Target sets sights on hiring

Retailer to hire ‘tens of thousands’ of Canadians by 2013
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/26/2011

Target Canada has launched a hiring campaign to fill positions at its headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., in anticipation of opening 125 to 135 retail stores across the country in 2013.

“I think there’s been a lot of interest in working at Target,” said Sarah Van Nevel, spokesperson for Target in Minneapolis. “We’re going to be creating tens of thousands of jobs, ultimately, in the next couple of years and we’re really excited.”

Open positions at the company headquarters include those in merchandising, supply chain and distribution, marketing and HR. Thirty-five Canadians have already been hired and Target is hoping to hire an additional 100 by the end of this year, said Van Nevel.

Each store will employ between 150 and 200 employees — which is 50 per cent more than the number employed at the Zellers stores Target is replacing — and hiring for those positions will begin in 2012, she said.

“Any foreign expansion is a lot of work,” said Van Nevel. “It’s a huge undertaking and for us to come in and open that many stores in that short of a time period, we have to start as soon as possible.”

American home improvement retailer Lowe’s started its hiring process one full year in advance of opening its first three Canadian stores in Ontario in 2007 in Hamilton, Brantford and Brampton, said Keith Lobo, Toronto-based director of talent planning.

In 2006, Lowe’s started hiring for positions such as senior management, hiring directors and store managers and then began hiring store employees three months prior to the stores opening.

“We had to train them and we had a lot of store setup activities to do and we wanted them to be involved in that so they could really gain some ownership in the store,” said Lobo.

Lowe’s hired 200 people for the corporate office and store management level within the first year and between 175 and 200 employees for each store. To generate interest, Lowe’s conducted four job fairs in the months prior to the stores opening and received more than 5,000 applicants from those fairs alone, said Lobo.

Target has launched a dedicated careers website and is using its small Canadian team to help find candidates, said Van Nevel. Since Zellers’ employees (and all aspects of its business) are not being acquired by Target — it is simply a real estate transaction — they are encouraged to apply for positions and Target is working on making it easy for them to do so, she said. Throughout the fall, Target will be recruiting at universities and hosting job fairs across the country to find candidates.

Companies moving into Canada should understand thelabour market in the areas where they are setting up shop, said Michael Marzano, a principal in Aon Hewitt’s merger and acquisitions solutions business in Atlanta.

“If they’re entering Quebec City, that may be different than what they would do in Vancouver, depending on the competitiveness of that local labour market as well as the labour practices that exist within that particular city or province.”

For each market, HR really needs to do its homework and determine the different labour laws and expectations of employees, said Marzano.

“While the U.S. is largely a right-to-work country, in other countries, that is not always the case,” he said. “The expectations of employees can be far more demanding given the labour protections they have in countries like Canada, Germany, France, Italy and others that are entirely different.”

Target is learning more and more each day about the differences between Canadian and American employees and is trying to adapt and change policies to make sure they are appropriate for Canadians, said Van Nevel.

“One of the things that has been top-of-mind for us is the different ways people in the U.S. and Canada view work-life balance,” she said. “We know that’s something that’s really important to potential Canadian team members and it’s something we’re working hard to accommodate.”

HR also needs to consider compensation, health, medical and paid time-off benefits as well as any ancillary benefits, such as housing and car allowances, it wants to offer, said Marzano.

“It’s important to have the total rewards package built well in advance so organizations can start to build their brand in that particular city,” he said. “Having that information well-developed and fleshed out will enable them to do a more effective job with hiring early on.”

HR should also determine the kind of culture it wants in its new locations.

“Over the past couple of years, we have seen culture be looked at much more,” said Marzano. “Years ago, people would look at culture last and today, organizations are as quickly as possible trying to get an early bead on the culture of an organization.”

As part of its recruitment strategy, Target is promoting a fun, collaborative culture where employees have many opportunities to grow and develop, said Van Nevel. Diversity is also something that will be top-of-mind during recruitment as it is an integral component of Target’s culture.

“In the U.S., we have about 355,000 team members and each and every one of us comes from a unique background, whether that’s professional or personal,” she said. “(We are) very committed to ensuring everyone has a chance to be themselves when they come to work every day.”

To ensure this kind of expansion goes well, HR should have a playbook that outlines all the steps it needs to take, with each task having someone’s name assigned to it, said Marzano. The HR team should work together to determine what training, tools or platforms it will need to successfully complete the expansion.

Working through an expansion is a great opportunity for HR professionals to widen their skill set and become familiar with many different subject areas, he said.

“The volume and pace of the challenges are unlike any other project an HR individual would experience,” said Marzano.

“It enables them to step up and lead a large, complex project with tight deliverables and tight time frames that are different than most HR projects.”

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