Fearlessly redefining the HR industry

Rebecca Sinclair isn’t afraid to push the boundaries.

It’s a thread you can follow through her impressive career working for some of the best-known brands on the planet—from Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, and iHeartMedia, to HOA Restaurant Group LLC, Southeastern Grocers (SEG) and all the way through to her current role as Chief People & Communications Officer at American Tire Distributors (ATD).

Sinclair realized early in her career that associate knowledge was a differentiator for any business. Along the way, Sinclair never subscribed to the old-school, course-centric model of learning and development (L&D). She always viewed L&D through a strategic, results-first perspective and refused to accept the status quo. This drove her to take calculated risks that added up to big success.

Recognizing why people matter most

“People want to succeed in their role,” explains Sinclair. “I believe that when you engage people with targeted training and information, it helps them feel connected to something bigger. You’re teaching them how to be more successful in their roles which is critical to the success of a business.”

Sinclair started off her career at Victoria’s Secret. It was here she discovered her knack for recognizing the crucial element an organization’s people play in propelling a business forward—particularly those on the frontlines whose interactions with customers are critical to bringing a brand to life.

Sinclair has a vision to redefine the world of HR. In her pursuit of this vision, she has built an outstanding reputation for transforming cultures and driving business results through associate knowledge.

Taking a chance on the unconventional

In 2014, SEG, the fifth largest conventional supermarket portfolio in the U.S. with more than 65,000 associates, brought Sinclair in to re-engineer its large workforce.

Sinclair evaluated every potential technology solution against her notoriously high standards. “My team and I did a lot of research. We looked at a variety of vendors across the globe,” explains Sinclair. Ultimately, she met with Christine Tutssel, co-founder of Axonify, a training platform that drives frontline workforce performance. Sinclair dove into everything the platform offered and quickly realized it would allow her to reach all associates, even those who don’t sit at desks.

“I decided to roll out a new blended learning strategy using this technology,” says Sinclair. “Not just for onboarding and training, but for communication too.”

Within a year of implementing the new strategy, SEG transformed the way it engaged with its entire workforce. “We increased the knowledge of the whole associate base on things like how to run a cash register, food safety, customer service, and more,” explains Sinclair. “And, we could tie that knowledge growth back to customer satisfaction in stores.”

“We were able to show managers more insights on which associates were standing out as leaders and running the stores,” she says. “And we could now scale to drive impact across the whole organization.”

Engaging the frontline on a whole new level

After achieving scalable success, Sinclair moved on from SEG to take on her next challenge: transforming the tire industry. It was there she met the President and CEO of ATD, Stuart Schuette. “He embodies the values, people-first leadership style and drive for building a brand that is important to me,” she says. Moreover, he had the vision that she believed could transform an industry. Without hesitation, she decided to take on a new challenge at North America’s premier tire distributor and join its best-in-class senior leadership team.

Sinclair has always approached transformation with a customer-first perspective. That’s why she decided to focus her efforts on ATD’s largest population: its sales force. “Training materials consisted of books and binders. And there were people who hadn’t been trained in years. Mergers and acquisitions meant every region was doing things in different ways,” explains Sinclair. “We needed to figure out how to get people engaged and on the same page and, more importantly, how to get them to believe in the company’s vision.”

“So, one of the first things I did was acquire the right tools,” says Sinclair. “Because no matter the company or industry, you need to invest in your frontline people, as they’re the connection to the customer experience.”

An ATD truck driving down a scenic highway

Changing the conversation

Within nine months Sinclair rolled out a new data-driven approach, using Axonify to tap into the company’s workforce on a daily basis. “Leadership can now communicate to the entire business at a moment’s notice. And we’re continuously delivering personalized training that adjusts to the unique difference in each associate—this is important in setting the business up for success.”

Sinclair continues to redefine internal processes at ATD and pave the way for modern HR. “It’s hard to actually get people to fully buy into what you do for L&D. What changes the conversation is tying behavior change and knowledge to advanced analytics. Proving the contribution of knowledge to driving ROI in sales is ground-breaking, and we continue to build on this to enable the business. We’re already having different conversations at the executive table with all this new information,” she explains. “We can show our manufacturers how to drive profitable programs through our consultative selling process driven by knowledge. We had to prove how AI and machine learning could scale knowledge and change a function like sales. Once we did, it advanced the conversation to drive the strategy and vision for ATD.”

Pioneering a new way of training

Sinclair has always believed there’s a different or better way. On numerous occasions, she’s developed successful strategies to train frontline associates in a bold, new way. And each transformation is a testament to Sinclair’s fearless pursuit of excellence in herself and those around her. “At a certain point in your career, you have a choice and accountability to decide what to do with the trust the business places in you. For me, I believe in unlocking the resilience and agility in people. It’s about creating meaningful change that drives business results through people. And I want to inspire others to do the same.”

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