Dean Carter, Chief Human Resources Officer for Sears Holdings, recently sat down with an SHC staff member to discuss our transformation.
What do you want people to know about Sears Holdings and our transformation?
I want them to look closer. On the surface, you may see closing locations and challenging articles in the news. And if you thought this was the entire story you might be concerned. But we are in the middle of exponential transformation – not just at the edges, but at our core. In order to lead in the future, we are reimagining and reinventing almost everything about our business model to build new capabilities to meet our members’ needs in brand new ways. It’s like a massive Jenga puzzle – deconstructing, transforming and building all at once. While it’s challenging, disruptive, and comes with a level of ambiguity, it’s exactly what smart companies do. It’s a challenge that’s not for everyone, but we have extraordinary associates and leaders who lean in and make it happen daily. Look closer and you’ll see the green blades of a new SHC emerging.
What do you think people are missing when it comes to transformation?
For starters, I want to clarify that physical stores are extremely important to SHC and they’re a critical component of our Integrated Retail strategy. The focus of our company’s recent business model has been selling solutions, products and services through physical locations (although that has not always been the case historically). While we’re making a major shift to prepare for the next generation of retail, we’re still going to be selling solutions, products and services through physical locations. Not unlike Apple Inc., which started focusing less on selling computers and more on developing products and its iTunes platform, we are centering our transformation on Integrated Retail and our Shop Your Way® platform. We no longer only serve members in stores and in their homes, but online, on phones, on tablets and on new platforms like Shop Your Way. We are transforming SHC from a traditional retail business model, into a member-centric business model which leverages data and technology platforms to provide benefits to our members through Integrated Retail, with the goal of building lasting relationships, not just transactions.
Like Apple did at its pivotal moment, we are making tough choices that align with our members wants and needs now and in the future. Solutions and infrastructures that perfectly served a purpose at one time are being redesigned both specifically and systemically. So here’s what’s being missed, when someone sees a location closing it’s easy to make simple assumptions about the company. What I see is the sign of an extraordinary organization becoming more agile, more aligned and more prepared to succeed in a new and changing industry.
So you see the transparency behind these changes and chose to tell a different story?
Yes! Like I said, “Look closer.” When you really look for the green blades of change, they’re everywhere. But I know blades may not always be the first thing someone sees since often the traditional businesses that are in process of transformation are much more visible than those in start-up mode. That’s how we can tell our story. Look closer and you see a company that’s preparing for the future.
How does SHC help associates understand our story is changing?
The changes in the business have also meant a massive culture transformation. A more transparent culture of accountability based on members, authenticity and feedback. In the past, we were really extraordinary at providing things for the crowd and now we have a culture of providing the right thing for the right person at the right time – the way they want it. And that’s the difference. Before we were a provider of mass products and services, now we are a massive provider of customized products and services. Mass retail becomes mass customized retail. Because we have data. Because we have an information-rich member program. Because we’re a team that embraces change and technology. Because it’s the right thing for our members.
What do you see when you look at SHC’s future?
Cultural changes and transformation aren’t always easy to comprehend or communicate. And one of the more challenging things about change and transformation is predictability. While the future isn’t perfectly predictable in a transformational stage, it’s the necessary choice to move forward. And while we’re on our journey, we continue to make an impact by choosing to drive innovation, progress forward, look closer and see the real story of change and transformation at SHC.
Dean Carter is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Sears Holdings.