Recent reports indicate that corporations are responding positively to the calls for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) demanded during the social unrest of 2020. All Fortune 100 companies have instituted DEI Policies, and a 2022 workplace survey by Culture Amp, an employee experience platform used by more than 5,000 U.S. companies like Salesforce, Oracle, Nasdaq and McDonald’s, found that 81 percent of respondents believe that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives were beneficial to the organizations.
Without question, these are encouraging signs. But when determining just how effectively organizations are advancing DEI issues, it’s readily apparent that more work needs to be done: Only 34% of companies in the Culture Amp survey reported having enough resources to support DEI strategies.
For these reasons, McKissack, a minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) in the AEC industry, is proud to be affiliated with Target Corporation. The iconic retailer not only recognizes how a strong DEI foundation can fuel business growth – Forbes named it one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2022 – but it is also using its resources to effect meaningful societal change. To that end, Target recently recruited McKissack to participate in its remodel program as part of an effort to increase the diversity of its design consultants throughout the country.
Enhancing the Customer Experience—and Team Wellbeing
With nearly 2,000 locations in the U.S. and always on the lookout for expansion opportunities, Target has portfolio needs that range from ground-up construction to daily maintenance. The Target remodel program is an ongoing initiative to keep its stores up-to-date, sustainable and accessible to provide its customers with the best experience possible. And as a general merchandise retailer with the official tagline “Expect More. Pay Less.,” and multiple retail formats in its nationwide portfolio, Target’s stores must appeal to a diverse group of shoppers.
We began meeting with the retail giant about two years ago, and at the end of 2021 we formally signed on to become a design consultant for the program. In their 2023 remodeling program, Target will spend more than $1 billion to remodel about 500 stores, and McKissack is overseeing the work at 10 locations spread across Virginia, Maryland, California, Illinois and Florida.
As design consultant, our primary responsibility is to assist the retail giant in maintaining their esteemed brand experience through exacting program oversight and all design documentation. Given Target’s stated purpose—“To help all families discover the joy of everyday life”—the retailer has an internal team that drives the conceptual design. From there, we turn those ideas into construction drawings, coordinate all aspects of the architectural program with the engineering consultants, and oversee and manage the execution of the project with the general contractor at each location.
Our goal is to ensure that the finished product fulfills Target’s vision, which is inclusive and wide-ranging given the depth and breadth of their offerings and the size and scope of both their shopping audience and team.
To that end, Target wants their stores to not only have a consistent aesthetic driven by sustainable practices and materials but also be able to accommodate all guests and team members. For guests, stores must offer surprises, fun, ease and inspiration at every turn, no matter when, where or how they shop. Fitting rooms, aisle widths and merchandise placement must afford the best possible access and appeal to all shoppers, regardless of their race, age, gender, ethnicity or ability. For employees, breaktime spaces must be pleasant, comfortable and accommodating so that they can return to work refreshed and ready to help customers.
Part of our work on Target’s remodel program also involves due diligence and vetting all aspects of the design and construction program. So, we review the work of Target’s conceptual design team and make sure it conforms to not only Target’s design standards and local codes but also the ideals of the many audiences they attract nationwide. If we feel it something doesn’t conform, or will not appeal to specific shoppers, we advise on changes and improvements.
While the scope of the work varies depending on the location, the remodels typically include display case and fixture updates, upgrades to finishes, space reconfigurations and an expansion of pick-up areas for goods ordered online—one of the most significant and understandably critical changes that is being made in all their stores given changing shopping habits.
While the changes Target is making to its stores are driven by aesthetics and efficacy, sustainability is also a priority. In shopping center settings where Target is operating on a concrete slab, for example, the retailer is frequently stripping out old vinyl floor tiles. But rather than replacing them, Target is polishing the concrete and keeping the slab exposed. In addition to creating a more modern and sleek appearance, this sustainable practice ultimately translates into less waste as there is no need to replace tiles in the future.
Similarly, Target is emphasizing the use of low VOC paint and materials made with recycled content. The organization is also upgrading parking lot landscaping to incorporate native and more sustainable plants to reduce water usage.
Expanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Public
Target is undertaking these measures to improve customer experience, enhance convenience and build customer loyalty and trust. But by expanding its DEI initiatives to include outside MWBE design consultants like McKissack, Target is strengthening its reputation as a leading brand in the environment, social and governance (ESG) space.
Increasingly, these efforts benefit the bottom line as well as company culture and brand visibility. The most diverse companies are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers in terms of profitability, according to a study by McKinsey & Company. Additionally, McKinsey research has indicated that more diverse organizations are likely to experience higher employee engagement and retention rates.
Yet, while DEI strategies seek to create a workforce that reflects the world in which we live, they also must mirror social settings outside of the workplace. How can organizations build stores, restaurants or hotels catering to one of the most racially and ethnically diverse countries in the world if the designers of those places are not themselves diverse?
The good news is that initiatives such as Target’s remodel program are bringing people with vastly different backgrounds together to work toward a common goal – that is, to create environments where everyone feels welcome. For McKissack, this assignment provides us with the opportunity to not only serve our clients, but to also bolster our own efforts to create a more equitable society.