Back to Opportunity

Enhancing the economic mobility
and inclusion of workers in retail
and its product supply chains

Even as global prosperity has increased in the past three decades, many people feel the impact of increasing inequality closer to home. They wonder about their ability to move up the economic ladder.

As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart aims to use our strengths to systematically accelerate the improvement of skills and the corresponding upward economic mobility of workers in retail and product supply chains. We place a special focus on the economic mobility of women, minorities and others who may face particular barriers to advancement. To make the most impact, not only are we investing in our own workforce, but also, we are also engaging with a broad base of stakeholders – workers, employers, educational experts, nonprofit organizations, technology companies and governmental agencies – to find innovative ways to improve hiring, training and advancement beyond Walmart.

We see value in this approach for both society and our business. We hope to improve the economic inclusion and mobility of millions of people. Investing in the inclusive development of people will also strengthen the current and future talent pool in retail and product supply chains. At Walmart, we see this as good for our associates, our suppliers and our customers. We’re seeking these outcomes through four key programs:

  • Providing ladders of opportunity for Walmart associates
  • Promoting increased mobility in the retail sector beyond Walmart
  • Supporting reintegration of U.S. veterans into the civilian workforce 
  • Empowering women in product supply chains

Providing ladders of opportunity for our associates

Walmart provides employment opportunities to more than 2 million people around the world, from product buyers to web designers and from truck drivers to sales associates. We’ve long been a place where anyone can start in an entry-level position and build a career – just ask the 75 percent of our U.S. store management teams who began as hourly associates, or Doug McMillon, our CEO, who started in a Walmart warehouse.

We want to continue that tradition of opportunity by making it even easier and faster for beginning Walmart associates to improve their skills and advance to positions of greater responsibility and income within or beyond Walmart, and to do it in a way that fosters diversity and inclusion at all levels.

We believe these efforts to provide our associates with ladders of opportunity create positive outcomes both for our business and for society. On the business side, a more engaged, productive and diverse workforce improves our customers’ experience and grows sales. For society, as workers receive training in the skills that lead them to the next level, household incomes can rise, overall economic stability improves and the national workforce is strengthened.

In this section, we profile a major initiative launched this past year in Walmart U.S. to accelerate the advancement of our associates, and we highlight ways in which we are enhancing associate opportunity in our other markets as well. The U.S. initiative includes four key components:

  • Increasing wages and improving benefits
  • Upskilling through innovative training and coaching
  • Providing scheduling flexibility and predictability
  • Fostering diversity and inclusion
Increasing wages and improving benefits for U.S. associates

Walmart provides competitive wages and benefits to our associates around the world. This year we continued, for our U.S. workforce, a major initiative to increase our wages, especially for entry-level associates:

  • Raised the entry-level wage to $9 per hour for new hires, with an additional increase to at least $10 per hour after successfully completing a new, six-month Pathways training program
  • Raised the wages of all associates hired before
    Jan. 1, 2016, to $10 per hour
  • Issued annual pay increases for associates already earning more than $10 per hour rather than waiting until their anniversary date 
  • Boosted the starting rate of our non-entry-level hourly pay bands, moving any associates falling below the new minimum starting points up to the new rate immediately
  • Offered a lump sum payment equal to 2 percent of annual pay to hourly associates at or above the maximum of their respective pay bands

In March 2016, we implemented a new paid-time-off (PTO) program for hourly associates in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club stores. It streamlines paid vacation, sick, personal and holiday time into one category and eliminates a prior one-day wait to use sick time. Both full- and part-time associates will earn PTO based on tenure and hours worked, and hourly associates will be able to keep their unused time and carry it over to the next year – up to 80 hours for full-time and 48 hours for part-time hourly associates. Any hours beyond those limits will be automatically compensated the following year through paycheck bonuses. In the event that an associate leaves the company, any accrued and unused PTO will be issued in their final paycheck. Associates will also get to keep any sick or personal time accrued under our previous time-off plan.

