Will Walmart’s career path strategy give it a recruiting advantage?

Photo: Walmart
May 17, 2022

Walmart is serious about recruitment and retention. The retailer has created a series of career path programs designed to let associates pursue advancement opportunities throughout the organization, from store-level to its headquarters in Bentonville.

A blog post co-authored by Amy Goldfinger, senior vice president, global talent & workforce strategy, and  Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president, learning & leadership, lays out elements of the company’s plan to keep its talent pool rich.

Walmart expects to grow its Home Office internship program 30 percent over last year. Students pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees in fields including finance, human resources, merchandising, supply chain and technology are assigned to projects that match their skill sets and interests.

The student projects are not just make-work — contributions are expected “to make an impact on the company, our customers, members and associates.” Interns are given the opportunity to make connections with leaders at Walmart and most are expected to transition into full-time positions with the retailer upon graduation.

The retailer is also piloting a new program this summer that will give recent college graduates and those graduating within the next year a means to become store managers within two years.

College2Career, as the program has been named, includes classroom training, hands-on experience and mentoring with company leaders to learn what is required to be salaried managers at local Walmarts.

Those successful making it through the store manager program are offered the newly-created job of emerging coach with an annual salary of $65,000. College graduates will be able to move into the role immediately, and those finishing up school will go into the position upon receiving their degrees.

Walmart expects emerging coaches will step up into store management roles within two years. The average store manager for Walmart earned $210,000 in 2021.

The retailer is also looking to provide opportunities for frontline associates to move up to corporate roles. The company in March launched Home Office Pathway Experience, a program that connects frontline workers pursuing college degrees in in-demand roles such as cybersecurity and merchandising to corporate positions. The program, which runs eight weeks, enables associates to build on existing skills and learn new ones. Those that do well in the program are eligible to pursue a full-time position upon completion of their undergraduate studies.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do Walmart’s store and corporate recruitment and training programs stack up against other large retailers? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in Walmart’s HR strategy?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"The theme here is: Look after your staff, and they'll look after you."
"If this program can attract college-educated candidates for career positions, they leapfrog everyone else in the industry."
"Retail as a career, what a concept! Paying store managers up to $210,000 is a breakthrough number, and that’s from last year."

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Will Walmart’s career path strategy give it a recruiting advantage?"

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Mark Ryski

Walmart’s recruitment and training programs hit all the right notes – meaningful education, opportunities and pay. The largest retailers understand that there is a battle for talent, and so creating incentives and meaningful programs to build skills and earn top wages is key. I see lots of obvious strengths in what Walmart is offering, not so much on weaknesses.

Brian Delp
6 months 17 days ago

This is phase 2 of Walmart’s investment in a future talent pool. Last year around the same time frame, timed for back-to-college season, they among other retailers announced a tuition reimbursement program. This next phase will certainly allow them to stand out and positions them as a leader in these types of benefits. They have always been an advocate for upwards mobility, tasking even executives to understand the store associate experience, but this is a more formalized bottom-up approach. Great move and great program.

Paula Rosenblum
Retailers generally work to build “a bench” of future store managers. This has been, in my experience, communicated verbally, and generally not part of an official program. My friend Greg Girard always said that retail gets first crack at the best talent in the country, because so many high school and college kids had their first jobs in retail or distribution. And his question was, “Why do retailers let this talent slip through their fingers?” Walmart is trying to change that, and I applaud them for it. I also think it’s a nice starting salary (though I’ve lost all track of competitive salaries at this point), but the “prize” at the end – the salary of a Walmart store manager is definitely real money – especially for the well-trained. Walmart needs something similar in the home office. There are several colleges with retail divisions (the Lundgren Center comes to mind, along with FIT for pure apparel merchandising. Somehow I’m assuming there are scholarships in there somewhere, and I know the schools are teaching technology along… Read more »
Jeff Sward

I love how comprehensive this program is. It’s got all the ingredients to produce well rounded executives. It covers a wide range of the business’s support functions. And that average salary of a store manager is an attractive lure, as long as everybody remembers that every nickel will be well earned.

Dave Bruno

Career paths are often much more clearly defined (and documented) in retail corporate offices than they are in stores. This program feels like a great step toward giving store personnel (the vast majority of a retail organization’s employees) a great sense of how to advance and grow. This will help Walmart attract better talent and should bring long-term rewards for both employees and the business. Sounds like a winning program to me.

