Tech talent is a priority for Wal-Mart, top concern for employers

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 268 views 

Add Jacqui Canney to the list of those calling for education system changes and improvements that better target tech skills that are essential for the the future workforce and future leaders of the workforce.

Canney, executive vice president of Global People (human resources) at Wal-Mart, said during the recent Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit that the fast-paced and ever-changing business world places a premium on talent.

“The war for talent is over, and the talent won,” she said.

The summit was also attended by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who said talent is the top concern for employers.

“When I travel this country and I talk to job creators the single biggest complaint I get from my job creators is not tax policy, although it’s a concern. It’s not regulatory burdens that impede growth, although it’s also a problem. It’s the inability of them to attract a skilled workforce. It’s simple,” Womack told the summit audience.

Womack said younger generations are perhaps being duped into thinking the only way they can be successful is to get a college education. They think that’s the gateway to success, he said. While Womack said college is important, it’s not the only route to the workforce in the future as many of the jobs will require highly skilled technical prowess. He said a complete college education may not be as important as relevant technical experience for the next generation.

Womack favors K-12 education systems retooling to be able to offer specialized technical training for a faster track to the workforce for certain students with the right aptitudes.

Jacqui Canney, executive vice president of Global People division at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Jacqui Canney, executive vice president of Global People division at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) also spoke at the event via video. He said there is no reason Arkansas can’t have a tech-driven economy, but it begins with having enough skilled talent on the ground and the ability to attract and retain highly skilled techies in the future. He said more students across the state must receive specialized technology training to ensure employers have the talent pool they need. He applauded some of the Northwest Arkansas schools for their efforts to help fill the talent gap with fast track technical training during the junior high and high school years.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart signed on to a high school internship program in the area of technology because the retailer recognized the need for experiential training as a critical element going forward in the competitive technology talent pool.

Canney said during her keynote speech at the summit that the world is challenged with attracting top talent and retaining it. She said the next CEO of Wal-Mart will likely be someone with a strong technology and marketing background in addition to retail expertise. Canney said all retailers are challenged to transform into an omni-channel platform and technology talent is crucial in that effort. 

Canney said the days of young hires signing on to work for the same employer for 20 years or more are long gone. She said they are more apt to try and string together an interesting tour of duty with multiple employers which allows them to thread together a varied career.

She said Wal-Mart constantly scours the globe for top talent and competes with Amazon, Google and Apple at every turn when it comes to attracting and retaining technology talent. Canney said when a good employee resigns their post to move to a competitor, she gives them a boomerang in hopes they will consider coming back to Wal-Mart should the right time and opportunity arise.

“It’s not that I don’t want to keep Wal-Mart tech talent for years and years, it’s just not very realistic in this era,” Canney said.

She also said over the years HR processes have been changed by technology applications. She said the retailer uses technology to screen resumes from job applicants. While this is an efficient way to sort for minimal requirements be met, Canney said all job applicants also must go through interview rounds to ensure they are a cultural fit.

She also said transparency has become important now for employers given Internet sites like Glass Door that posts reviews from past employees. Canney said employers also use  Linkedin and other social media sites as a way of peering into prospective job applicants backgrounds and cultural space.