Dec. 17, 2019
By Matt Smith, Walmart Corporate Affairs
If you’ve ever gone through a remodel in your home or office, you know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be.
The Walmart real estate team knows how disruptive store construction is for customers, so they’ve created an unexpected career path for associates – remodeling stores full time.
Over the past few years, Walmart has focused on remodeling its U.S. stores to give customers an updated shopping experience, but the amount of work that goes into these remodels is staggering. Right now, Walmart real estate is completing about 500 full store remodels each year along with thousands of special projects in stores across the country.
John Clarke, Walmart vice president of real estate, explains that one of the biggest challenges to completing a store remodel is finding enough people to do the work. Traditionally, much of the pressure is placed on the store manager. For instance, a store needs to hire up to 60 temporary associates within a couple of weeks just to complete a 12-week remodel.
“It can be difficult, if not impossible, to ask a store management team to come up with that many people,” he said.
These temporary associates are responsible for receiving and assembling store fixtures as well as moving and setting merchandise. Learning these processes takes time and effort; it’s specialized work that store-based Walmart associates learn through weeks of training in our Academies. Temporary associates don’t get this training, so the lack of knowledge is a significant hurdle to overcome.
But, for an established Walmart associate, building merchandise displays throughout the store from the ground up can be an opportunity to expand knowledge and advance a career. These reasons led Walmart real estate to build new teams of full-time associates focused on remodeling stores.
Each team is made up of around 30 Walmart associates. They’re based in urban markets with high concentrations of stores, and this past year, more than 1,000 associates have been hired to these new remodel teams.
Angelic Campbell was one of the first remodel team members to be hired in late 2018. She was working in an Atlanta supercenter when she heard about the newly developed remodel teams. In the three years Angelic worked at her store, she had held every job at the front end – from cashier to customer service – before being promoted to department manager.
She thought her career path would always be in store operations when she began to hear about a new opportunity to remodel stores. Within just a couple days, one of her friends texted her about the new opportunity, and she noticed a recruiting flyer in her store advertising the new remodel teams. It seemed as though Angelic was seeing information about remodel teams everywhere she looked.
But it wasn’t until a chance encounter in the personnel office that she would consider the alternate career path. A recruiter happened to be visiting Angelic’s store on a mission to hire high-performing hourly associates for the newly-formed teams.
Angelic was intrigued by the possibility to see stores transform through the remodel process. And, with a starting rate of $16 per hour, the new position payed a couple dollars more an hour than the average department manager starting wage. She applied on the spot and was hired to a remodel team in her area shortly thereafter.
Once Angelic was on a remodel team, she became immersed in aspects of a Walmart store she hadn’t considered, like assembling new fixtures she’d never touched before. And, after completing just a couple of remodels, she was proficient with the handheld devices she had only just begun to use as a department manager to scan product and manage inventory.
For someone who’d been a full-time associate for three years, completing remodels allowed her to understand the entire store quickly – faster than working her way around the store one department at a time.
This type of knowledge is exactly what Clarke and the rest of the real estate team had hoped associates would get out of the experience. By the time team members have completed three remodels, they are well-versed in building and stocking product in a Walmart store. The experience gained on remodel projects sets associates up for success in Walmart’s real estate division, but there’s also a clear path to return to store operations.
The underlying intent for these positions is for them to be a training and development program that helps to put talent back into stores
And, there’s plenty of opportunity. The plan is to hire over 400 more remodel associates in 15 markets early next year. The goal is for these teams to finish around 100 remodels and to participate in hundreds more special projects in 2020.
Angelic is excited for the new career path that's opening up for her. She was recently promoted to field assistant manager, and she’s excited for the opportunity to lead her own store remodel team. Her story illustrates a core goal of the SWAT teams according to Clarke. The new teams “allow us to have knowledgeable, caring associate talent working on our remodels. Both customers and associates benefit from that,” he concluded.