Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., encouraged about 6,000 Walmart U.S. employees to lead with heart and explained the difference between those who do and those who do not as the difference between being good and being great.
On Wednesday (May 30), he spoke in the Walmart U.S. Associates Meeting at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville after other executives discussed programs that have led to increased sales and added incentives for employees. Also, Julie Murphy, executive vice president of people for Walmart, explained a program allowing its employees to earn a college degree for $1 per day and how those enrolled in existing Walmart Academies earn credits toward a college degree.
In the meeting, Foran showed a YouTube video of the director and cast of “The Greatest Showman” that led the movie studio to produce the film. He explained some elements of heart include, skill, confidence, trust, courage and creativity.
“The magic is being able to add your creative flair to something,” said Foran, adding that it might be doing something for the customer that’s not in a training video, but “it’s the right thing to do.”
“Each of you have creative ideas about to make something in your store just a little bit better,” he said before encouraging employees to use their creativity and heart. He also thanked them on behalf of the 150 million customers that shop at Walmart weekly and the 1.3 million Walmart employees.
Mark Ibbotson, executive vice president of central operations for Walmart, showed a video of virtual reality training for employees that’s available as a pilot in 10 stores. He also showed a training simulator he likened to The Sims game and how it takes an avatar of an employee through a scenario that allows an employee to take action in what to do, for example, in the event of a spill or how to help a customer looking for an item. Ibbotson said the employee who comes up with the winning name for the game will have their own avatar to use in the game, which is available in Walmart Academy.
Walmart is also testing a smartphone app that will allow employees to set their hours they work for up to a quarter and allow them to switch shifts with other employees or pick up extra shifts that have yet to be scheduled, Ibbotson said. The app will be available to employees companywide by the end of the year.
SELLING SQUISHIES, WEARING BLUE JEANS
Michael Moore, executive vice president and president of Supercenters, and Todd Harbaugh, executive vice president of Neighborhood Markets, along with Steve Bratspies, executive vice president of general merchandise, encouraged the use of the volume producing item (VPI) program in which employees select a specific item to help increase sales.
Bratspies said the goal for July is to have 500,000 VPI entries, and the item he selected was squishies toys before employees threw out hundreds of them to employees in the arena. Bratspies expects Walmart to sell 3.5 million squishies this year, a sales growth of more than 50% from last year.
Executives said the volume producing item program helped to drive the 2.1% same-store sales growth in the first quarter for Walmart U.S. They also said e-commerce sales rose 33% in the period, and that by the end of the year, the company will have more than 2,100 online grocery pickup locations and over 450 Pickup Towers, from 1,400 locations and 200 towers, respectively.
And starting next week, employees will be allowed to wear blue jeans, an announcement that was repeated and received applause throughout the meeting.
HUNGER, HURRICANE RELIEF
Tony Rogers, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, talked about how wait times for Walmart Pickup have fallen and friendly scores have risen. Rogers also explained the company gave more than $70 million in hurricane relief. This year, the company has given more than 230 million meals in its campaign to fight hunger, Bratspies said.
The company also has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in America through its Investing in American Jobs, Bratspies said. By 2023, the company has pledged to buy about $250 billion in products to support the addition of American jobs.
Also in the meeting, indie pop band AJR played before a performance by America’s Got Talent contestant Christian Bordino, who received help from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in gaining his sight. Since 1983, the organization and Walmart have raised $5.7 billion for children’s hospitals, according to the organization’s website.
On Friday (June 1), the company will host its annual shareholders celebration at Bud Walton Arena, where about 12,000 Walmart employees from stores throughout the world will gather. This year, the company separated its business meeting from the celebration. The business meeting was Wednesday (May 30) at John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.