As Target Corp. pumps up store managers and headquarters employees with its annual fall meeting this week, the company started off with a present for all 365,000 employees: Fitbit fitness trackers.
The firm is also giving employees a 30 percent discount on frozen and fresh produce, items from its private-label line Simply Balanced, and C9 activewear at its stores.
“It’s forever — we’re not taking it away,” Jodee Kozlak, the Minneapolis-based retailer’s human resources chief, told reporters during an afternoon of briefings with executives Tuesday.
It’s an added perk to the 10 percent discount employees already receive at Target and part of a broader focus on wellness that has also touched the products Target sells and the charities it supports.
The annual fall meeting, which is designed to energize Target employees before the all-important holiday season, became a weeklong affair this year.
It climaxes on Wednesday afternoon when 13,000 Target employees decked out in red and khaki will fill Target Center for a gathering that is part pep rally and part business strategy. It usually includes announcements of new partnerships and initiatives, a sneak peek at holiday ads and big-name entertainment. Last year, Taylor Swift and Coldplay performed for Target employees, and actor Jamie Foxx made a cameo. Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Oprah Winfrey have appeared in past years.
Target flew in about 2,400 store managers and other regional employees from around the country — and even from its tech operations in India — for the meeting.
This year’s meeting comes in the midst of a lot of dizzying change under Chief Executive Brian Cornell. He was only a few weeks into the job when he appeared on the stage last year. But in the year since, he has closed its Canadian stores and laid off thousands of employees in its Twin Cities corporate offices.
“The energy feels different this year,” said Jeff Jones, the retailer’s chief marketing officer. “This week is about moving forward.”
Mike McNamara, who became Target’s chief information officer three months ago, told reporters Tuesday that he plans to bring back into the company some tech work that had been outsourced. As a result, he anticipates hiring about 500 engineers in the Twin Cities in the next year or so and a similar number in India.
The company last month laid off about 275 people in its IT unit in the Twin Cities, a move that McNamara said was designed to refocus its resources and to bring in more engineers.
He added that he’s impressed by the tech talent at Target but added, “Some of the fundamentals need fixing.”
For example, he noted that the handheld devices that store employees carry around with them to look up products and inventory don’t always work. “When it works, it’s a cracking piece of technology,” he said. “But it’s unstable.”
He added that the retailer has made a lot of progress in updating its systems since its website nearly crashed during the April launch of a limited collection by fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer.
Target used to hold two large management meetings a year, but it consolidated them into the single fall gathering a couple of years ago.
Among the speakers at this week’s events are authors Mitch Albom and Simon Sinek. Later in the week, Target will host a series of half-hour sessions with various executives that it is calling “Red Talks” — a play off the TED Talks lecture series.