Best Buy CHRO: ‘The most difficult challenge I ever faced’

Chris Taylor sits at the helm of one of the largest retailers of consumer technology in the world – Best Buy.

As CHRO for Canada, Taylor is responsible for over 12,000 employees – not a small feat considering the current pandemic.

HRD caught up with Taylor to understand how COVID-19 has changed day-to-day operations, as well as taking a foray into his professional past.

“We are an organization that continually innovates, and we encourage our team members to learn through challenge and change,” Taylor told HRD.

“It’s why our business has thrived in recent years, as the retail industry has gone through an incredible transformation. This has set us up well, for a year that no one was expecting and one that has brought new challenges, that have changed with each month.

“As we already had a mature omnichannel approach to serving our customers, we had options that meant we could continue to operate. We adapted our business model a number of times, scaling up and down our operations, according to health guidelines.

“During the periods of greatest restrictions, we offered delivery to home and reserve online, with socially distanced pick-up in store. Our priority throughout has been to adopt protocols that keep our employees and customers safe, while enabling us to continue to provide the essential technology that Canadians have relied upon during the pandemic.

“We’re extremely fortunate that we have fantastic team members, we sell products that are in-demand and we’ve developed omni-channel capabilities over many years, that have been absolutely critical in recent months.”

Taylor is seemingly blessed with a talented and dedicated team over at Best Buy – but it’s not always been such smooth sailing.

Taylor revealed to HRD the most difficult challenge he ever faced as a leader – and it’s one that many HR professionals will relate to.

“[It was] weathering an extended period of misalignment in values and personal leadership style with the senior leaders I supported and worked closest with,” he explained.

“It’s a great test for any leader or HR business partner. You first need to determine if you are misaligned, or if the leaders you are in conflict with are.

“Staying true to convictions, trying to diminish the conflict for the good of the organization and making difficult decisions in times of stress, were all extremely challenging. However, I believe it accelerated my personal growth as a senior leader. It came down to trusting the organization, and I was able to move forward in a positive direction.

“Those that don’t work through this conflict but choose to stay and accept it, aren’t serving themselves or the organization.”

This issue isn’t new one. A misalignment in company values at the upper echelons of management is a serious problem. 

A report from CPP found that 12% of employees often see conflict in their leadership team, with a further 25% having taken time off work because of a toxic culture.

Authentic culture, aligned values, connected leadership – they may sounds like buzzword-based jargon but they’re real, and they yield real results. 

“We have a culture of continuous improvement, from the employee experience through to the customer experience,” continued Taylor.

“We are constantly listening to both stakeholder groups to create the best possible experiences. We know that driving engagement internally and creating mechanisms for constant feedback ultimately translate into improved customer experiences.

“We also believe that all our employees, not just our leaders should feel empowered and accountable for our results, including how we achieve them. We have embarked on redefining how we lead at Best Buy – being in service of our teams and leading authentically with a clear purpose. With our values underpinning these traits, we create the kind of inclusive environment that top talent wants to join and grow their careers.”

Cultivating a captivating culture doesn’t just benefit current employees – it also attracts high-level talent to you. Investing in marketing and brand promotion is worthless if your staff are unhappy.

Remember, your people are your greatest asset. They can be your harshest critic or your most vocal supporter, so treat them with respect – or it’ll come back to bite you in the end.

As for Taylor, he told HRD that Best Buy is roundly committed to enhancing employee and candidate experiences through the medium of technology.

“We have been trying to set the pace when it comes to digital transformation in retail,” he said.

“This has come with a need to let go of some traditional policies and follow a different compass. We have fostered communities of practice versus top down leadership structures, adopted entirely new deployment methodologies and embraced a fail-fast and recover culture that has helped us evolve at the necessary speed to compete, while many organizations are failing.

“We don’t always get it right, but we are constantly learning. We also openly share the in-progress work we are doing through open symposiums and town halls. Now so many more people can connect to these events and better understand how the many pieces of our organizational puzzle fit together to deliver world class experiences.

“What I love about our culture is that while many of our rituals moved from in-person to virtual overnight, our teams did not let them fade away.

“In fact, they found ways to improve them.”


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