In addition to PTO, Walmart is providing a new, basic short-term disability plan at no cost to full-time hourly U.S. associates. It pays 50 percent of an associates average weekly wage, up to $200, for up to 26 weeks. For those associates who desire, we are also offering an enhanced short-term disability plan. This plan costs less than our previous voluntary plan, and it provides up to 60 percent of an associate’s average weekly wage with no weekly maximum, for up to 26 weeks. Together, these changes give associates more control over their time and more flexibility in the ways they choose to use it.

"Upskilling” through innovative training and coaching: spotlight on Pathways, Lifelong Learning and Academies

A job at Walmart is more than just a paycheck. It provides access to a ladder of opportunity, as a place where people can earn while they learn on the job. 

The Pathways training program
In addition to our wage increases for associates, in 2016, all new Walmart entry-level U.S. associates – in all 4,500 U.S. stores – will participate in our new training program, Pathways. As a key component of our efforts to enhance economic opportunity for our associates, the program builds on a successful pilot launched in 2015 and provides training over at least the first six months of employment. Pathways focuses on “upskilling” – the acquisition and improvement of skills, and the gaining of knowledge that facilitates faster progression in a career in retail. By comparison, our previous associate onboarding process had been short and intense for new associates: a day-and-a-half of computer-based learning on internal practices and policies, followed immediately by customer-facing duties. According to surveys, associates often felt lost in the flood of information and overwhelmed by the volume of acronyms, terms and processes introduced. The feedback they provided formed the basis of the new program.

Pathways seeks to better integrate new hires into Walmart’s culture, reinforcing our core values and focus on serving the customer. It helps frontline associates understand how key aspects of their jobs are connected to other parts of the business and how what they do makes a difference both for customers and the company. It also teaches valuable, transferable skills – including customer service, merchandising, teamwork and communication – valuable skills both within and beyond Walmart.

The Pathways program consists of two modules that mix computer-based learning with mentoring from a supervisor. The computer-based materials are self-paced and feature short videos and games designed to make the learning process interactive and fun. The supervisor’s role includes leading associates through hands-on applications of what they’ve learned, as well as regular, reflective check-ins as the training progresses. By focusing on this kind of mentoring, supervisors and associates have more frequent opportunities to discuss performance and potential career opportunities within the company.

After successfully completing the program, associates receive an immediate pay increase to $10 per hour. They are also presented with information about a range of career path options. As part of the Pathways program, Walmart is monitoring 10 metrics to track outcomes such as reduced turnover, improved productivity and increased associate engagement.

Lifelong Learning: Creating opportunity through education
Since 2010, Walmart has been helping associates succeed in retail careers through an education initiative called Lifelong Learning. The program focuses on building skills and credentials beyond their immediate job at Walmart. The learning opportunities range from foreign language courses to classes for completing a high school diploma, as well as earning no-cost college credit through on-the-job skills. Since the program began, it included these highlights:

  • More than 7,000 associates accepted into our no-cost
    high school and GED programs
  • More than 60,000 associates who have received no-cost language learning in English and 29 other languages
  • More than 2.5 million hours of college classroom time saved
  • More than 8,000 associates who have started college and taken more than 65,000 college courses available at reduced or no cost
  • More than 1,000 associates who have graduated from college after taking advantage of courses and tuition discounts
  • More than $48 million in tuition and program fees saved for associates, as they build their way toward a brighter career

Providing scheduling flexibility and predictability 

When it comes to scheduling, our associates around the world reflect a diverse set of needs and preferences. Some people prefer fixed schedules, while others prefer flexibility from week to week. As part of our U.S. associate opportunity initiative, we have been testing and implementing new approaches to scheduling that we hope will provide our associates with the flexibility and control they need. Following a successful pilot program, we’re in the process of making a new flexible scheduling program available to Walmart U.S. associates. The new program allows associates to confirm their schedules two weeks in advance. This provides them with more flexibility and control over their schedules, including the option for some to have fixed schedules week after week, while others have the option to build their schedule each week based on their needs. Whether it’s a working mother who needs predictability to plan her childcare, or a full-time student with a changing class schedule, our program is designed to help all our associates find the schedule that works for them.

