MINNEAPOLIS — As executive vice president and chief human resources officer, Melissa Kremer leads all aspects of human resources for Target, ranging from recruitment and development to engagement to diversity, equity and inclusion. She has played a critical leadership role in driving the HR strategies behind a major organizational transformation that has involved large-scale structural and operational changes.
Kremer joined Target in 2004 as a recruiter and moved steadily up through the managerial ranks of HR, holding positions of increasing responsibility that enabled organizational performance for business units such as merchandising, marketing, digital, and strategy and innovation. In 2017 she was promoted to senior VP of talent and organizational effectiveness, and she was named to her current position in January 2019.
Over the last decade especially, Kremer has been deeply involved with managing change at Target, first as the retailer moved into e-commerce and began to envision an omnichannel future and later in response to a succession of challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic. After Brian Cornell was named chief executive officer in 2014, change accelerated rapidly: In 2017 Target committed to raising its entry-level wage to an industry-leading $15 per hour by 2020.
Recognizing that being an omnichannel retailer would require an engaged, purpose-driven workforce, Target also invested heavily in training and promoted nearly 6,000 people in 2019. In early 2020, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, changing the way people work overnight.
In response, Target’s leadership maintained its commitment to caring for its nearly 400,000 team members, investing more than $1 billion in increased pay, benefits and resources so employees could take care of themselves and their families.
Last spring the company decided to adopt a hybrid work style that allows individuals and teams to decide when to work at home and when to be in the office. Its downtown buildings and offices in Minneapolis were modified to incorporate flexible spaces with a variety of meeting spaces and desks that can be occupied temporarily.
“We really saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the future of work and the experience of work,” Kremer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There are times our guests want to shop in the store, there are times when our guests want to shop online. Regardless of where they shop we want the experience to feel uniquely Target, and the same is true with the employment experience. Sometimes they want to be here in the building, sometimes they want to be at home or another location.”
Last year also saw Target underline its commitment to employees’ health after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, resulting in numerous states banning abortion. As of last July, the company began covering employees’ travel costs to obtain care if they live in a state where abortion is banned.
Kremer, who notified the company’s workforce of the policy change via an email memo, said the change was intended to “ensure our team has equal access to high-quality, low-cost care through our health care benefits.”
For Kremer, the last few years have been exciting as well as challenging, as HR has finally won recognition of its central importance, particularly in the retail business, she told C-Suite Spotlight.
“The CHRO (chief human resources officer) is becoming even more central to the success of the business,” she said. “Skills like general management, broad-based business acumen, strategic mindset and emotional intelligence are going to remain non-negotiable for the CHRO job.”