Walmart is the world's largest retailer. With 4,500 stores in the US alone, its 1.2 million store associates are the backbone of the business. A few years ago, Doug McMillon, the President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., made a promise: the company would invest $2.7 billion in its people. Today, as part of that growth and development initiative, Walmart has 200 Walmart Academies up and running across the United States.
Known simply as "the Academy" inside Walmart, this initiative is one of the largest employer training programs in the country. It's designed to better prepare employees and managers with skills like merchandising, sales techniques and employee motivation with one to six weeks of hands-on, applicable training. But that’s just on the surface. On a deeper level, Walmart Academy is part of a push for a stronger company culture that’s employee- and community-first. It gives associates the tools and skills they need to do more.
Candace Davis, Director of Content at Walmart Academy, tells a story about sitting in on a recent graduation of a company associate from the Academy: “There was one woman with a lot of family and friends who had joined the celebration. She said, ‘I never graduated from high school. This is my first opportunity to graduate from anything, and for my children to see me be successful at anything.’”
Davis is motivated by the opportunity to make a real impact not just on job productivity and sales, but on the real lives of the quarter-of-a-million associates like this who will go through the Academy this year alone.
“This initiative is so important because we’re wanting to invest in our people so much — making them better at their jobs, better in their everyday life.”
— Candace Davis, Director of Content, Walmart Academy
A one-stop shop for professional and personal growth
Davis came from a professional background in education, not retail. About five years ago, she decided to make a switch and join Walmart. From her teaching-focused vantage point, she saw an opportunity to deliver a unique learning experience to the associates who go through Walmart Academies around the US. She teamed up with technology partners RevUnit (a product-design firm) and Box to build a custom iPad app called AcademyEDU.
The promise of Cloud Content Management is to unite people, information and applications together in a place that's accessible from anywhere. With Box as a content platform, it was easy for Walmart to build a custom app like Academy EDU specifically with a company's end goals and user demographics in mind. Many of Walmart's workers have low tech literacy, so with any technology tool, an intuitive user interface is crucial for adoption. Building on Box ensured that the app would be designed in a way anyone from any department or role at any Walmart could use without training.
Hourly supervisors, department managers, assistant managers and store managers can all go through the program to sharpen their professional skills and grow within the company. “The app is a one-stop-shop for these associates when they come to class," explains Davis. "It includes everything from registration all the way through viewing videos, taking assessments and even the post-work of giving associates feedback."
“Box was so flexible and agile that it was something we could continue to use as a platform, and the team here has just been incredible to work with."
— Candace Davis
Measuring success in the ways that matter
Walmart measures success in a lot of ways, not just sales but things like associate retention and turnover. Davis frequently refers to "the Walmart family" when talking about the professional and personal development Walmart Academy provides. Since implementing the Academies, she's seen customer service and satisfaction scores increase, employee retention increase and turnover decline.
These are all significant productivity savings, of course, and the company's intention is to continue to grow the training program and invite more associates to participate in more regions, even internationally. Citing future intentions, Davis says, “The app will continue to meet our needs and grow and evolve as we include things like virtual reality, augmented reality, adaptive learning and personalized learning. Our app will need to, and will, continue to meet our needs.”
"We absolutely see this growing. We see our app being able to do all kinds of things. We just need to keep pushing our business partners to meet our strategy and vision.”
— Candace Davis