Through Academies, Bettering Careers and Customer Service

By Steven Yu
May 31, 2016
A group of associates toss their graduation caps in the air

I joined Walmart 13 years ago because the opportunity seemed limitless. I started as an overnight stocker and worked my way up to a number of different positions in operations. And this year, I made another move to a job I never saw coming but that has since been so right for me.

In February, I transitioned from the sales floor to leading a team of nine trainers responsible for Walmart’s first training academy, housed within a Walmart Supercenter in Carrollton, Texas. The idea was to create a program that brings together department managers from 18 stores in the area for up to two weeks of structured training by a dedicated staff.

Walmart has always had great people. The challenge has been the right balance of instructional and hands-on training to ensure everyone is on the same page. There’s a why to every single thing we do – and it helps to discuss the reasons in person. Customer service is critical, so Walmart is making a major investment in training academies like ours to ensure a consistently positive in-store experience for customers and a rewarding career path for associates.

This is not a temporary thing. My store went through several months of rigorous preparations and training just to become a certified academy. A portion of the building has been permanently renovated into dedicated classroom space, complete with flat-screen monitors and iPads for every associate in the program. The space is equipped to serve up to 68 associates at a time. We’ll first focus on the deli, bakery, produce and meat departments, but later we’ll bring in managers across the entire store. There will be a mix of interactive classroom sessions and hands-on store experience.

A second Academy recently opened in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and a third opened afterward in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with more locations opening the rest of this year. By the end of 2017, more than 200 Academies – each one drawing students from an average of 26 area stores – will be open across the country, training an estimated 140,000 associates annually. Each location has been chosen to make it convenient for the majority of students to commute to and from the training sessions.

It's a whole new experience and the feedback from associates has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I’ve made my career in our stores, so I know the value and the need for something like this. Leading this academy really plays to my greatest strengths. It's so rewarding to be a part of paying it forward.

In the end, it's about putting people in a position to advance and succeed – not only in their own careers, but in creating an outstanding shopping experience for the customers who shop with us each day.