of steps to safeguard, recognize and reward employees during the pandemic—including pay raises and support with mental health. Are you seeing millennial-age employees appreciating or taking advantage of these enhanced benefits?

We care for every team member, and their health and safety is our top priority. We’re committed to providing them with the resources they need to take care of themselves and their families. As an employer, we know we play a critical role in enhancing their wellbeing through the benefits we provide. We continue to work to evolve our slate of benefits to ensure we’re helping team members across all life stages meet their needs now and into the future.

We’ve seen strong millennial usage with several free and on-demand resources we’ve invested in to support their mental, emotional and physical health throughout the pandemic. Daylight is a personalized app that helps individuals navigate stress and worry, the Sleepio app provides self-help tools to improve sleep, and Wellbeats offers digital fitness classes.

More than half of the program users for Wellbeats were millennials. When we think about creating a portfolio of benefits for all, these types of offerings are a differentiator for Target.

Within our culture of learning, we’ve seen strong millennial engagement with new online, on-demand learning and development platforms we introduced to help team members navigate work and life and continue to build skills during the pandemic. Specific tools include our Skillsoft learning library and an internally-created Adaptive Leadership site.

These tools and resources help team members strengthen their skills and invest in development topics that are meaningful to them – from coding to communication. They’re also able to grow personally in areas like resilience, empathy and inclusion. We have seen exciting usage with these tools, affirming that our teams are eager to use this time to grow and learn.  

We’ve made free backup care available to all U.S. Target team members – a benefit that provides access to childcare or care for another family member. We found that this was especially helpful for our millennial population, as nearly 70% of the users were in that age group.

You “vowed to face pain with purpose” in the wake of the George Floyd killing and civic unrest. Can you say how your pledge and related actions have been received by millennial employees? In what ways have millennial employee contributed to actions you’ve taken as an organization to address issues of racism and injustice?

We’re committed to leading with our purpose and values, listening to our team, and fostering an engaged, diverse, inclusive, purpose-driven culture to make sure our team feels the same joy we aim to provide our guests. Now more than ever, we need diverse perspectives, experiences and backgrounds to help our company continue to advance and serve guests across the country. Our diversity and inclusion efforts span four foundational areas of delivering an inclusive guest experience, an inclusive work environment, a diverse workforce and championing broader societal impact.

We’re listening to our team and guests, including millennials, and using our size, scale and resources to help heal and create lasting change. In response to the murder of George Floyd, we’ve made a number of initial commitments, including investing $10 million to support partners such as the National Urban League and the African American Leadership Forum, which serve many generations. We’re providing 10,000 hours of pro‑bono consulting services for Black- and people of color‑owned small businesses, helping with rebuilding efforts.

We’re also continuing to volunteer and provide essentials to communities most in need. Many of our community volunteers are millennial team members. Additionally, we’ve established a Racial Equity Action Committee comprised of senior leaders across the company to partner with our team members, guests and members of the community to determine Target’s next steps.

We’ve held several listening sessions with our team members with a strong attendance and participation from millennial team members, many of whom shared their own experiences with racism and their commitments to a more just and equitable world for themselves or their children. Many of our millennial team members participate in Diversity Action Committees and business councils, which unite them through a common interest or goal. These groups are organized and managed by team members, for team members, and help to build connections and foster our inclusive culture.

See the full 2020 Best Workplaces for Millennials lists: the 75 Best Large Workplaces for Millennials and the 25 Best Small and Medium Workplaces for Millennials. Also see Great Place to Work’s report Managing Millennials.

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A millennial’s perspective

Joya Lewis, 32 is a Target Store Director in Brentwood, Mo. Besides overseeing sales at her store, Lewis sings the company’s praises as an employer in tune with her generation’s focus on authenticity and involvement in decisions.

She also has a treasured memory of giving Target CEO Brian Cornell a store tour. Joya was a human resources business partner at the time, and the store director was out of the country on the date of Brian’s visit.

Joya Lewis, 32, Store Director at a Target store in Brentwood, Mo.
Great Place to Work

“My leadership team could have chosen another store director or leader to lead the visit,” Joya recalls. “Instead, they allowed me to help prepare the store and team for a CEO visit, which allowed me to highlight not only the store, but my experiences as well. I had never been so nervous in my life! However, soon after the visit started, Brian took the time to show me a picture of an unbelievable spring Minnesota snowfall that had recently taken place. He made me feel so at ease, and after that, my nerves subsided a bit.”

One that I’m particularly excited about is a spring internship program that we introduced last year. It focuses on students from non-traditional backgrounds who are pursuing a career change to technology. The goal of the internship program is to close the experience gap with exposure to a real-world corporate environment, while building technical skills and providing the professional development and mentorship that prepares students for positions in Target’s Technology team. It also helps Target explore new avenues for untapped talent.

Ed Frauenheim is the senior director of content at Great Place to Work, and a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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