HRDC caught up with Chris Taylor, chief HR officer at Best Buy Canada, to chat about his unlikely path into the industry and what he believes younger HR leaders must do to rise to the top
HRDC: How did you start your career in HR?
Chris Taylor: I began my career as a retail leader with a large retail company in Canada – I thought this was going to be my career path. However, I was asked to take on a training and development role that I didn’t feel I was wired to do, nor at the time did I believe I had the relevant skills to train my colleagues. But, after a number of conversations, it was clear to me that this was something my organization really wanted me to do.
Sometimes you don’t see what others see. I had enough trust in the company that if it didn’t turn out well, I’d always have my operations path open to me. So I took a leap of faith and stepped into an HR role. And honestly, I’ve never looked back. It was a fantastic decision. I could never have imagined that it would set me on the path it did. I’ve been able to move through a number of different positions, progressing over time, before finally ending up as CHRO at Best Buy Canada.
HRDC: What does your role at Best Buy Canada entail?
CT: My role by structure is a fairly traditional one. At Best Buy Canada, we have around 12,000 employees across the country. We’ve got about 175 stores, and I have an HR team of around 100 staff who deal with all the various outputs, such as recruitment, HRIS, rewards, engagement, benefits, learning, and health and safety.
My personal transition went from leading the function across all of HR to setting the entire people strategy for the company. Supporting Best Buy’s overall business objectives in such competitive times has been my biggest challenge. Now, along with my team, my role is to evolve the organization from a people and culture perspective.
“The days of HR being purely about solving people issues are gone. We do play a huge part in that, but we also focus on creating leaders who can do all this on their own"
HRDC: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
CT: I’ve had so many challenges throughout my career, but the one that really sticks out for me happened just a few years ago. For many years, we operated under two separate and distinct brands. As the retail landscape shifted, we reacted by making the decision to consolidate these two brands into one.
For me, as an HR leader, it was a daunting task to be a part of figuring out how we were going to bring this to fruition in such a short timeline – we completed the reorganization in four short months. What stays with me most from this experience is that you should not attempt to do everything on your own. Surround yourself with top talent and take a collaborative approach.
In the end, facing what looked to be an impossible task, we were able to devise a plan we felt was optimal. This plan was executed on a mass scale, countrywide, one Sunday morning. And though it meant we had to close many of our stores and then re-recruit and reopen a number of them the following week, by putting together a fantastic team, this sensitive work was accomplished with our people as our focus. And now we’re thriving under one strong brand.
“Think about how you can be a champion of change within your company, and with commitment, you will no doubt have an incredible impact”
HRDC: What new initiatives are you most proud of during your time at Best Buy Canada?
CT: Under our new technology strategy, we recently went live with a new cloud-based HCM. When I look at the effort my team put in to bring this home from start to finish in less than a year, I’m incredibly proud. Being able to get the funding to bring in a modern product and replace a 20-year-old system has been awesome and part of why I work for Best Buy.
Best Buy Canada has been named one of Canada’s top employers for several years in a row – we’re always looking for ways to improve and grow as an organization. We were also named as the Canadian HR Team of the Year at the recent Canadian HR Awards, which for me is a massive pride point. My team is absolutely outstanding, so I’m glad they were recognized.
HRDC: What advice do you have for someone looking to be a leader in HR?
CT: It’s all about the individual’s mindset. I remember speaking to a young man and asking him why he wanted to pursue HR as a career. He said he loved working with people, to which I replied that he should be a manager instead. The days of HR being purely about solving people issues are gone. We do play a huge part in that, but we also focus on creating leaders who can do all this on their own.
For me, HR leaders need to have a passion for improving the effectiveness of their company – and that’s the toughest part of my role. As newer HR professionals consider why they want to pursue this career, they hopefully have a passion for moving their organizations forward. Think about how you can be a champion of change within your company, and with commitment, you will no doubt have an incredible impact.