Opportunity

From Part-Time to a World of Possibilities

When I was 18, I took a temporary job at Walmart for extra cash. Eleven years later, I’ve gained so much more: a challenging, satisfying career.

I had no idea that my time making cakes in a supercenter bakery would set me up for the chance to be store manager. But my seemingly small choice indeed led to something bigger, and I love to tell people about the opportunity and personal growth I’ve experienced.

After six months in the bakery I was given the option to move to the wireless department, where I showed enough initiative to be named department manager. My co-manager at the time encouraged me to apply for the company’s manager in training program. I was accepted, and I believe the trajectory of my life changed from there.

I went from being a quiet, insecure college student who was uncertain about what she wanted to a confident, well-spoken woman who now leaves a lasting impression on her co-workers and family. Right after the manager in training program, I visited my aunt and uncle, who told me I wowed them by being completely different – way more talkative and extroverted than ever.

Today, I use my newfound outgoing spirit to not only run my Neighborhood Market, but also to tell my associates about the path of potential I found. I love encouraging others and watching them blossom. For example, I can recall one of my associates who started out seeming unsure of himself, but after a few years and making connections with others in the store, he’s now a department manager. I can see his future: buying a home, sending his kids to college. Watching all this happen is like magic to me.

I want all my associates to understand the opportunities they have with this company. I didn’t know it on the first day, but as a store manager, it’s my job to ensure that as many associates as possible can see it – and seize it – from the start.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Congressman Helps Sleeping Bag Factory ‘Exxel’ at Creating U.S. Jobs

The chief executive officer of Exxel Outdoors swam against the tide of manufacturers moving their businesses overseas – a calculated risk that has led to continued success over the last 17 years at a sleeping bag factory in rural Alabama.

Helping smooth the way was Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama’s 4th District. The longtime U.S. representative co-sponsored and supported legislation that has helped companies like Exxel better compete in the global market, resulting in expanded production and more jobs in the States.

Recently, we caught up with Aderholt after he toured the Exxel factory and asked him about the importance of American made.

Q: How did you first connect with Exxel Outdoors in Haleyville, Alabama?

A: I first became aware of Exxel when I heard they were looking to “reshore” their operations from overseas to right here in Alabama. There were a number of trade regulations that stood in their way, and we worked together to clear them up so that they could build their plant and create jobs for some people who had not found work in over two years. It’s always fun to see the different styles of sleeping bags coming off the line. In a recent visit, Star Wars and Hello Kitty sleeping bags were being produced. And when you are walking through a Walmart store and see those sleeping bags, you immediately recognize they were made in America and right here in Alabama.

Left to Right: Exxel Outdoors CEO Harry Kazazian, Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt, Exxel’s Plant Senior Vice President Barbara Garrison

Q: Why are American-made products important to your district?

A: Alabama’s 4th Congressional District is very rural. But it is also very productive. Farms in the district are literally helping to feed America. The 4th District is also helping to clothe, house and protect America as well. In addition to facilities like Exxel, inside our district are textile plants, manufactured housing facilities and a fire hydrant production company. No matter where you live in America, look at a fire hydrant and there is a good chance it will say that it was made in Albertville, Alabama. The men and women who work at these facilities are contributing to their communities and growing the economy.

Q: In your 20 years representing Alabama, how has your district been impacted by manufacturing jobs being moved overseas?

A: My district has been heavily impacted by jobs being moved overseas. The textile manufacturing sector has especially been hit hard. This had resulted in thousands of jobs lost since 1997. I believe this trend, though, is changing and, if not almost reversed, slowed dramatically. I believe the future of American manufacturing is brighter than it has been in many years.

Q: What would you say to companies to encourage them to follow Exxel’s example and create and keep jobs in the U.S.?

A: We have a workforce across the 4th District that is reliable and ready to work. We also have an excellent community college system that loves to partner with local industry for job training. We just recently had a metal procurement company move into the district specifically to have access to the students coming from Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. I say all of this to just remind companies looking to expand that there are communities across this country that are standing ready to help you be successful and to help keep that Made in the USA sticker on products.

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Opportunity

How A Promise to Military Families Eased the Stress of Change

When my wife received her transfer orders, we prepared ourselves for the Army to move us from Wichita, Kansas to Joplin, Missouri.

Once again, we were off to a new-to-us destination. The life of a military family is not for those who don’t like change. So much of life is built around constants, yet in a military life, change is one of those constants.

I admire my wife for her devotion to our family and to our country. I get it. I really do. I served from 1992-2006 in the U.S. Marine Corps, and my wife has served in the U.S. Army since 2000. Both of us spent time overseas with Operation Iraqi Freedom. And while I chose to transition to civilian life a few years ago, my wife stayed the course and built a career with the Army.

Most don’t think about the toll transfers take on military families; when one serves, we all serve. Being at the military’s beck and call is something we are used to. We know what we signed up for. While I’m not complaining about this life of service, trying to quickly find a new job when your spouse is transferred can be challenging and stressful.

But there was something different this time – something that made our family’s latest transfer experience better than it has ever been before.