Fostering diversity and inclusion

The associates who work for us come from a variety of races and ethnicities, orientations and backgrounds, and they reflect a range of life experiences. Some are with us to build a career; others need part-time, flexible work while they pursue an education. We value the talents and differences our associates bring to our company, as they enrich the Walmart culture, lead to innovative solutions for our business, enable us to better meet the needs of a diverse customer base and strengthen our business. We will continue to build a diverse talent pipeline, meet the evolving career needs of our associates and work to strengthen our culture of inclusion.

Building a diverse talent pipeline
Walmart seeks to hire and develop talented people who mirror the perspectives and interests of our global customer base. As competition within the retail sector continues to increase, we are focusing on our culture, diversity and inclusion strategy to recruit and retain the best people we can, especially among women and people of color. With the right training and development and an inclusive environment, we believe we can build a diverse pipeline of talent that commits to helping our customers live a better life around the world.

Reinforcing inclusion in our culture 
Respect for the individual, and for individual differences, is one of our key values. When our associates come to work each day, we want to encourage them to bring their true, authentic selves and be prepared to share their knowledge with their peers and to find new and better ways to serve our customers. In 2015, we undertook several initiatives to reinforce inclusion in our culture, such as launching multiple forums to engage Walmart associates in dialogue and development. These included forums on the inclusion of women (as part of our Global Women’s Development Series), African-Americans and Hispanics (see sidebar). A new forum is planned for Asian-American Pacific Islander and other associates in 2016. We also provided training on unconscious bias for nearly 5,000 logistics managers. Looking ahead in 2016, we plan to train our supervisors on how to better lead diverse teams and build an inclusive working environment.

Promoting increased mobility in the retail and adjacent sectors

Walmart seeks not only to improve the economic mobility of our own associates, but also to increase mobility in retail and adjacent sectors at large.

In 2015, as a complement to our 
own investments in wages and training, Walmart and the 
Walmart Foundation launched a five-year, $100 million initiative to increase upward mobility of frontline retail and adjacent sector workers in the U.S. Through collaboration with other retailers, educational institutions, technology companies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and thought leaders, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are aspiring to shift the employment practices of the whole retail sector to help people advance more quickly. Our strategies for accelerating mobility are outlined in the table on the right.

Through the end of January 2016, we have made grants totaling more than $39 million in support of this commitment.

With these efforts, we hope 
to enhance the quality of the retail workforce. We’re also striving to transform retail into an early workforce incubator 
for the economy – a place where anyone can get a job and quickly develop the skills 
to advance their careers in 
retail or beyond.

Supporting reintegration of U.S. veterans into the civilian workforce

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, served as an Army captain during World War II, and he used his Army savings as the initial capital to open his first store. Like Mr. Walton, veterans offer important strengths to our communities, such as a strong work ethic, technical skills and leadership capabilities, to name a few. But transitioning from the military to civilian life can be difficult. Despite the wealth of resources and opportunities available to veterans, some remain vulnerable to financial, employment, relationship and legal challenges as they return home from service.

Walmart aims to make it easier for U.S. veterans and their families to reintegrate into civilian life through our “Veterans Welcome Home Commitment,” which offers Walmart jobs to returning veterans. Additionally, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $20 million over five years to work on collective impact initiatives to help support and integrate returning service members. This work will focus in states with a strong military presence, such as North Carolina, Texas and California, and will offer veterans a coordinated way to access a suite of reliable local services for job placement, housing, health care and other services they may need.

As veterans reintegrate into society, everyone benefits. Veterans provide businesses with extraordinary assets and talent as hard-working, high-skilled people with strong leadership potential. Swift reintegration also enhances the stability of veterans’ families and communities, while also building local economies, strengthening the U.S. workforce, and preserving the volunteer military in the U.S.

Welcoming veterans home

On Memorial Day 2013, Walmart introduced our Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, which guaranteed a job offer to any eligible, honorably discharged U.S. veteran who was 
within 12 months of active duty. Our goal was to hire 100,000 veterans by the end of 2018.

