Walmart’s Chief People Officer On Engaging And Growing Employees

Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer, Walmart

Photo Courtesy of Walmart

The best customer insights may be right in front of you: with your employees. Increasingly, the line between employee experience and customer experience is blurring, meaning brands have to treat and value their employees as well (or better) than they treat their customers. After all, the foundation of a great customer experience is a strong employee experience.

I had the chance to interview Walmart’s Chief People Officer Donna Morris about the link between EX and CX, how Walmart invests in upward mobility for employees, and the power of sourcing customer feedback from employees. Here are some of her incredible insights: Blake: It’s been a tough few years.

How do you maintain a positive energy level, even when there are stressors? Donna: I find I get my energy from the ability to make an impact. And there’s been no shortage of opportunities to make an impact for our customers, for our communities, and for our people.

When you think about the role of employees, you have to think about who they’re in service to. And that’s always the end customer. I’ve always believed that if you could create a great environment for your employees, you’ll get to measure that through your customers.

Your customers know when they are dealing with an organization that really invests in its people. The engagement and focus on lifting up employees will impact the customer experience. Blake: Can you talk about what you’re doing with diversity and inclusion and upward mobility of frontline workers?

Donna: I think the most important element is how you provide a pathway of growth and opportunity for individuals. We have a really large workforce, and we’re a diversified business. If we can provide unparalleled growth opportunities for our associates, it will enable their future.

We have three different ways that we invest in growth. One is on the job, which is the best form of growth and development. Hiring somebody frontline and giving them a mobile device that includes job prompts and information about their employment and enables them to build connections is super important.

We have an app that allows people to be successful on the job. We combine that on-the-job training with Walmart Academy, which provides a foundation of not just virtual learning and development but also brick-and-mortar development. And then, we have a great university and secondary education program called Live Better U.

Today, we have more than 75,000 associates engaged in that program. It leads to pathways, whether to finish their high school education, a certificate, or a degree program. We’ve had individuals move from working in our distribution centers frontline to being big fleet drivers earning up to £110,000 a year.

We’ve had individuals who have gone from frontline jobs to working as pharmacy technicians or optical technicians. These are life-changing careers for individuals who go from hourly to salary jobs. If we can demonstrate an unparalleled growth opportunity within the company, it opens up the pipeline for diversity, equity and inclusion.

I encourage everyone to think about what role each of us can play in breaking down barriers that exist for full inclusion in the workplace. It’s not where you went to school; it’s what you do with whatever assets and learning you have. And creating an environment where people can learn on the job is super important because jobs change.

We’re rapidly introducing new jobs, and jobs that people did years ago are no longer relevant. Building a workforce focused around ongoing learning is paramount for all organizations. Blake: In the last few years, we’ve moved from traditional customer experience to a world where all of your workers are basically customers.

Those lines are blurring. Are you, in a way, a Chief Customer Officer? How does that impact your strategy for the company?

Donna: I think an organization like Walmart needs all our top leaders to think about being the Chief Customer Officer. And I think if we all have the lens of being a Chief Customer Officer, we do more to unlock the potential for our business. Similarly, I’d love for all of our people to think like a Chief People Officer because then they’d be focused on creating the environment that allows us to attract, engage, develop, and retain the best associates or employees.

If our own associates aren’t having a great online or in-store experience here at Walmart, how can we expect those who don’t receive a paycheck from us to think of it as a great experience? One thing we’ve done is provide all of our frontline associates with a Walmart Plus membership because we want them to experience what it’s like to be a member. Do they find it beneficial?

Is it saving them money? Is it saving them time? The more you can learn from your employees about the patterns of your customers, the better.

Blake Morgan was called “The Queen of Customer Experience” by Meta.

She is a keynote speaker, bestselling author and futurist.

To watch the podcast version of this interview click here, or listen on Spotify.[4][5]


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