As an asset protection manager at store 3492 in Wichita, Kansas, I wasn’t familiar with Walmart’s Military Family Promise (MFP) program until I spoke to a friend who worked at the home office. The MFP program guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel and military spouses employed at Walmart or Sam’s Club who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the U.S. military.

I didn’t go into the MFP process with any preconceived notions. I knew I might not get the exact job I wanted unless something opened up. And, while I would’ve been thankful for any opportunity, I was fortunate enough to land the exact same position I had in Wichita at a Neighborhood Market in Joplin, Missouri, just a few miles away from where my wife is serving.

I knew Walmart cared about veterans and was familiar with our Veterans Welcome Home Commitment. But I had no idea we had policies in place to support me, a military spouse. The MFP allows me to focus on what’s most important during this transition – and that’s getting my house in order and getting my kids acclimated to their new surroundings.

I’m also taking time to share my story so other military family associates can take advantage of MFP and focus on what’s important in their lives during their own moves. Thanks to programs like these, we don’t just have jobs at Walmart, we have careers.

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Innovation

A Look Inside Walmart's Next-Gen Test Stores

The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age.

Meeting customers’ needs is critical as they adopt more digitally-driven lifestyles, expectations increase and increasingly shopping options do not require a trip inside a store.

With this in mind, Walmart is testing new approaches in two recently opened supercenters in Tomball, Texas, and Lake Nona, Florida. These stores were fully reimagined from a new layout to building and environmental enhancements to added technology that all improve the shopping experience.

Keep reading to learn more about these new retail environments. Or, if you’re in the area, drop by and look for yourself.

New Layout
We started with customer shopping behavior to reimagine the layout for these two stores. For example, services like the beauty salon and tech repair are adjacent to relevant merchandise. Health and wellness departments are consolidated to create a single destination. Baby, toys, kids' apparel and kids' shoes form a single destination to ease mom’s shopping journey.


Scan & Go
Speeding up checkout is critical to improving customer experience. So we’re testing Scan & Go technology that works both on personal smartphones and Walmart-provided handheld devices. Customers are greeted on their way into the store by a large bank of these Scan & Go wands, and new digital produce scales have been added to make scanning weighable items much easier. The Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process, which makes a quick trip faster than ever.


SmartLife
New interactive projection technology allows customers to learn about connected devices (think Google Home, Apple TV, Nest, baby monitors and connected thermostats) and get answers to what is important to them. Since images are projected onto tables and walls, there’s no chance of accidentally damaging a product, and the product details can be updated more quickly through this new platform. This technology is found in the entertainment section of the store, as well as in hardware, baby, and health and wellness for relevant department items.


Integrated Pickup
Shoppers can use the outside drive-thru to pick up not just their weekly groceries, but also their prescriptions and Walmart.com orders.


Extended Aisles
Step into the Tomball Supercenter and you’ll find interactive screens offering access to an extended curated selection of online-only items in almost 100 categories. Customers can order products, pay with the rest of their basket at checkout and pick up two days later.


Appointment Setting and Ordering Technology
Need your deli order, fast? These stores test a new appointment and ordering kiosk system where you place your order, go shopping, then come back to quickly pick it up. If the initial test in the deli area goes well, it could be expanded to pharmacy, Auto Care Center, beauty salon or anywhere ordering and appointment setting occurs.


Next-Gen Call Buttons
Shoppers simply press a Wi-Fi-connected call button and wearable GPS-enabled devices alert associates that assistance is needed. Associates wearing these devices are trained in specific store areas and are on call to help in the furniture, paint, fabrics, sporting goods and bikes areas of the store.

So what’s the bottom line? By rethinking stores and testing new ideas with customers in real-life stores, we are improving customers’ experiences and making it easier than ever for them to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Walmart’s in-store tests in this piece from Good Morning America.

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Community

Virtual Construction That’s Helping to Build Real Jobs

At the beginning of 2016, Iowa Workforce Development and Hawkeye Community College in Cedar Falls came together to consider the statistic that just 2.3% of Iowa’s construction workers are women.

The construction industry has always been male dominated, but in a state where heavy equipment operators are not only in growing demand, but paid an average hourly wage of more than $23, they saw an opportunity.

Through its PROMISE JOBS program, Iowa Workforce Development works tirelessly to connect Iowans – many of them low-income women with families – with training services. Last year, Hawkeye Community College had a fleet of simulators specifically designed to put individuals behind the controls of a backhoe, bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and other common construction equipment. And with a state grant from the Walmart Foundation, they had the funding they needed to mobilize.

From January through July 2016, the construction equipment simulator trailer made its way to all corners of the state, with stops at each of IowaWORKS’ 15 regional facilities. Anywhere from 150 to 500 Iowans turned out at each location to try their hand at the controls, gauges and equipment systems in a safe, in-cab environment, with supervision from trained instructors. In some instances, representatives from construction companies came out to connect with interested residents on the spot.

Like any industry, construction isn't for everyone. But this collaboration opened the door to the possibility of a new career path – and a better life – for Iowans. The demand for construction workers, regardless of gender, is high. So this collaboration addressed a genuine issue.

For many, it could mean a transition into higher-paying jobs, thus supporting their families and their futures. That’s a scenario where everyone wins.

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