One of the biggest challenges today for retailers is customer loyalty, and the ability to retain your following while attracting new customers. Gone are the days when a retailer exclusively owned a person's loyalty. In today's competitive environment most retailers and brands are actively trying to figure out ways to grab that customer and divert their attention away from the competitive landscape.
As a founding managing director of an executive search firm, I advise my clients that it's beneficial to replicate that same marketing openness when hiring people within their own company. Wasn't it Einstein who said that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity? This concept needs to be applied first on a micro-level, so that there can be long-term, successful, macro effects. In order to maintain customer loyalty, you need to think progressively -- and the best way to be a pioneer or visionary in your trade is for your employees to lay claim and draw inspiration from myriad experiences.
Like Me, Like You...
Most organizations tend to hire people who have experiences with other companies that are similar to their own. While it is natural that a company would prefer a candidate to have a comparable professional "upbringing," it is important not to discount executives who have experiences in other concentrations, industries or locations.
If an organization continuously hires individuals from the same background again and again, the executive ranks -- much like the results of inbreeding -- become diluted versions of one another. Bold thinking, and the openness to learn new things, is part of the solution. You're not surprised that your customer buys her shoes at Neiman Marcus, but then goes to Target to buy her bathing suits -- why can't you be that open when hiring new employees?
From Apples to Penneys...
Take for example Apple Computers. Some wouldn't think of the household brand as a luxury company -- but Apple just so happens to outsell prestige companies such as Tiffany & Co., on retail sales per square foot basis. Ron Johnson, former head of Apple stores, is the man behind Apple's retail operations and their meteoritic expansion and rise. Johnson recently decided to leave Apple behind, and made the move to JCPenney, where he'll take the helm as the CEO.
While Johnson has previously worked at Target, he has no former apparel merchandising experience. JCPenney recognized that while Johnson can't 'check off' this box, by working in mass at Target and then consumer electronics at Apple, his experience is heavily retail driven -- a skill set that is transferrable to any industry. This is a prime example of a company looking elsewhere to hire and choosing someone with a background seemingly quite dissimilar from their own.
From Nike to HSN...
Need another example? Take a look at Mindy Grossman. She was the former global vice president of Nike who went on to become CEO of HSN -- while both companies may be retail focused, they are extremely diverse.
Hiring individuals because they fit your corporate culture is one thing -- hiring executives because they share similar resumes and backgrounds is quite different. Having a diversity of experience in your corporation is extremely important. It allows the entrance of fresh perspectives and ideas to pass through your walls and emerge as new concepts on the sales floor.