Walmart Utilizes College Grad Program to Recruit Store Managers

The retail giant wants to protect its labor pool for the top store spot, which often pays over $200,000 a year.

May 17, 2022

Young Walmart Employee Store Manager

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Walmart is protecting its labor pool of store managers through a program that recruits and trains college graduates to become Walmart store managers, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The College2Career program has grads starting at $65,000 a year and leads them on an accelerated two-year track into the top store job. The program launched this spring with two graduates, and Walmart aims to bring nearly 1,000 applicants through this summer.

Many of Walmart’s store managers have been in their roles for at least a decade, and the tight labor market and competition for workers has Walmart looking for a new generation to fill the top store role. The position often pays more than $200,000 a year.

“My talent pool for store manager three years from now was not going to be what I needed it to be,” Brandy Jordan, a Walmart human-resources executive, told the Times.

The store-manager role is usually filled by internal candidates, who have worked for nearly a decade to train as assistant store managers and then co-managers. Around 75% of Walmart managers started out as hourly workers at the company.

Walmart is strategizing to keep and recruit employees with Walmart’s head of human resources Donna Morris telling the Times that by the end of 2020, Walmart was focusing on its workers, as “our workforce is truly the best asset.”

To attract more workers, Walmart increased its minimum pay for thousands of workers and began offering more and better opportunities for training. Walmart's average pay is $16.40 an hour, and the starting wage goes up to $30 an hour in select roles and markets. Walmart also offers medical coverage starting at $31.40 per pay period in most locations and offers a telehealth option. All employees have access to thousands of fitness locations nationwide starting at $9 per paycheck. Employees also have access to a 401(k) on day one at Walmart with a dollar-for-dollar company match on contributions up to 6% after one year.

The retailer also dropped the dollar-per-day fee employees paid to participate in the company’s subsidized university degree program, a move that boosted participation by 44%, Morris told the Times.

Walmart is also paying its truck drivers up to $110,000 in their first year, and the retailer is launching a 12-week program that allows its supply chain associates in the Dallas, Texas, and Dover, Delaware, areas to earn their commercial driver’s license and become long-haul truck drivers for Walmart.

In the first quarter of this year, Walmart was working to hire more than 50,000 workers in the U.S. during the first quarter for its stores.

Aside from lifting pay, employers who pay attention to their employees’ health and offer enhanced benefits might have an edge when it comes to retaining staff, a Quest Diagnostics survey found. Among employees thinking about changing jobs, better benefits in general (38%), better health-care benefits specifically (36%) and work/life balance (36%), were three of the top four reasons employees were considering a job change. More money was the top reason for job seeking, cited by half of survey respondents.

Listen to the Convenience Matters podcast episode No. 332 “Is the Great Resignation Over?” for advice from experts from McKinsey and Company for navigating this competitive labor environment.

Convenience retailers can access the Good Jobs Calculator, designed exclusively for NACS and the convenience industry. This tool allows retailers to use their own data and customized assumptions about the amount of improvement or uplift achievable, and executives can run scenarios on the bottom-line impact of a Good Jobs system.

This NACS webinar explored how retailers can attract and hire team members today and in the future. From virtual hiring to job shadowing, retailers are employing a host of ways to find and connect with potential workers.

Look for “Understanding Your Local Labor Landscape” in the December issue of NACS Magazine for tips on building an effective employee value proposition and how to gain an edge when competing for candidates.