In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help HR leaders navigate this unpredictable time.
On i4cp’s August 7, 2020 CHRO/HR Strategy COVID-19 Response series call, HR leaders from wide range of organizations were joined by special guest Christine Deputy, CHRO at Nordstrom, who was interviewed by i4cp CEO Kevin Oakes. Here are some highlights from the call:
Business is changing, values are not. As a retail organization, Nordstrom was obviously impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2019, the mix of their business was around 70% of their business in stores, 30% online. The trend was already towards more online, and that has of course been accelerated by the pandemic, such that this year the mix might be more like 50/50. To support customers, Nordstrom relied more heavily on some processes they already put in place, like curbside pickup and their store inventory process. The keys to dealing with the massive changes during the past six months has been listening to their employees and staying aligned to their values as their true north whenever key decisions needed to be made.
Innovations have talent implications. As noted above, many trends at Nordstrom rely on innovations that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic but are clearly being accelerated by it. One example is their use of digital appointments, where sales people do virtual appointments via phone or a Zoom meeting, to show merchandise to customers and offering styling advice. Called "styleboards," a stylist can send someone a look or a combination of items to consider to augment their wardrobe based on their goals and needs. This is an interactive selling approach, fulfilled through the online business. This solution has taken off a lot since March, and in looking at their results and profiling the talent needed for this approach, they realized that some skills are the same (e.g., good problem solving) but that some different skills (e.g., creating a storyline rather than arranging physical spaces) are needed compared to the traditional sales and stylist roles in stores. They also learned that the stylist really needs all of the relevant data about the client in one place to maximize the results.
The pandemic has brought positive and negative impacts to company culture. In terms of culture, at Nordstrom as we've seen at other organizations, some good changes from the pandemic period has included speed of increased decision making, better clarity and focus, and elimination of distracting activities. Nordstrom corporate has also seen a greater level of connection, authenticity, etc. between employees, including with leaders, than ever before. In response to the focus on racial injustice they also held a dozen or so calls, led by employees from every level, with audiences sometimes of over a thousand people, to share relevant stores and experiences. Deputy hopes to retain all of these positive changes going forward. On the culture flip-side, some employees are at risk of burnout from too many meetings, especially when video is regularly involved.
Using leadership nudges to help more effectively manage remote employees. Deputy noted a good approach they have taken to improve how their leaders manage remote workers. Each week they provide a "nudge" on a specific topic or issue, e.g., setting goals, virtual office hours, virtual 1:1 meetings, asking questions / active listening skills, etc. This approach is being used instead of delivering a big new training program for managers.
In addition to this recording and highlights, please see these resources: