Best Buy plans on hiring more than 1,000 new tech employees in the next two years — and 30% will be people of color or women.
"We are being incredibly intentional about our hiring decisions and how we approach each and every team to make sure it aligns with the communities in which we operate," said Mark Irvin, Best Buy's chief inclusion, diversity and talent officer, in an interview.
Executives at the Richfield-based electronics chain said the new hiring plan for positions such as engineers and product managers is one of several steps the company is taking to address disparities within the tech industry. They said the move also will result in better services and experiences for Best Buy customers.
Earlier this year, the company furloughed about 51,000 employees, the majority of whom were part-time workers. Best Buy has brought about two-thirds of them back to work.
Best Buy's technology team works on a range of tasks from working on the company's website and mobile app to creating the tools that employees use to troubleshoot for customers. Positions include user-experience designers, data scientists and digital engineers.
The company said its new hires will extend beyond the Twin Cities to also include remote, full-time opportunities in its technology offices in San Diego, Boston and Seattle.
Best Buy specifically wants to add more Black, Latino, Indigenous and female workers to its digital and technology ranks.
Nationally, people of color and women continue to be underrepresented in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations.
Black and Hispanic workers make up 16% of STEM workers but 27% of the total workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. While women make up half of all U.S. workers in STEM jobs, the percentage is lower in roles such as computer science and engineering.
In early June after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry wrote an open letter to customers, vowing that the electronics retailer would "do better" in addressing racial inequality.
"What do we do to change the cycle in which Black men or women, with tragic frequency, are harmed by those who are supposed to protect them? Or the gut-wrenching truth that to be a person of color in America is often to not feel fully safe, seen or heard?" she wrote in a company blog post. "For me, it starts with seeing the situation for what it is, acknowledging these experiences for what they are and, quite simply, apologizing for not doing enough. As important, it includes committing the company I lead down a path of systemic, permanent change in as many ways as we can find."
Best Buy has since formed an internal task force to look at ways the company can combat inequity.
As part of its commitment to diversity, Best Buy has announced a new $3 million scholarship fund in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for Black students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The company also has launched a scholarship for students attending the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Best Buy executives also said they hope the company will be able to recruit future workers through its network of Teen Tech Centers, which provide young people with hands-on experience in technology, training and mentorship.
The centers offer career programs that provide training for tech jobs as well as potential internship and entry-level jobs at Best Buy. The company has 35 centers across the country and has a goal of more than 100 centers.
The company also is developing additional programs to train those interested in technology with skills that can be used in careers at Best Buy.
"Our obsession is to create amazing customer experiences with technology, and we are only going to do that if we have the full diversity of our team behind that in a way that's aligned with the diversity of the population," said Brian Tilzer, Best Buy's chief digital and technology officer. "We can only create amazing experiences if we understand the breadth of the customers we are serving."
Strengthening digital capabilities will only become more important to Best Buy's strategy moving forward. Earlier this week, Best Buy reported its strongest online sales ever for a fiscal quarter. Best Buy's online comparable sales for the second quarter jumped 242% to $4.85 billion.
The company also announced it would experiment on with its mobile app with the use of augmented reality technology and a self-service, in-aisle checkout pilot.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495