To build teams for the future, ditch the job description

Communicators who can work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders have an advantage over the competition, says Target chief communications officer Katie Boylan.

Up until a few years ago, when making a hiring decision, I most often looked for people who had a specific expertise that aligned perfectly with the job description. 

But as Target abandoned silos in favor of an integrated communications model, I knew I had to start thinking differently about talent.

Specialization still matters. But our work today is far more connected and collaborative than ever before. So as we thread together PR, internal communication, executive communication and editorial planning, I’m looking for more than just expertise. 

Today, successful communicators have to be ready to create and collaborate, learn and flex, listen well and counsel with conviction.  

After all, across almost everything we do, there are no longer separate internal and external strategies. It’s about building one interconnected communications approach that draws on compelling storytelling to engage a range of stakeholders.

For instance, during Target’s Vineyard Vines design partnership launch, we had an aggressive media relations campaign. But our comms team was also tasked with talking directly to our guests [customers] and engaging our team members. The plan hinged on the shared goal of creating excitement for the collection through rich stories and experiences.

We took a similar approach when we reported our annual earnings earlier this year. After hosting our financial community meeting, we staged an experiential strategy session for top leaders, and then spent the following weeks making sure our full team understood the results and rallied around the strategy for the year ahead.

So when I’m hiring today, I’m still looking for core communications skills — there’s no replacement for knowing the basics. But the ability to thrive in a fast-moving, ever-changing integrated communications model is just as important.

Katie Boylan is chief communications officer at Target.

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