Walmart Maintains Relentless Focus on Growing Frontline Associates in the Pandemic and Beyond

March 4, 2021

3 Min. Read
Two associates talking on phone and using scan device

March 4, 2021
By Drew Holler, Senior Vice President, People, Walmart U.S.

A few years ago, we made a promise that there would be no better place to learn, grow and build a career than Walmart. Today, we’re fulfilling that promise across the enterprise, building associate opportunity brick-by-brick and investing in the future of every associate who walks through our doors. To do that, we’re taking a three-tiered approach to training and upskilling our associates through Teaming, the Walmart Academies and Live Better U. Together, these programs represent our ongoing commitment to associate development and create a future-focused environment where our people can thrive.

Building Better Teams: On-the-Floor Training

The moment an associate comes to work in our stores, they join a cross-functional team of teams. This structure, called Teaming, was built on our belief in associates. Our associates want to be challenged and engaged, not just asked to complete daily checklists of tasks. Teaming acknowledges this, giving our people ownership of their work. Every day, they have the autonomy to treat their area like its own store within a store, making decisions that move our business forward.

This mentality helps them develop business acumen, critical thinking skills and leadership, all qualities that open doors for advancement. Beyond that, the cross training that Teaming creates can expose associates to new areas of the business where they can progress. Teaming isn’t just about a better experience from day one – it’s about building better careers.

Laying The Foundation: Walmart Academies

Nothing great has ever been built without a strong foundation. That’s why we introduced the Walmart Academies.

The idea behind Academies is simple: We’ve turned select Walmart stores into centers of excellence for learning. Training in Walmart Academies builds on what associates learn every day in stores and supply chain facilities, promoting best practices they can carry into any role. Associates travel to their Academy for foundational, role-specific and ongoing education training that prepares them both for their current role and the future.

Last month in Clermont, Florida, we opened our 202nd Walmart Academy. It’s our 16th in the state and will serve a group of 30 stores and even more associates. To date, associates have completed more than 2 million Academy trainings. But we’re not just training retail fundamentals. We’re also offering courses as varied as ‘Inspire and Motivate’ and ‘Empower Your Team,’ which help associates to act with empathy and focus on people, not tasks. The result is a workforce with more confidence and capability than ever before.

Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed us down when it comes to associate development. All of our Academy coursework has been converted to Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT). With this approach, our associates get the best-in-class learning experience they’ve come to expect, without the risks of travel during a pandemic. This evolution in our training has led to more than 111,000 remote associate trainings completed in the past year.

Launching What’s Next: Live Better U

Opportunities for growth don’t stop with on-the-floor training and Walmart Academies. Frontline associates have another incredible resource: Live Better U. Through our $1 a day college education program, we offer associates the chance to get a college degree from an accredited university and graduate debt free. The data suggests it’s working. We have more than 25,000 associates enrolled and more than 6,000 graduates.

But perhaps more importantly, LBU offers associates a tool to develop themselves outside of work. It’s one thing to invest in professional growth; it’s another thing entirely to open a life-changing door to higher education. When our associates step through it, they choose their path forward and follow their dreams, preparing them for careers at Walmart – or wherever they may choose to go.

Together, these offerings give associates unprecedented opportunity for growth. Whether that’s part of training classes, on-the-job learning or beyond Walmart’s walls with LBU, our people have the resources to build a career. Since 2015, we’ve invested more than $5 billion in training, education, higher pay and expanded benefits for U.S. associates. This investment represents one of our most fundamental beliefs – that our people make the difference. With the right training and development, there’s nothing they can’t do, and as a company, we can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.