The initiative has been successful beyond our expectations. Since our initial announcement, we have hired more than 120,000 veterans, with almost 13,000 having been promoted to jobs with higher pay and greater responsibility.* Given this positive outcome, in May of 2015, we announced the expansion of our original projection, with the goal of hiring 250,000 veterans by the end of 2020. We have also changed the eligibility from within 12 months of active duty, to any veteran who has been honorably discharged since we announced the commitment in May 2013.

As another way to support our veterans and their families, Walmart’s Military Family Promise guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel, and military spouses, employed at Walmart and Sam’s Club, who move to a different part of the country due to a transfer by the United States military. The promise also specifies that associates called away to active military duty will be paid any difference in their salary if the associate is earning less money during their military assignment.

Working collaboratively to meet the needs of veterans

Upon returning home, veterans often find it challenging to navigate the multiple agencies offering job placement, medical care and other social assistance. This can result in inconsistent use and quality of services. To address this problem, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have pledged $20 million through 2019 to support the needs of returning veterans by promoting a coordinated approach to veterans’ needs. That’s why we are pursuing 
two strategies:

  • Expanding high-quality job training opportunities for U.S. veterans transitioning to civilian life
  • Building innovative public-private partnerships that coordinate veteran service across organizations to create a coherent and interconnected service directory

In 2015, the Walmart Foundation announced our support for the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge initiative. Through this, the Walmart Foundation joins approximately 30 funders finding ways to strengthen services and support for millions of veterans and military families. The Pledge has secured more than $275 million for these efforts, and the Walmart Foundation is focusing on strengthening the regional and state ecosystems that serve veterans and military families.

* Editor’s Note: These projections and reported hires/promotions include veterans hired under our original and expanded Commitment as well as other veterans hired by Walmart in this time frame. While we think it is particularly important to support soldiers as they make the transition to civilian life, Walmart believes all veterans deserve our respect and support, no matter when they left active duty.

Sparking a movement

Walmart has undertaken campaigns designed to raise public awareness of the needs of veterans and the valuable role they play in our communities. Here we highlight two campaigns from the 2015 holiday season.

The Greenlight a Vet campaign
In advance of Veterans Day, Walmart helped launch a campaign to raise national awareness of the importance of “greenlighting” veterans back to civilian life by promoting a show of visible public support for these valuable community members. Encouraging the public to change one light to green, the campaign created visible and actionable national support for America’s veterans and their families, resulting in over 3.4 million online acts of support and widespread media coverage of this important topic.

Saluting our military families and veterans at the holidays
At the beginning of December 2015, Walmart called on the general public to “Sing to Salute Military Families” – a nationwide campaign that encouraged the public to sing a portion of a classic holiday song while capturing it on video, and then posting the video on social media channels to show support for members of the military and their families. The robust public response allowed Walmart to donate $1 million to Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides a home-away-from-home for military and veterans’ families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veterans hospital. The donation helped support more than 60 U.S.-based Fisher Houses and will be used to fund a full year of lodging for military families staying at Fisher Houses on 
U.S. military bases in 2016.

Walmart also helped Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that works to build strong military families, put a holiday meal on the table of 8,500 military families in 26 locations nationwide. We also helped provide tractor trailers, private fleet drivers and a donation of $150,000 to Wreaths Across America to help honor U.S. veterans by laying wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day.

Empowering women in retail supply chains

Women play a crucial role in retail supply chains around the world, as well as in the economic well-being of families and communities. In agriculture alone, women are responsible for 43 percent of farm production in low- and middle-income countries. In China, according to Business for Social Responsibility, while women make up 44 percent of the total workforce, they represent approximately 60 percent of the workers who migrate from rural areas to cities for work in factories. Walmart’s own internal statistics show that women play a vital role in the retail industry, making up 57 percent of our own global workforce. Studies further show that women in emerging markets invest 90 percent of their income back into families and communities, breaking the cycle of poverty. Yet around the world women earn 10 to 30 percent less than men do.

