On the Rooftop. The Wind at Our Backs

Dec. 20, 2021

4 Min. Read
Associates and shoppers with mask and gloves during the COVID-19 outbreak at Sam’s Club on May18, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Christopher Shryock

It feels like yesterday when I sat down with Donna Morris and Kath McLay to talk about the opportunity to lead the Sam’s People Team. I had a fantastic career at PepsiCo spanning over a decade, and I had just begun to settle down in Texas after many years overseas. But as I learned more about Sam’s Club, something shifted.

I remember walking away from my initial conversations thinking about the size and scale of Sam’s and its unique position to influence positive change for associates, the members who shop the clubs and the communities where they operate. I was impressed with the entrepreneurial culture and innovative spirit that was allowing Sam’s to move with speed. And, most importantly, everyone I spoke with was a remarkable combination of smart, driven, and humble — exactly the type of people that I wanted to work with. I couldn’t wait to get started.

I joined Sam’s Club at a time of incredible growth. We’ve posted five consecutive quarters of double-digits sales comps, eCommerce sales are booming, and our membership is at an all-time high. But we knew we needed to do even more. There is an old John F. Kennedy quote that says, "the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." And that’s how Sam’s has treated every moment of the past year. We have great momentum, and we know our work isn’t done. We’ve continued to transform to meet the changing needs of our associates and members, and I’m proud of the pivotal role that the Sam’s People Team has played in that transformation.

Over the past year—on the rooftop, the wind at our backs—our People team focused on five key areas.

One. Getting the right team in place.

Having a diverse team in terms of strengths and experiences is critical to the success of any organization. And we epitomized that as a People organization by bringing together an all-star team consisting of associates from other Walmart segments, associates from outside companies, and associates already on the Sam’s People team. This mix of leaders and perspectives has raised the capability of the function and allowed us to deliver more than ever this year.

Two. Fixing the basics.

Getting systems and processes right directly enables the business to move with speed and ease. And from the beginning, one common theme that continued to surface was that we weren’t moving fast enough with our hiring processes. It was taking up to three weeks to hire a new associate, frustrating both the applicant and the business. Fast forward to today, we’ve redesigned our digital system to expedite the process, allowing us to hire an associate in as little as 24 hours. We now have the capacity to hire 3,000 associates per two-week pay period and our 600+ clubs and supply chain sites have been fully staffed since October as a result, which is a huge unlock.

Three. Investing in development.

We’re all about growing careers, developing talent, and creating opportunity at Sam’s Club. So, we made several investments to continue the growth and development of our associates including providing free tuition and books for associates enrolled in the Live Better U program and launching a new Manager Quality training program. What makes the Manager Quality program so special is that it focuses on practical managerial skills, and it helps prepare associates for a future management role, regardless of their current job.

Four. Investing in Wages.

At Sam’s, competitive pay isn’t about how others perceive us. It’s about doing what’s right. We expect a lot out of our associates, and we want to ensure we continue to reward them. In September, Sam’s Club took our U.S. hourly minimum to $15 and made additional wage investments in roles such as Team Leads, Personal Shoppers and Forklift Drivers as well as in key geographies. We also made investments in Supply Chain and rolled out a new comp structure within our Health & Wellness business. Receiving emails of appreciation from associates while seeing turnover decline and our member service increase, not only makes me feel good, but it tells me that we did the right thing by our associates and for the business.

Five. Building a Sam’s Club for everyone. 

A few months before I joined Sam’s, the company developed seven areas of focus called Sam’s Club 7 to ensure we were creating a culture where all associates feel included and engaged. Over the course of the year, we made progress on several fronts. We introduced new education to help our associates lead teams inclusively and build an understanding of how to become allies and advocates for change. We also grew our number of minority suppliers and invested in HBCUs. We have made progress in our diversity representation in key cohorts, and we have big plans to continue driving progress together over the next year.

We’ve had a busy year fixing the roof on sunny days, and the business has never been healthier. We have the right team in place, and the right foundations are there in terms of our systems, associate development, compensation, and inclusion.

Next year, we will go even further. Not only continuing and enhancing our current efforts, but also developing a member obsessed culture, investing more in our associates, and building the Sam’s Club of the future. We’re just getting started.