Walmart CEO: ‘Retail is about change’
In a keynote presentation at NRF’s Retail’s Big Show, Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, highlighted the importance of fostering a culture that supports change in an increasingly tech-driven marketplace.
Much of the change, he said, is occurring around the shopper experience as digital and in-store elements are combined.
Part of that effort to encourage embracing change involves an increased emphasis on training. During the prior week, Walmart earned praise for expanding its minimum wage and benefits for employees as a result of the new tax reform. That came on top of significant workforce investments that began in 2015.
But Mr. McMillon, who was interviewed by NRF’s CEO Matthew Shay, said the part of those investments that “doesn’t get talked about enough” is skills development. Said Mr. McMillon, “The tools we’re using today are different than the tools we used to use, and the tools coming tomorrow will also be different.”
Generally, Mr. McMillon said, associates are eager to use the tools because they make their jobs easier. “The tasks we’re able to automate or digitize are not tasks that they really enjoy doing anyway and we’re freeing them up to do things that are more fun,” he said.
While some training in selling floor environments and in warehouses is conducted with the help of handheld devices and communications, 225,000 associates completed classes at one of its in-store academies over the last year to learn specific skillsets. Mr. McMillon added, “What we’re learning is that the people that are able to get through the academy are staying longer and people that report to them are staying longer.”
But beyond training, establishing a culture of change was one of founder Sam Walton’s mantras. Change is a rallying cry still often heard at Walmart associate meetings.
“That gives us a shot,” Mr. McMillon said of the emphasis on change. “What we’ve tried to do in recent times is to say the purpose is the purpose, the values are the values, everything else is open to debate and may change. And we’ll try to always explain why, but we’ve got to be ready to go because retail is about change.”
- CEO Doug Mcmillon On The Future Of Walmart – National Retail Federation
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advice would you have for retailers looking to create a culture of change? What hurdles do retailers face when encouraging associates to embrace many of the new or soon-to-arrive digital tools?