June 5, 2013

Tricia Dirks

Tricia Dirks is Senior Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness, at Target. She is responsible for training, leadership assessment and development, talent management, and organizational performance improvement. In a recent interview with SCL, Tricia shared her reflections and lessons from the conference, particularly as they apply to her work at Target.

Looking back on the conference, what major lessons and/or points stand out?

Though I knew that the American population/workforce was aging, the statistics were astonishing. I didn’t realize the dramatic shift that we would see in the coming years. It really was a “wake-up call.”

What lessons/takeaways did you take back to your colleagues? What has their reaction been?

This is similar to my previous answer. It’s a wake-up call, yet it is also a challenge that we have the full ability to tackle. There is support and interest to expand what we are currently doing.

Do you anticipate making any changes based on what you learned at the conference? What changes are you considering?

The changes at Target will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We can add the aging workforce dimension to many of our programs that are currently underway. It “fits” well within our current work.

A key for Target will be to connect our disparate and ad hoc efforts in a more holistic and integrated way. We have strong movements/initiatives/programs in progress under the umbrellas of Well Being, Work. Different. and Diversity & Inclusion.

Our Well Being initiative is all about our team members being their best self and living their best lives. It is made up of five dimensions—Health, Financial, Career, Social, and Community. I see us adding workshops/seminars/webinars over time that specifically focus on the aging workforce.

Work. Different. is in support of team member well-being. It is designed to help us work smarter and better, in ways that drive individual productivity and engagement, deliver outstanding results, and enhance our long-term performance in the marketplace. Through Work. Different., we are investing in tools, resources, and enhancements in technology and physical spaces; encouraging behaviors and developing resources to enhance skills that will make us all more agile and effective; and making our approach to flexibility more understandable. This work fits well with the multigenerational workforce as “one size doesn’t fit all.”

To “Foster an Inclusive Culture” is one of our values. We work hard to embrace diversity, understanding and recognizing that each of us is unique and that our differences are our greatest strength. Inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, and respected. Though age is an aspect of diversity, it has not been a key focus for us. I believe we will strengthen this focus over time. And it begins by proactively discussing the strengths and challenges of a multigenerational workforce.

What questions are still unanswered?

At a company level, we have much work to do. We will need to analyze the cost/benefit of any additional programs/initiatives that we create.

At a national level, there is even more work to do. How will our “systems” (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) change over time and what implications will that have on businesses?

On a cultural level, there is a need to gain more respect across the generations—people respecting people of a different generation—and this goes both ways. One of my favorite quotes of the conference was when one woman said, “I am a white female. I will never be African American and I will never be male. But if I’m fortunate to live a long enough life, I will be old.” That is true for all of us. It’s a diversity we “grow into.”

Target has taken an ad hoc approach to the aging workforce, but you mentioned at the conference that you would like to see the company talk about the aging workforce in a more unified, intentional way. What do you see as the benefits of this approach?

I see this topic being an important part and an additional dimension of our diversity and inclusion efforts. I think we are less apt to talk specifically about the aging workforce as a general topic. Rather, we will talk more about the multigenerational workforce, the different needs/expectations/challenges of each generation, and how we can respond and meet those differences.