Opportunity

Last Year, Dwight Was Promoted in Public – Where is He Now?

I’d like to introduce you to Dwight Blanton. He’s a true citizen of the community, giving back in so many ways.

He volunteers at his local homeless shelter. He is a veteran, still serving in the Army Reserve. He’s a college student and a recipient of a Walmart Scholarship. Even with all of that, he still has the time and passion to serve customers at his day job – something he’s pretty well-known for at the supercenter where he works in Cabot, Arkansas.

A year ago, Dwight was working at a supercenter in nearby Jacksonville, Arkansas, when he was invited to Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting. This meeting brings together thousands of our associates from around the world, and Dwight got a special surprise in front of them all. He was promoted to an assistant store manager. Now, it’s pretty awesome to get a promotion, but not many of us get to share that joy with thousands of coworkers … and get the news delivered straight from the CEO.

We wanted to check in with Dwight to see what his journey has been like over the past year. So we met up with him to find out.

Bo: What was it like being on that stage, in a packed arena, being promoted by our CEO Doug McMillon? What’s your life been like since your promotion?
Dwight: Honestly, it was shocking. I thought it was just a normal trip. They made sure I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was definitely surprised. Since the promotion, it’s been exciting. It’s made me want to strive for more and more. I’ve been taken to a whole new level as far as helping customers and getting involved even more with the community.

Bo: Speaking of community, we learned during the shareholders’ meeting that you’re very involved in a lot of things outside of work. How’s that been for the past year?
Dwight: I still volunteer with the homeless shelter. I serve in the Army Reserves and was recently promoted there, too. That’s been exciting. I’m still going to school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where I’m working on my bachelor’s degree in health care promotions and a minor in psychology.

Bo: What do you like so much about being an assistant manager?
Dwight: I like the teamwork atmosphere – always being able to work together and accomplish one goal. When you face a challenge or a goal is set, sometimes you feel like you have to take it on yourself. I came here with the mindset to do it all on my own, but it takes everyone to accomplish goals and overcome challenges. You’re not going to be able to move forward alone. From the cart pusher up to the CEO, everyone has an important role.

Bo: What advice would you give to other associates looking to get promoted?
Dwight: Never give up. Never quit. I got that mindset from being in the military. I’ve faced a lot of challenges, but I know I can get through it if I just keep going.

Bo: What keeps you coming in every day and giving it your best?
Dwight: I have a passion for the customers and the associates. They make us. When I see our associates giving it their all when they have so much going on in their own lives, it inspires me. I have a Walmart stamp on me. People look at me and see Walmart and that makes me proud.

Bo: What’s the next step on your journey?
Dwight: I definitely have store co-manager in my mind. I always want to go to the next level, so I’m accepting the challenge. What I love about this company is that I can do anything and go anywhere. I want to travel and I know I can do that with Walmart – from here to the home office to anywhere in the country. I’ve always had an interest in drama, so maybe one day I’ll even be a Walmart Radio DJ.

Bo: It was great getting to catch up with Dwight. It’s exciting to hear his story, as well as the successes of so many other associates across the U.S. Dwight is just one example of Walmart’s commitment to help our people do more and achieve more – check out this video to see just what that’s meant over the past two years.

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Business

Why Smarter Inventory Means Better Customer Service

When you’re getting ready to head to Walmart, you expect everything on your list will be ready and waiting on our shelves.

With millions of items for sale, ensuring that happens – for everything, every time – is quite a complex process behind the scenes.

Managing back room inventory – products that are stored in back rooms for days, sometimes weeks, before they reach shelves – can be a challenge. It requires constant monitoring, and can sometimes take associates away from the sales floor where they would otherwise be helping customers. So recently we’ve been experimenting with new and better ways to improve the process for everyone.

Top Stock is one of these new systems that we’re testing in stores. With it, we’ve moved a great deal of our back stock inventory to somewhere else very simple: the top shelves on our sales floor. By keeping additional merchandise closer to where it’s sold, we can maintain fuller shelves while keeping a better in-the-moment read on inventory.

I spent the first 12 years of my three decades with Walmart in replenishment and supply chain roles, so I understand the significance firsthand of how this makes storage and stocking so much easier. But there’s also quite a bit more that directly benefits customers:

  • All the extra space we’re opening up in our back rooms is making it easier for us to integrate services like online grocery pickup. While the demand for grocery pickup is obvious, finding adequate space within our existing stores had sometimes been a challenge.
  • Need something you don’t immediately see on the shelf? Waiting for an associate to check our back room during peak holiday shopping periods could soon be a thing of the past. By improving our inventory management processes, we’re bringing the products and services that customers need one step closer. In fact, the implementation of Top Stock has helped reduce our rental of temporary inventory trailers to a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
  • Our improvements in inventory management are getting more associates out of the back room and onto the sales floor, where they can help and interact with customers.
  • Perhaps best of all, our associates can use open back room space for career-building education. When one store in Morrisville, North Carolina, implemented Top Stock inventory management, they reduced back room inventory by 75% in two months, allowing enough new space to open an Academy for associate training.

