At the invitation of Don Liu, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Risk Officer, some three dozen Fellows visited Target headquarters in Minneapolis for an unforgettable Learning Experience.
In his welcoming remarks, Liu, a former chair of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), described his personal commitment to diversity as "real and deep." Target, he said, "has one of the most diverse leadership teams in corporate America. Diversity is part of our DNA."
His words were echoed by Mike McNamara, EVP and Chief Information Officer, who described Target's "fiduciary duty to diversify" its workforce of more than 300,000 employees in stores across the US and at corporate headquarters. "Diverse teams create better long-term results," McNamara said.
They also propelled Target forward when the company decided in 2016 to invest billions in its brick-and-mortar stores, its payroll, its Target-owned brands, and its digital future.
That investment, deemed risky at the time, has succeeded in growing Target's profits for the past two years, and its digital business at a phenomenal rate of around 35 percent per year. "We've dealt ourselves a good hand," said McNamara. "With a brand to die for and tons of cash in the bank, we're extremely well-positioned for the future."
Arthur Valdez, EVP and Chief Supply Chain Logistics Officer, gave the Fellows an appreciation for the immense task of keeping Target's 1,800 stores supplied with merchandise. Much of it is purchased from overseas-Target is the country's #2 importer of goods after Walmart-and Valdez described how Target is working to modernize its processes, such as the use of data analytics to manage the global supply chain and inventory. His department works closely with Legal on a range of issues including tariffs, customs, patents, and robotics.
According to Damu McCoy, Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Target approaches Human Resources as a business, subject to the same disruptions that have shaken American society in recent years. Those include technology (AI, robotics, digital), social movements (globalization and the growth of the 'gig' economy), and demographics (aging workers and a multigenerational workforce). To fight the "war for talent" in an increasingly competitive environment, he said, Target invests in communities that are a source of new talent while creating "a culture that people want to be a part of."
Over lunch, the Fellows enjoyed an in-depth 'fireside chat' with Don Liu (above) conducted by LCLD President Robert Grey, in which Liu shared lessons learned from his life and career and reflected on the state of the legal profession.
His job as Chief Legal Officer of Target is Liu's fourth as general counsel. One thing he acquired along the way was the art of listening, learned from two of his previous CEO's, both women, who were excellent listeners.
"I was hired by Target not only to embrace change but to take a leadership role in making it happen. One key to that is good communication. Leaders don't have all the answers, of course—we have to be able to listen to others, to take in the totality of what's being said and assess the ideas that are being expressed. That didn't come naturally to me, but it's absolutely necessary."
After lunch, the Fellows heard from William White, Senior VP of Marketing, on how Target builds meaningful relationships with the 30 million customers ("guests" in Target parlance) who visit Target stores every week.
They listened to a panel discussion about Target's partnership with Shipt, which expedites online shopping by allowing buyers to pick up purchases at their local Target (85% of Americans live within five miles of a Target store).
They listened as Tony Heredia, VP of Compliance, described how Target manages the complexities of ethics, social issues, and enforcement of compliance among thousands of vendors and hundreds of thousands of employees.
And they learned about Target's effort to diversify its product lines from Christina Hennington, Senior VP of Merchandising, who talked about product design and how the company decides which products the stores will carry, along with how they're packaged, priced, promoted, and displayed. This includes personal beauty products and apparel designed for a diverse clientele: adults of all sizes and shapes, kids with sensory issues or physical disabilities, and men and women of diverse ethnic or cultural backgrounds.
Don Liu, who attended every session, closed out the day by wishing the Fellows well during their Fellowship year and in their careers. He also described Target as a "large-scale, purpose-driven" company—and the "coolest place I've ever worked."
The Learning Experience was preceded by a Welcome reception hosted by LCLD Members Faegre Baker & Daniels and Gray Plant Mooty at the Guthrie Museum in downtown Minneapolis.
LCLD would like to thank Don Liu and the Target Legal Department, including 2017 Fellow Angelita Hernandez, 2018 Fellow Bonnie Hungerford, and Sara Jensen.