Sam’s Club Is Creating New Paths for Opportunity and Belonging: Here’s How

Oct. 27, 2023

Collage of Sam's Club associates. From left, Brenda Sanchez, Jalyssa Zaragoza, Millie Damas

Associates are the heart of Sam’s Club. In fact, while you’ve probably heard us say we’re member obsessed, we’re equally passionate about creating a workplace where every associate feels seen, valued and supported in their goals and aspirations. By fostering a workplace culture where everyone belongs, everyone wins.

This year, 85% of associates voted Sam’s Club a Great Place To Work®. We’re proud to be creating a workplace people love. And we’re committed to getting better year after year. As part of that commitment, we are investing in partnerships that tap into diverse talent pipelines as well as in on-the-job training programs to unlock career pathways for every Sam’s Club associate. Take a look at just a few of the programs helping us attract new, diverse talent and grow our leaders from within:

Sam’s Club High School Internship

Sam's Club associate Brenda Sanchez

When Brenda Sanchez applied for a high school internship at Sam’s Club last summer, she thought she was simply applying for her first job. However, Brenda says the paid internship did more than just provide her with great on-the-job training. In addition to developing professional skills, the 10-week program introduced her to some incredible mentors and opened her eyes to the wide range of career opportunities at Sam’s Club.

When we launched the Sam’s Club High School Internship Program in 2022, we focused on recruiting high school juniors and seniors from underserved communities. To date, more than 850 high school interns have come through the program. Of those, more than 65% have continued at Sam’s Club afterward – including Brenda, who is now a frontline associate working to graduate high school a semester early before pursuing a college degree in business management.

Unlock Potential

Sam's Club associate Jalyssa Zaragoza poses in a club aisle.

There is a quote from the late Bishop Desmond Tutu that says, “There comes a point where we need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Community partnerships like the one we have with Unlock Potential (UP) are helping us do just that.

When Sam’s Club started our partnership with UP in 2022, we knew how important it was to get it right. UP is a groundbreaking youth hiring program that connects at-risk youth with major employers.  By creating career pathways to prevent incarceration, Unlock Potential is working to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty and put young people on a positive path as they begin adult life.

While we have intentionally started small, with just a few pilot programs in Texas, we are already beginning to see its impact on participants like 19-year-old Jalyssa Zaragoza, who says the 10-week program not only introduced her to Sam’s Club career opportunities, it also provided her with a sense of belonging and purpose. The program also helped Jalyssa develop real-world job and life skills that she can take anywhere – though we’re excited to share that after graduating from the program, Jalyssa is continuing her career journey with Sam’s Club!

Live Better U 

For associate Kelsey Williams, Live Better U (LBU), offers her the flexibility to complete her degree while working full-time and without taking on student loan debt. The Auburn-based associate is actively pursuing her Pharmacy Technician Diploma and is excited about the potential of taking a pharmacy role at a local Sam’s Club or Walmart upon graduation.

There are so many great stories from LBU participants who are chasing their dreams while continuing their careers. Through LBU, full and part-time associates can access more than 70 degree and certificate programs from 26 of the nation’s leading academic partners, with Walmart and Sam’s Club covering 100% of the cost of tuition and books. In the last year alone, more than 830 club associates have graduated or completed their program, and of those, more than 480 have already been promoted.

As with all areas of the business, we’re constantly listening to associates and looking for opportunities to make LBU even better. For instance, we’ve learned the majority of associates in LBU are enrolled in short form learning programs, and we’re developing new ways to map the valuable skills gained from these programs to more career opportunities.

Manager Quality and Manager Academy

Sam's Club Associate Millie Damas

Sam’s Club rolled out Manager Quality (MQ) in 2022 after hearing that associates wanted learning and development that would not only support them in their current roles but also equip them for future ones. Over the course of five weeks, the work leadership training program teaches foundational concepts that can be applied to all Sam’s Club roles. It’s also customizable, so associates can adjust content to match their desired career path. To date, MQ has helped us identify, develop, manage and reward the talents of more than 58,000 associates. What’s more is approximately 79% of the 58,000 associates who have taken MQ are still with us.

Sam’s Club’s new Manager Academy (MA) builds on that momentum. Since its launch six months ago, more than 120 Sam’s Club managers have participated in the week-long training course. The immersive program focuses on our culture and values, equipping managers with leadership skills to lead hundreds of associates, build relationships in their communities and create even better member experiences. We will be extending the Manager Academy experience to Market Managers in Q1 of FY25.

Managers like Millie Damas from Orlando, Florida, say the immersive experience has allowed them to learn from their peers as well as current and future leaders. And the learning doesn’t stop once the week-long session wraps. After managers return to their clubs, they are paired with tenured managers for a six-month mentorship.

As Sam’s Club continues to cultivate a culture of belonging and opportunity, programs like these are just the beginning. This year, we’re rolling out even more focused leadership training programs, including two new offerings for Team Managers called License2Lead and License2Operate. We’re also partnering with OneTen, a coalition of companies committed to coming together to train, hire and advance one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.

At Sam’s Club, we’re proud to be called a Great Place to Work – and we’re committed to creating paths of growth and opportunity for everyone.