Walmart to give hiring preferences to military spouses

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 220 views 

Elise Hackstall, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a West Point graduate, joined Walmart about 10 years ago. She is one of the more than 230,000 veterans who work for the retail giant.

Walmart announced Monday (Nov. 12) it will give hiring preferences to military spouses with a new initiative, “Military Spouse Career Connection.” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon made the announcement at the retailer’s Veteran’s Day event held at the company headquarters in Bentonville.

“Military spouses are truly this nation’s unsung heroes,” McMillon said. “They serve and sacrifice equally with their uniformed spouses, and we want to not only honor them, but to offer them good jobs, or better, amazing careers.”

Walmart said the initiative complements its Veterans Welcome Home commitment launched in 2013 and expanded in 2015 to hire 250,000 military veterans by 2020. The retailer said it’s on track to surpass this goal next year. Walmart has already hired more than 212,000 veterans since 2013 and 32,000 of them have been promoted since joining Walmart and Sam’s Club.

The retailer said there are more than a half million active duty military spouses nationwide. Despite a growing national economy and a low unemployment around 4%, that rate spikes to 26% for military spouses. Walmart hopes to address that with the new hiring initiative. Frequent relocation can present challenges to military spouses looking to secure employment. The Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership reports about 77% of the employed spouses either want or need work and could benefit from this new program.

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families said military spouses are diverse, adaptable, educated and often team oriented and civically engaged. Nearly 85% have some college education or higher and about 25% have bachelor’s degrees, while 10% have advanced degrees.

“We have a duty to honor veterans and military families,” said Retired Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, senior director of military programs for Walmart. “But, more importantly, they are tremendous assets to our business. Military spouses bring many of the same leadership qualities we see in veterans, yet they are disproportionately unemployed. We welcome them to Walmart and hope they will consider us for the next step on their career journey.”

He said Walmart already offers military spouses and veterans the ability to transfer from one Walmart or Sam’s Club location to another when a spouse is transferred because of the military. The new program carries the commitment a step farther, Profit said.

Profit said effective Monday, any military spouse with a valid Uniformed Services Identification Card will get a hiring preference when they apply for a job with the company. All candidates must meet the standard hiring criteria, and available positions can be found online.

Walmart recently spotlighted a military veteran in a blog post on its website. Elise Hackstall is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. She joined Walmart about 10 years ago has been promoted several times since her first job as a shift manager in Columbus, Ga.. She worked her way up to store manager running the largest supercenter in that market. She has held roles in human resources and most recently returned to operations as a development market manager, where she is training to supervise teams across multiple stores.

The training, along with her previous position as a market human resources manager across stores in four states, has introduced Hackstall to Walmart employees from a variety of backgrounds.

“It’s really helped me to have a bigger appreciation of what kind of people make up our business – people from all over the country who help our stores to be successful,” she noted in the blog post.

Hackstall’s longstanding interest in human resources work extends back to her Army service at Fort Knox, Ky., where she was stationed after graduating from West Point. Hackstall served as a personnel officer and continued in human resources positions after transitioning to the Army Reserve in 2008.

She continued to serve as a reserve officer until this past spring when she left the military to focus on her career with Walmart. She said there are three skills veterans often carry into civilian life, communication, commitment and accountability. She said these are a good fit in retail. Hackstall said military people know how to come up with a plan, articulate the plan and then execute it. She said often it is veteran’s who are tagged with running point in stores on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

When asked to give advice to candidates applying for work at Walmart, she said the company is fast-paced and requires employees to be extremely adaptable.

”Anybody who joins Walmart will quickly realize whether the company is a fit for them or not,” she says. “You can’t be rigid in your thought process.”

One of the benefits of working at Walmart is the broad range of roles for candidates which can include medical services to real estate and information systems as well as security and loss prevention.

“There are limitless opportunities with this company,” she said. “Whatever you want to do – short of being a brain surgeon or an astronaut – you can do for Walmart.”

She has her sightsset on being the head of HR for Walmart, saying every position she has taken is helping to prepare her to be competitive for that role when the time is right.

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