How Chewy’s Employer Brand Strategy is Based on Exceptional Culture

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

While pandemic restrictions on in-person business were shuttering companies around the globe, some e-commerce brands found themselves in the midst of an unexpected boom. Chewy.com was among them: The online pet care company’s sales grew as pet owners under lockdown turned to them for home-delivered food and supplies.

The windfall has continued, and today, Chewy is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce companies in the world. And though stay-at-home orders certainly played a role in Chewy’s success, it isn’t just the convenience of online shopping that’s driving its transformation. In particular, its employer brand, helmed by Senior Employer Brand Manager Kara Hendrick, has played a crucial role in helping Chewy keep pace with a season of rapid growth.

Find Your Internal Champions

The employer brand function at Chewy grew out of the company’s goal to raise awareness of the growing number of diverse roles it needed to fill. Chewy’s HR department was one of its first champions, which kickstarted company-wide enthusiastic support for Hendrick’s work.

Hendrick knows that finding these internal champions is key to employer brand success, and she prioritizes building relationships with stakeholders in PR, talent management, branding, and social. These relationships are especially beneficial for employer brand projects with vast scope but limited resources; they help Hendrick avoid getting too “in the weeds.”

Often, employer brand touches many departments within an organization, leading some employer brand leaders to try to “do it all.” Hendrick urges these over-achieving, self-sufficient types to admit that doing it all is usually impossible (or, at least, impossible to do well). Instead, employer brand leaders can lean on their internal champions for help with activation, engagement, and amplification.

Invest in Culture

Chewy’s customer service has made a name for itself among pet owners with its thoughtful, personalized approach to customer care. Its team regularly sends out pet birthday cards, pet portraits, flowers to customers who’ve lost a pet, and a host of other small gestures.

This attention to the personal pervades Chewy’s culture beyond its customer service strategy. Team members aren’t “employees” but “Chewtopians,” and Chewy’s operating principles include statements like “Act like an owner.”

When lockdown restrictions forced Chewy’s corporate offices and customer service centers into home offices, the company’s talent management and employee experience teams met with its CHRO and CEO to revisit and recommit to its values. The positive, supportive environment that’s thrived in the year since is one of the things about the Chewy experience that Hendrick treasures most.

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Strategy

Chewy’s recruits for corporate customer service, tech, and fulfillment center roles, all while maintaining a unified message and navigating each talent segment’s unique challenges. Hiring for a diverse array of roles, Hendrick has learned, demands diverse strategies.

“What attracts a software engineer in Boston isn’t the same as what attracts an operations manager in Dayton, Ohio,” she observes. Designing an employer brand strategy that will be successful for all these markets demands careful listening.

This fact hit home in Hendrick’s early days at Chewy when she met with the Head of Fulfillment Center Recruiting. After listening to Hendrick present her grand plans for targeting fulfillment center candidates, he asked, “Have you ever visited a Chewy fulfillment center?” Hendrick admitted she hadn’t yet. But after her first visit, “It all made sense.”

“All these ideas I had worked great for corporate, but for the scale and the volume of hiring at our fulfillment centers, and the types of team members that we’re looking for, it didn’t translate,” she remembers. “Listening and immersing yourself is key.”

What’s ahead for the Chewy team? Big things, Hendrick says, especially as the company reaches a new state of maturity. “We’re no longer a young pup,” she likes to say, and Hendrick is excited about the opportunities awaiting employer brand. “We’ve just scratched the surface.”

To follow Kara Hendrick’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For help gathering the right data and developing strategies to make real change at your company, get in touch.


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