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March 7, 2019
It was graduation day at Walmart Thursday, as the company’s 199th out of 200 planned training academies officially opened in Sioux Falls.
A 2,500-square-foot training center attached to the store at 60th Street North and Marion Road graduated its first class of Walmart supervisors.
“It’s really an investment in our associates. That’s the bottom line,” said Jeff Boley, director of academy operations support for Walmart’s west division, which includes 22 states.
“We are truly interested in their growth and development and allowing our associates to really experience this kind of commitment to them and hopefully inspire them to really strive for more with this company.”
Front-line supervisors and assistant managers complete the training, which can range from two to six weeks. It includes retail fundamentals and leadership skills, as well as area-specific training.
“So if I’m a department manager in produce, I’m going to come to the academy to learn the retail fundamentals of the job and the specific details (for the department,” Boley said.
The content is standardized across the company, so best practices are taught and associates can take their skills from one location to another, he said.
On any given week, the Sioux Falls academy can train up to 90 associates. It has five classrooms, but much of the learning happens in the store itself.
“The point of us attaching our academies to an actual store is most of our associates learn best by hands-on experience, and 75 percent of the time in the academies is spent on the sales floor learning and practicing and doing,” Boley said.
“We tell, show, do. The ‘tell’ part takes place in a classroom, and then we take it to the sales floor and ‘show,’ and then we’ll ‘do’ that. And it seems to be a really effective way to take it back to the store.”
The curriculum includes a lot of technology, he said, and even leverages virtual reality to re-create scenarios that aren’t ideal on the sales floor.
“For example, we don’t want to spill a bunch of water on the floor to talk through something like that with our associates. It could impact the customer shopping experience. So we leverage virtual reality in a way that can create these learning modules in a safe environment in a classroom, where you have the ability to make a mistake.”
The Sioux Falls academy hired seven facilitators and seven department managers, who are former Walmart team members. It will support associates from 21 surrounding stores.
To celebrate the graduation, Walmart presented $4,000 each in grants to Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics South Dakota.
With the academy model rolled out across the company, Walmart now is in a position to grow its professional development, Boley said.
“That’s one of the special things for us as a company as large as Walmart. We’ve got these 200 academies, and we can deploy a change initiative in the space of a week. For us, being as large as we are, to be able to pivot at that pace gives us a competitive edge.”
It was graduation day at Walmart on Thursday, as the company’s 199th out of 200 planned training academies officially opened in Sioux Falls.