Judith McKenna: National Opportunity Summit 2016

Judith McKenna at the 2016 Opportunity Summit

Judith McKenna's luncheon remarks at Opportunity Nation – National Opportunity Summit 2016

Judith McKenna, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Walmart, 2016 Opportunity Summit


Thanks, Monique.

And a special thanks to Opportunity Nation for bringing us together...

It’s a pleasure to be with you this afternoon.

We’re here today because we’re trying to achieve the same thing...

Improving opportunity and economic mobility in the U.S.

I want to start with how opportunity and mobility in retail relate to your work.

Retail has an important role to play

For many, retail won’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think opportunity.

And I suspect Walmart might be one of the LAST places many would think of.

There’s a misperception that retail jobs are “dead-end” jobs.

The retail industry makes up nearly 1 in 4 American jobs... about 42 million in total...

That’s a HUGE number of jobs... but let me put a finer point on how it relates to you.

Research tells us 59% of American adults have worked in the retail sector.

That means there’s a better chance than not that the next person YOU hire will have worked in retail.

So whether you’re an employer or a young person entering the workforce, the question is... are retailers doing enough to train and develop their people?

Are we equipping our people with skills like customer service and team work...

What about personal skills like responsibility... accountability... integrity...

Whether people choose to build a career in retail or elsewhere... those skills are invaluable... and transferrable.

And as a retail leader we have a tremendous responsibility to get this right for our associates... our customers... and our business.

I’m often asked... “Do you put your business first or your people first?”

The answer is that you can’t separate the two... they go hand in hand.

Businesses have to start thinking of our people as an investment... rather than an expense...

When your people succeed... so does your business.

So, what is Walmart doing to rethink retail careers?

Who we hire

For us, it all starts with who we hire in our stores.

Quite simply... education isn’t a barrier for entry.

That means that anyone... at any stage in their career can join.

And for associates interested in getting a degree...

Our Lifelong Learning Program offers affordable tuition and more than 190 degree and certification programs through American Public University...

But to get off on the right foot, nothing can replace bringing a smile to work... taking care of your customers and working as a team...

Doing those fundamental things well gives you a long runway at Walmart.

So, once we’ve hired the right people... it’s up to us to train for skill.

How we train - Pathways

We want the people we hire to stay and have a career with us.

Last year we promoted more than 200,000 people... 58,000 were promoted to manager roles.

In fact, 75 percent of our store management teams started as hourly associates.

But whether you stay with us or not... we want you to be better prepared for other opportunities because of the training you received at Walmart.

Our new associates begin training with Pathways... for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 18 months...

Pathways teaches associates soft skills like proper business dress and customer service...

As well as hard skills... like retail and business fundamentals...

We also take the time to explain the “WHY” behind all of it.

Upon graduating Pathways... you get a pay bump in your hourly compensation.

And like its name suggests... Pathways provides visibility into available paths beyond entry-level.

One path available to associates is an hourly supervisor role...

How we train – Academies

We’ve woken up to the fact the hourly supervisor role is a REAL step up in responsibility.

You might be running an important department within the store... like Fresh or Home...

You may be leading a team of 30 or more people.

That’s an exciting opportunity... and it’s up to us put our associates in a position to succeed.

Earlier this year... we launched our Academy training program...

Where new supervisors and department managers across a region... participate in an intense two-week course... that combines classroom learning and sales floor training.

Let’s hear what the program means for our associates... in their own words.

We probably underestimated what a big deal this training would be... but also the graduation you saw at the end of that video.

At the end of the two weeks we host a graduation ceremony... and invite the associate’s family.

For some, this is the first graduation they’ve participated in... and it’s such a special moment.

We have about a dozen academies up and running right now...

By next July, we’ll have scaled to 200 academies across the U.S.

And have trained more than 250,000 existing and new associates.

And by the way... we designed our academy rollout plan around what’s convenient for our associates.

It’s not practical to fly half-way across the country... and spend two weeks away from family.

So almost every academy is within 55 miles of the associates’ home store.

You can be whoever... a single mom... a student... anyone... and we’ll make it easy for you to get academy training.


As we work on who we hire and how we train... the final part of the associate journey is how we promote.

It’s important that every associate knows they can start anywhere and go as far as their talent and drive take them.

Associates want more transparency around their career path... from entry-level to supervisor... from department to assistant manager... all the way through to my job.

And we have to be clearer and consistent in setting the bar for promotion at each level.

What skills... experiences... leadership is required to move up.

Getting it right for people & the business

Putting our 1.3 million people on the path to success ultimately puts our business on the path to success.

Our $2.7 billion investment in people is leading to meaningful results...

Our customers are noticing a difference in our stores.

And we’re seeing positive financial results as well.

Thank you & close

But opportunity and mobility in the workforce is COMPLEX...

Who you hire and how you train are important pieces... but they’re just that...

Pieces of a bigger puzzle that includes compensation... scheduling... technology... and more.

We’re on a journey... we believe we’re starting to scratch the surface on opportunity...

And we have so many of you in the audience to thank for that.

We’re excited to work with more of you... and share what we’ve learned along the way as well...

Economic mobility and opportunity will continue to be one of the defining issues in the U.S.

And I look forward to your partnership and advice as we work together toward a better, brighter future...

Thank you.