#NRF2020: Office Depot empowers employees in transformation

Office Depot has undergone a major transformation involving a move into technology services and the transitioning of the organisation into an integrated multi-channel business fit for the future.

Speaking at Retail’s Big Show, organised by the National Retail Federation (NRF), Jonas Stillman, director of retail systems and omnichannel initiatives at Office Depot, said: “The task was to transform the company into a retailer of the future and to fully integrate services into our core product.”

This involved the purchase of B2B tech services business CompuCom, the launch of co-working spaces within some of its stores, and a major investment in technology. “We made our biggest investment in retail and supply chain hardware in 2019 for both stores and the warehouse. We integrated online and in-store so it’s now frictionless,” he said.

Integral to this was the roll-out of 10,000 Zebra hand-held mobile devices that have empowered employees across the business and reduced the non-value-added activities thereby freeing them up to provide better service to customer. For instance, the devices give visibility of inventory and make the process of dealing with click and collect-type orders much easier.

Stillman explained that the new system has also resulted in a less than 1% failure rate for the delivery of orders and led to great excitement among employees. “It’s alleviated the need for multiple devices and means just one device can be used across all aspects of the business. There are many benefits to this including greater efficiency, improved customer experience, and a more enjoyable culture in the company.” 

Critical to the success of the transformation to date is having gained the “buy-in from the people on the front-line” and also from continuing to listen to them. Without this he said it would not have been possible to make the necessary changes within the organisation. 

Stillman believes such major change is an inevitability for retailers. “For any retailers that have been around for a few decades then change is common. You have to have a strategy and we understand where we are with this. Disruption is nothing new in retail, it just comes in different shapes and forms. Those that learn how to change for the needs of their employees and customers will be successful,” he argued.

At Office Depot he said the stores now run completely differently to even 10 months ago since the roll-out of the hardware. And things will continue to change. “My team are focused on making the stores easy to run because employees should be spending more time with customers – selling them the right stuff. We’re empowering people to make decisions and giving them the freedom from receiving any retribution when putting forward ideas. We now get lots of ideas from people across the business.”