Carol Spieckerman

Walmart’s multi-faceted and specific recruitment programs demonstrate intent and that makes all the difference. Walmart is taking responsibility for building next-generation leadership both in stores and at HQ and all of retail will benefit from the influx of new talent. The programs should boost long-term retention, yet in the short term, the disappointing earnings Walmart reported today will likely lead to staff cuts. The trick will be to hit the right balance of inflow and outflow over time without compromising morale and productivity.

Ken Morris

This is a great strategy for Walmart. Retail as a career, what a concept! Paying store managers up to $210,000 is a breakthrough number, and that’s from last year. They are also paying truck drivers $110,000. I believe Walmart, with its stores located within a 10 mile radius of 90 percent of the U.S. population, is poised to create a home delivery model that can give Amazon enough consternation to start paying people a living wage. One more thought: the clear path from internship to management will make Walmart a viable option for college students. Let’s hope Walmart also keeps its eyes open for those with a talent and drive but, for whatever reason, without a college degree.

Liza Amlani

Walmart’s career path strategy is spot on in retention, recruitment and empowerment of retail workers.

The strategy sets Walmart apart from other retailers and I hope they will learn to do the same. We need to empower our retail workers and staff so they become true brand ambassadors embedded in great customer service. This is what retail needs today.

Bob Amster

Walmart is offering a path for every young person in, or coming into, the organization. It is a good investment. There will be some early attrition by employees from the program but, overall, the initiative will pay off for the company. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when we people enjoyed working for their retail employer and stayed with the company their entire working life. Bill Saum started as a stockboy in a Kmart and ended his working career as the president of the apparel division almost five decades later.

Shep Hyken

In addition to pay and benefits, employees want to have future opportunity. The company that has a good training and development program that promotes from within has an advantage over other employers.

Cathy Hotka

Walmart has been working on associate development for years now, and they’re serious. If this program can attract college-educated candidates for career positions, they leapfrog everyone else in the industry.

Gary Sankary

Walmart has made some remarkable changes that I believe have the opportunity to make some significant and positive impacts for their team members. Over the last few years they’ve significantly increased the number of benefited employees in their stores, they’ve offered tuition reimbursement, they enrolled all of their store teams in Walmart+, and now they have an internal development program for their teams. All of this will help with retention and, I suspect, help to deter union organizing at Walmart.

I hope the rest of retail is taking notice. Walmart is changing the HR game for their teams and they deserve credit for it.

Kevin Graff

Anyone remember when Walmart was viewed as the “evil empire”? Not anymore! They’ve been on the right path with their staff for a long time now. These new initiatives are fantastic. Now, the reality is that retailers without the immense resources Walmart has can’t match this. But they can certainly step up to do better onboarding, and at the same time build succession training programs as part of leading staff to a better career. The theme here is: Look after your staff, and they’ll look after you.

6 months 16 days ago

The problem is the burn out created by the ongoing new programs and restructures. They have high turnover in this position. Career people who started as cashiers and work up to store manager end up leaving after a few years and take jobs at other retailers as a store manager making half as much.

Walmart needs to make some real changes to how it does things to retain store managers. This program doesn’t even touch the issues that have caused this situation.

And it is a situation. Over the Christmas shopping season in my area five Walmarts had the store manager position vacant.

Craig Sundstrom

Walmart’s advantage is its size: with a huge workforce and locations all over the country (and much of the world, really) it offers a multitude of paths to follow. Of course size is also (one of) its biggest disadvantages: for a person who wants to “rise to the top” the capstone is a tiny part of the pyramid.

Kai Clarke

Smart, smart, smart! Walmart is really realizing that their business is people. Establishing paths to maximize their human resources before potential employees are hired after they graduate, gives Walmart a firm step ahead of their competition! Add great compensation, benefits and transparent steps to success and you have a winning strategy for Walmart!

Anil Patel

Companies like to hire freshers for entry-level positions for a variety of reasons. However, most of the time fresh college graduates lack the necessary skills to perform their tasks efficiently. The only practical alternative, in this case, is to train them on the job. Internship programs make perfect sense in this situation because:

  • Training students during their education will prepare them for work immediately after graduation.
  • During college, students will be more open to learning.
  • Students might expect lower compensation because they are concentrating on skill development.
  • Students and organizations will be able to determine whether they are a good fit for one another during the internship.
"The theme here is: Look after your staff, and they'll look after you."
"If this program can attract college-educated candidates for career positions, they leapfrog everyone else in the industry."
"Retail as a career, what a concept! Paying store managers up to $210,000 is a breakthrough number, and that’s from last year."

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