Last year, our partners at Catalyst, a leading non-profit promoting inclusive workplaces for women, put out a call for assistance to update their website and Human Resources (HR) systems. We found two team members with the skills needed to get the job done—Casey Krebsbach, senior HR manager, and Sarah Malik, senior manager, digital partnerships—and sent them on a six-month pro-bono assignment at Catalyst’s New York City headquarters.
What happened next? A brilliant example of two businesses sharing resources and developing teams as they work toward a shared goal. We talked to Casey and Sarah, and Catalyst CFO Jennifer Daniel-Davidson, to hear more about the experience.
To start things off—Casey and Sarah, tell us about your daily roles at Target.
Casey: I’m an HR generalist on the special work assignment team (SWAT), which means I temporarily support multiple businesses and leaders during leaves of absence, or when a job is open for an extended period of time.
Sarah: I’m on the digital team, managing new business opportunities for Target.com—building strategies that enable Target to better serve the guest. I’m also a board member of Target’s Women’s Business Council. I’m passionate about women’s equality, both in the workplace and society.
How did the skills-sharing project between Catalyst and Target come about?
Casey: Supporting women in their careers is a top priority at Target, and we’re a longtime Catalyst partner—our CEO, Brian Cornell, is on its board of directors. So when this request came through, our teams jumped at the opportunity. They were seeking consultants for two projects, an HR role and a digital role. Sarah and I were both intrigued and decided to apply!
Sarah: I discussed the opportunity with my manager, Michelle, and she and my senior director were incredibly supportive and flexible. And it could never have happened without my team’s support, who picked up all aspects of my day job while I was away.
Casey: I completely agree, the flexibility made all the difference. For example, I have a 3-year old daughter, and also found out that I was pregnant with my second shortly after accepting the role. Without hesitation, my manager asked what he could do to make sure I could still participate, and assured me that we could adjust any travel plans accordingly. That meant the world to me.
You each took on a special project to lead. What were they?
Casey: I was responsible for establishing a new end-to-end performance management strategy (think goal-setting, development statuses and the annual review process), and revamping the onboarding program for new hires. I’d worked on similar projects in my role at Target, and it was exciting working with Catalyst’s employees and external companies around the world to benchmark best practices across the industry.
Jennifer: Casey helped us complete several high-profile projects that had been on our HR team’s wish list for years, including helping us find a more efficient platform to use. She also played a big role in onboarding one of our new senior directors—our team looked to her for leadership and sound judgment through the transition.
Sarah: My project was to lead Catalyst’s digital team through a website redesign. (The new version is now in final stages of development and will be launching soon!) This included connecting them with a new agency partner and refreshing the team’s digital priorities to reflect Catalyst today, and in the future. I also trained teams on using the AGILE work method, which has been crucial to the success of digital at Target.
Jennifer: Sarah’s expertise and training made such a strong impact on our team. Her focus and creativity in building the new website has helped Catalyst Supporters become more engaged with our work and mission. And we’re putting exercises she taught us to hone our web messaging and strategy to immediate use as we build it.
What did you learn from your experiences, and why was the work meaningful?
Sarah: I learned a lot about how to lead without authority, and how important clear (but vetted) priorities are to driving success. I’m grateful for the exposure to leadership at both companies. Catalyst works with leaders across the globe on a daily basis, and for me that was all new. I got to work directly with executives to get everyone’s buy-in and make sure priorities I saw as an outsider rang true to Catalyst’s brand. And I had regular check-ins with my Target leaders, which guided me down the right path.
Casey: The project stretched me in many ways, but especially in leading through ambiguity and change management. For example, it was my own strategy that I was attempting to implement, versus a Target strategy, so I had to learn to work with leaders at all levels, and adjust plans accordingly without losing sight of long-term goals.
It was amazing to be engrained in a nonprofit focused on diversity in the workplace. I was proud to be part of such important conversations about empowering women that are taking place right now across the industry—from encouraging women to speak up, to the many ways men can participate and support their colleagues.
Jennifer: Catalyst’s partnership with Target has been incredibly constructive, and the gift of Sarah and Casey’s expertise and time took it to a new level. They were highly valued partners in our work, and approached it with an eye toward sharing knowledge and growth—for them individually, for their colleagues, and for our organization.
Sarah: It was a great experience for everyone involved. Target’s team members are used to working nimbly and adapting to constant change, so we’re well-suited to take on skills-based volunteer roles. It’s all about finding people who have the unique skills sets to help partners achieve their goals, so I’m hopeful that more team members will get similar opportunities!
Learn more about the work our team members are doing to support their communities and champion inclusive workplaces and equality in society.
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