Oct. 30, 2019
By Drew Holler, Senior Vice President, Associate Experience
The future of work and the impact of technology on how we work is a hot topic around the world, and at Walmart, we are no exception. In fact, when we think about the future of work, we know we have to get it right to serve our changing customers and provide great jobs for our associates – both now and in the future. As the world’s largest private employer, we know we have an important role to play, and we believe that the future belongs to everyone. The future of work at Walmart is bright.
Here’s what we know: Customer needs are changing, and retail work is changing to meet those needs. Today’s time-starved customers want a simpler shopping experience in stores and online. Today’s workforce wants a sense of belonging, work that matters, and empowerment to make a difference. All of this is happening as the nature of work is being redefined by technology, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and robotics. This fundamental change provides employers a chance to unleash their teams’ creativity to solve problems like never before. To do this, employers must meet their employees’ needs by providing education for new skills and an environment where individuals can thrive.
We are obsessed with helping our associates unlock their potential and creativity. We are doing that by creating roles associates want, getting rid of the tasks they don’t and ensuring they are ready to succeed through lifelong learning, whether it’s through our more than 200 on-the-clock training academies or higher education that’s available to them for $1 a day.
We believe this is the key to winning the future of retail. There are many examples where we are seeing the power of our associates’ creativity and how that’s helping our customers. These aren’t always stories that make headlines, but they add up to a big impact.
Problem Solving in Retail Stores
Megan Brown is a frontline, hourly associate in our Galt, California store, where we are piloting a new way of working that takes advantage of technology and automation. It’s a transformation that streamlines tasks and creates multi-functional roles to empower associates to own their piece of our overall business.
As a host, Megan owns her area daily. She’s entrusted to identify solutions to help her team meet its goals. She keeps her area clean and organized, and is quick to help her teammates to ensure a clean, fast, friendly experience at the front of the store. She delights customers by providing an exceptional experience with refunds and money services and listening to questions and concerns. Megan is essentially an entrepreneur within her store, learning in real time as her contributions improve customers’ lives.
Problem Solving in Distribution Centers
Jason Grounds is a newly promoted area manager at one of our distribution centers in Texas. He started as an hourly frontline associate on an order-filling team but quickly stood out as a natural leader and problem solver. Upon promotion, Jason went to the Supply Chain Academy in Sanger, Texas, where he learned to engage, enable and empower his associates to solve problems without approval or intervention. In the fast-paced distribution center, every minute counts to ensure that items are available when our customers need them.
His team’s skills were tested in September when one of the distribution center’s sorters went down, which can be a catastrophic problem that leads to shipping delays to stores.
The team quickly identified the issue and came up with a plan to divert work through a different part of the DC. The associates kept the day’s work on track with no direction from management.
Because Jason empowered his team, Shelbie Parker, Lance Keffer, Phillip McEntyre and Freddy Gonzales were able to act quickly. As a leader, Jason understands the importance of supporting his associates so they can make the right call.
Problem Solving in Technology
As a Product Innovations Manager, Rachel Dunham is a front-line problem solver on the Associate Experience team. Talking to store leaders, she saw an opportunity to help make hiring great associates easier. Rachel and a team of technology and business leaders developed a skills-based assessment that uses virtual reality to simulate everyday obstacles. Once a candidate completes a 15-minute assessment, leaders use the results to help them remove subjectivity and unconscious bias from the selection process. This solution enables a people-led, tech-empowered way of working.
Our People Make the Difference
With a store within 10 miles of 90% of our nation’s population, Walmart U.S. associates are a representation of the communities we serve. Our associates are bold business owners and problem solvers like Erika, Jason and Rachel. We’re veterans like Michael Del Rosario. We’re military spouses like Katie Tidmore. We’re immigrants who fled war-torn countries to pursue the American dream and now lead a multi-million-dollar business like Shabnam Ighani. And more than 230,000 of us got promoted last year (more than half of them women, like Janine Johnson, who was promoted to market human resources manager just this month!).
We come from dozens of countries and speak more than 115 languages. We’re 16 years old to 102 years old. We’ve achieved every level of education imaginable, and we’re still learning: More than 10,000 of us have been accepted into Live Better U (like these associates) and more than 1 million have been trained through our academies like Shantanica Day. We’re are a company who believes that you can start out loading trucks and become the CEO (because it happened) or moving freight and now lead a team dedicated to improving the associate experience of more than a million people (hint: that’s me).
These are just a few examples of who we are. All 1.4 million of us. Every Walmart associate has the ability to solve problems, to meet customers’ evolving needs, to improve the associate experience, and to prepare the company and each other for success in the future of work.