Top Execs from Nordstrom, Crocs and Dick’s Get Candid About Pandemic Lessons on Two Ten’s WIFI Panel

Two Ten gathered industry forces last week for a powerful conversation centered around pandemic lessons learned.

Panelists participating in the “Staying Connected” women in the footwear industry (WIFI) virtual event included Carrie Guffey, SVP of softlines, Dick’s Sporting Goods; Michelle Poole, brand president, Crocs; and Tacey Powers, EVP and GMM of footwear, Nordstrom. The conversation was moderated by Sandi Mines, VP and publisher of Footwear News.

The group sounded off on staying tight with their teams, the best way to onboard new hires in a virtual era and the opportunities that have emerged during a challenging time.

Here are highlights from the conversation, which was organized by teams at Zappos and Birkenstock.

Finding creative ways to connect: 

Tacey Powers: “We have an ongoing communication plan to put our people first and be transparent. Our people have been so creative. Every day, we have a 20-minute huddle where the entire team connects before we start the day. Some teams play trivia to start or end their stand-ups. The men’s Rack team opens theirs with a rap — it could be about a best-selling item, their dog or a win from the day before.”

Michelle Poole: “[At the beginning], our CEO [Andrew Rees] hosted an all-hands [meeting] every single week. We were very transparent. We separated our actions into defensive and offensive moves. We tried to be real with everyone. Later on, we moved into slightly less regular all hands. Our leaders and managers of teams kicked in and started to get creative with how they kept their teams engaged. We have something called 1,200 seconds in our Colorado office that we took virtual. It was a chance for us to give recognition and appreciation. And we asked all the new hires told a joke.”

Carrie Guffey: “Communication was key. We heard that our teammates wanted more from us. They were scared personally and professionally. We told our leaders not to miss a touch base. Even if you didn’t have an agenda, it was important to engage and just talk. We toggled between navigating business and personal, so that’s what I’m most proud of. More recently, we’ve been hosting vaccinations to help our community and the city of Pittsburgh, opening up our offices while we’re not there.”

Onboarding new employees:

TP: “This is the place where we all had to work a little harder because someone’s success depended on it. If you didn’t lean in, this new employee was going to lose interest. During this time, I hired a team in New York that all came from outside our company. It was critical to ensure they all felt a part of the company. We had meet-and-greets with Pete and Erik Nordstrom and happy hours to learn about new employees personally. It’s very scary to change jobs.”

MP: “If you feel like you belong, you’re so much more engaged. I meet every single new employee — we’ve hired about 100 people since beginning of year. It’s an immediate way to plug in.”

CG: “We hired a lot of people during the pandemic. I can’t imagine moving to a new city where you can’t actually go in and see your workspace, and meet your team. There were some folks we hired just because we loved them. In some cases, we didn’t even have a job for them. It has worked out so well. They seem to be some of the most well adjusted people at the company.”

Charting your own path:

CG: “Think about what you love. Think about it is what you want to do. Network within your own organization. Engage with smart leaders. Sometimes that isn’t emphasized enough.”

TP: “At Nordstrom, we have something called “Quarterly Connect” where you can talk about what you’ve accomplished and what you would like to see happen. We’re in a time we’ve never seen in the shoe industry. Everyone should be so proud of what they’ve done, not just to function, but to succeed.”

MP: “One of the things we do is called “Pace Checks.” We’ve abandoned annual reviews. We want to put career progress in hands of teams. All of employees meet with managers on quarterly basis. It’s a great opportunity for an employee to toot their own horn. Weeks and months fly by and quarters disappear. It’s a great opportunity for manager to pause. The people who can show they’re flexible and agile are going to be recognized and going to be on the radar. Take it into your own hands – don’t wait for your manager. We still don’t know what’s ahead.”

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