What’s worked for our business in the past isn’t always what’s best for today’s shopper. When we commit to coming up with unexpected ways to do the small things better, we not only become smarter and more efficient, but create a big win for our customers at the same time.

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Opportunity

Retired Store Manager Fashions Second Career Out of Dreams and Opportunity

Sometimes it’s not enough to follow your dreams. You also need someone else to see your potential.

My career at Walmart was a dream – so unanticipated! And that set me up to follow yet another dream. After nearly 20 years, I retired Feb. 17 as manager of supercenter #2914 in Massillon, Ohio, to start my own business as a fashion stylist – something I’ve been passionate about for years – and to spend more time with my precious family.

I have long had an interest in fashion, starting back when my mother was a seamstress and would create her own designs as I was growing up. Most of my wardrobe was handmade by her! I always loved how wearing something special made me feel. Working at Walmart, particularly with women, rekindled a passion in me to witness the impact of dressing well. Increased confidence, better communication, direct eye contact – we all know how that feels. Feeling positive about ourselves can be transformational.

My retail career had simple beginnings in 1997, when I was a stay-at-home mom with five small children in a single-income family. That August I was looking to get a little extra money for Christmas and applied for the first clock-in-and-out job of my life. Walmart hired me as a temporary associate despite my having dropped out of college to start a family and having zero experience in retail. I never would have dreamed I’d take a job stocking store shelves overnight and end up managing 500 people.

This company backed me every step of the way, seeing and believing in a potential I didn't recognize. One of my first store managers took a significant interest in challenging and pushing me to see opportunities that existed. It taught me how important the human touch can be.

I remember one young man who was doing a really good job as an hourly supervisor at my store. Not long after we talked about his potential, he put his job in jeopardy by clocking in late on multiple days. Instead of giving up on him, his direct supervisor asked him what was going on. He shared that his car had broken down, and with no other transportation he’d had to walk the four miles to and from the store. After hearing this, I bought him a bicycle to help put him back on the right track. He ended up going into a management program and is doing really well today.

As for me, my story has come full circle. Walmart not only gave me the acumen and process to run my own business, it also gave my husband and me the financial security to start this second phase of our lives. My baby was in kindergarten when I started my career, and now all my children are grown and college-educated. Freedom in my schedule allows me to be a stay-at-home grandma to five grandchildren.

Having been at the Massillon supercenter for the last four years, it was bittersweet to turn over my keys and the responsibility. But, I’m excited to continue being a cheerleader from the outside. The people I hired are going to go even further than I did with the belief they can have limitless careers.

Photos courtesy of Massillon Independent.

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Innovation

Uncovering How We’ll Shop in the Future

As new technology brings new possibilities, there’s been an explosion of ways to shop – smartphone apps, online grocery shopping and Scan & Go for easier checkout, to name just a few. To serve customers better, we need to stay ahead of the research that helps form the ideas that will continue to revolutionize how we shop.

I’m part of a small team that’s delving deep into research to improve the shopping experience for everyone. I’m a data scientist for Sam’s Club Technology, and I like to compare what we do to building a car: You have to start with the engine.

My day-to-day work is all about staying on top of new methods to build that engine. I look at ways we can incorporate emerging research in object recognition, detection and segmentation – technology that can make things like our Scan & Go app even smarter. For instance, instead of scanning a bar code, the app will be able to recognize products using photos taken by your phone’s camera.

Because this is such a fast-moving field, the research I work with is in its earliest stages. I might work with one algorithm today, and a couple months from now use a completely new model that’s even better than what we had before.

Tech is constantly evolving, which makes innovation essential for retailers. We have to continually adapt our business to our shoppers’ lifestyles. There’s a lot of coding, engineering and algorithm testing that goes into building something that works better than what people are used to. It’s challenging, but that’s why I’m lucky to work with such talented people.

Until I joined the team last year, I never realized the strong sense of pride that associates in the Walmart and Sam’s Club family have in what our business does. After studying at Yale, I worked in financial engineering in New York – I didn’t expect to find an opportunity to do such innovative work in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I’ve found that in the corporate world, it’s rare for a business to invest in cutting-edge research. But, from the start, Walmart has chosen to invent some of our own solutions instead of waiting for someone else to come up with them. In this new age of tech, we’re still evolving and inventing better ways to get from Point A to Point C.

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Innovation

5 Ways Walmart Uses Big Data to Help Customers

In many industries, big data provides a way for companies to gain a better understanding of their customers and make better business decisions.

Walmart relies on big data to get a real-time view of the workflow in the pharmacy, distribution centers and throughout our stores and e-commerce.

Check out the infographic below to see how Walmart uses big data to make the company’s operations more efficient and improve the lives of customers.

Whether it’s analyzing the transportation route for a supply chain or using data to optimize pricing, big data analytics will continue to be a key way for Walmart to enhance the customer experience.

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