To help address these issues, in 2011 Walmart and the Walmart Foundation launched The Global Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative to train close to 1 million women around the world on farms, in factories and in retail, particularly in emerging markets. The program combines $100 million in philanthropic funding, Walmart’s global sourcing reach and the expertise of nonprofit organizations, companies and government agencies to equip women with technical and life skills. Such training enhances their incomes and builds their confidence as leaders in their workplaces, families and communities. The program focuses on four major strategies:

  • Train 500,000 women in agriculture
  • Assist 60,000 women in factories in becoming more active decision-makers in their jobs and families
  • Prepare 200,000 women in emerging markets for their first jobs in retail
  • Help 200,000 low-income U.S. women gain skills for better employment

From a business point of view, this initiative aims to increase factory and agricultural productivity, while also providing a stronger female talent pool, particularly in emerging markets. From the perspective of society, we believe that empowering women economically not only improves their livelihoods, but also strengthens the stability of families, workplaces and communities.

Women in agriculture

In the agriculture value chain, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have now funded training projects for 502,000 women. For example, in 2015, through our cooperation with the German Development Corporation, the Walmart Foundation supported a new rice initiative in Nigeria and Ghana. This project will train approximately 22,500 women.

Women in factories

In 2011, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation launched the Women in Factories Training Program, a five-year initiative that will train 60,000 women in 150 factories and processing facilities producing for top retail suppliers in industries with high percentages of women. The program, which was implemented in collaboration with local NGOs, will teach critical life skills related to communication, hygiene, reproductive health, occupational health and safety, identifying personal strengths and gender sensitivity. Up to 8,000 women will also receive leadership training to develop the work and life skills necessary for personal and career development.

The open-source Women in Factories Training Program curriculum, developed by CARE and funded by the Walmart Foundation, can be shared and adapted by other brands, organizations, factories and other stakeholders who are interested in workforce development in the factory sector. Because the program focuses on job readiness, leadership and management, it can be adapted across sectors. We are pleased to make the curriculum publicly available 
for download.

Through the Women in Factories program, as of December 2015, 103,000 women have received foundational training in life and work skills. Of those women, 4,978 have completed advanced training, a more comprehensive 100-hour curriculum that goes into more depth on key components. The program has been implemented in 127 factories in Bangladesh, China, El Salvador, Honduras and India, and these efforts are being evaluated and monitored by experts from Tufts University. Preliminary evidence indicates strong impact on certain metrics, including the reduced objectification of women, increased female promotion and increased factory productivity. Other anticipated benefits of training for women, such as increased confidence and improved communication, have not been reported to be as strong as expected in the preliminary results. As the study continues and more precise data emerges, we will seek to understand the results and the factors driving impact and will focus on identifying ways to sustain and scale the initiative.

Training women for retail 
in emerging markets

Outside the U.S., we are striving to support training for 200,000 from emerging markets for their first jobs in retail. By the end of 2015, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have funded training for 92,000 women. This past year the Walmart Foundation launched two new training initiatives in China. We are collaborating with the China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA) to develop a training curriculum for women seeking retail employment. The initiative aims to train 8,000 women and also includes a special focus on food safety. The second initiative, led by Youcheng, will deliver online training for marginalized women in poor communities looking to enter e-commerce, also with a goal of reaching 8,000 women. In 2016, we plan to focus on developing new projects elsewhere in China, as well as in Mexico and Brazil.

Helping women in the U.S.

We have also been working to help U.S. women from low-income households improve their employment skills. The Walmart Foundation provided support and training for more than 200,000 since the launch of our Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. Some of this work has been accomplished through programs aimed at the retail sector, such as our funding of the Chicago Cook County Workforce Partnerships. This work to enhance economic mobility in retail is particularly important to women, since over 50 percent of retail workers in the U.S. are women.

Promoting women in film: The Bentonville Film Festival

Film shapes our culture in powerful, important ways. As actress Geena Davis says, “If you see it, you can be it.” In 2015, Walmart helped inspire and support the inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, promoted by the Geena Davis Institute, to bring attention to the role of women and other diverse voices in film. The festival screened 60 films made largely by women and other diverse populations. Judges chose six of them to receive commercial support in the form of a distribution agreement to include a 25-screen releases sponsored by AMC Theaters; marketing commitments; and shelf and premium placement commitment from Walmart and Vudu.