Learning COVID-19 Recording: Walmart's Amy Goldfinger & Lo Stomski - 6/18/20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help Learning & Development leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted two special guests: Amy Goldfinger, SVP, Global Talent at Walmart and Lorraine Stomski, SVP, Enterprise Leadership and Learning at Walmart. They were interviewed by i4cp CEO and co-founder Kevin Oakes and i4cp Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone. Here are four key themes that emerged:

  1. L&D can quickly transform at scale when it is prioritized. Walmart is massive with over 2 million associates globally, so naturally their L&D operations must function at scale. They have some 200 training academies across the US to support in-store roles, but as with many organizations the COVID-19 pandemic meant quickly accelerating their digital learning strategy. Walmart was successful in doing this over the past several months because training and development were not deprioritized in terms of budget or focus. The L&D team has been flexible and worked faster than ever before, and employees have embraced the opportunity to learn and develop themselves in new ways.
  2. The pandemic has accelerated the need for upskilling / reskilling. Our study last year, Automating Work: The Human/AI Intersection, highlighted how many companies are leveraging automation, AI, robotics, etc. and the impact this has on the need for upskilling / reskilling. Walmart was part of this study, with several of their approaches highlighted in the case study How Automation and Reskilling Benefit Walmart’s Associates and Customers. Goldfinger and Stomski noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for upskilling / reskilling their store associates, both in response to even faster implementation of technology and due to business changes required by social distancing and changes to customer shopping habits. Services such as grocery delivery, curbside pickup, concierge services, cashier-less checkout, and e-commerce have all increased, and that has required training for various associates and the creation of some new roles, with the end result being greater customer interaction even with the increased use of integrated technology.
  3. Career development and internal talent marketplace programs can and should grow during tumultuous times. Walmart recently announced an expansion of their Live Better U program, which for the past two years has provided high school degree completion support, college prep, language learning, college credit for Walmart training, and $1 a day college degrees. Launched in June 2018, LBU was already making a great impact with more than 25,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club associates from all 50 states having taken advantage of the offerings, with the majority of those being female and 47% being people of color. Now, Walmart has changed the eligibility to all part- and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates starting on their first day of employment. In light of current trends and needs, the program has also expanded to include more in-demand digital courses and skilled trades.

    This expansion relates to another initiative that Goldfinger described at Walmart, the development of an internal talent marketplace. Walmart is obviously a great place to start a career, but it is also a great place to have a career, with even their current CEO having come up the ranks after starting as an hourly store employee. Along those lines, Goldfinger and Stomski stressed that one of the key drivers for such an initiative is the increasing need for hidden talent to be revealed and pulled through from the stores and into corporate leadership roles.    
  4. Leadership development is as important as ever. As with many organizations, leadership development at Walmart has continued to focus on building community but with the added challenge that remote work brings. Stomski noted that a key is to provide personalized learning journeys, where “one size fits one,” and that bring as much of the learning into the flow of work. After the events following the killing of George Floyd, listening sessions have also been critical, as have curated content resources so that leaders don’t feel frozen or confused about how to start important conversations

In addition to this recording, please see these resources: