Attendees of the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) industry event, NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, were able to network with peers, scout out new trends and learn from the top talent in the industry. One of the biggest benefits of attending the show was the chance to listen to a wide variety of keynote speakers. To wrap up the first day of the event, NRF’s president and CEO Matthew Shay interviewed Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. McMillon spoke about Walmart’s investments in its employees, technology initiatives and why change must be embraced in retail.
Walmart CEO Stresses Importance of Investing in Employees
The week prior to the show, Walmart announced its plans to increase its minimum wage and expand benefits for employees. According to McMillon, investing in the employee through wage increases, a wealth of benefits and employee training are all key to future success.
“This is a people business,” McMillon says. “The way that customers feel when they leave your store, website or app determines how fast they’re going to come back. There is a piece of humanity here that really matters—in our case, 2.3 million associates around the world, most of them on the front line interacting with our customers. We want them to know how much we care about them and how much we value their work.”
By offering better wages and a good benefits package, McMillon says they are able to hire and retain more talent. However, he says that to complete the puzzle of what it takes to foster a strong workforce is an emphasis on skill training as well.
“As Walmart looks ahead, we will continue to do things with wages when and as we should,” McMillon says. “We’ll continue to manage benefits along the way, too. But the other piece that doesn’t always get talked about is skills development. The tools people are using today are different than the tools we used to use; and the tools coming tomorrow will also be different.”
To encourage employees to grow with the company, McMillon says Walmart has a training academy that has already educated 225,000 employees. He says employees who have participated stay with the company longer and employees who report to those who have attended the academy stay with the company longer as well.
According to McMillon, providing these skills training opportunities helps the worldwide company show its millions of employees that the ladder of opportunity exists for career growth.
Navigating a New Retail World
Another topic of discussion from the Walmart CEO was about the company’s investment in technology. He says Walmart “in some ways, is a different kind of tech company” that is trying to find the best ways to grow and develop its tech-based offerings.
McMillon says as they look for more ways to automate things in retail, Walmart wants its people to be part of that process, which in turn demonstrates they are creating opportunities for the employees.
This company investment can be seen in its various acquisitions, like that of Jet.com and Bonobos. However, McMillon points out that online purchases still represent 12 percent of total Walmart sales. So that means the company wants to find ways to integrate technology and a seamless experience in its brick-and-mortar locations, as well as find ways to continue building and strengthening its e-commerce business.
“The way customers want to live their lives today brings the store and e-commerce experiences together,” he says.
To remain viable in the retail industry, it’s also very important to find ways to change with the times and not remain stagnant, but rather accept and adapt to change, McMillon says.
In the upcoming year, McMillon says Walmart will continue to evolve in order to meet the needs and expectations of its customers. And while talk continues to rumble about a retail apocalypse, he says he believes these assumptions have been widely exaggerated.
“The person who ultimately decides whether we’re here or not is the customer. They make choices about price, assortment and experience,” McMillon says. “If we move in a way that helps us increase value, continues offering product assortment they’re looking for and then constantly improving the experience, whether it’s on an app, through a spoken voice or someday through VR. If we’re better at that we’re going to be here, and if we’re not, we won’t.