retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Kim Lupo, Walmart's Senior Vice President Global Total Rewards, wrote in a blog posting this week that the company is reinforcing its "commitment to the mental and emotional well-being of our associates" by "launching Mental Health First Aid training that teaches associates how to identify, understand and respond to people who are struggling with mental health challenges. This four-hour training program, which will be available virtually and in-person at the Bentonville Walmart Home Office, will prepare associates to:  Recognize signs and symptoms and provide direct assistance and support … Properly reach out to emergency services on someone’s behalf … Implement the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan … (and) Access emotional well-being benefits and resources."

Lupo wrote:

"We will continue to offer 24/7 confidential counseling services with licensed therapists at no cost to all associates and their family members, and we will continue to offer our associates the opportunity to get connected anytime of the day, with confidential and anonymous virtual support groups with people who are struggling with similar issues.

"Additionally, we recently expanded a pilot program with AiRCare Health that proactively reaches out to associates enrolled in a Walmart medical plan to check-in and see how they are doing. As a result of the service area expansion to Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, more than 258,000 associates will benefit from this proactive emotional well-being approach.

"Well-being is not just the absence of illness — it is the active presence of wellness. As we head into Mental Health Awareness Month in May, benefits like these will be front and center as we work to raise awareness for those living with mental or behavioral health challenges and ensure that those who are struggling know that they are not alone. We have resources available to help. This is all part of our commitment to helping people live better."

KC's View:

Interestingly, there was a piece in the Wall Street Journal this week about how "one of the most sought-after management skills right now is empathy - in other words, taking a genuine interest in co-workers’ lives and what makes them tick. Empathetic leadership has long had corporate disciples, but the concept has become a bigger focus of management training and executive coaching as businesses seek ways to bolster staff worn down by the pandemic’s stresses, or at least show they are trying."

At some level, that's what Walmart appears to be doing.  I'm sure there will be some folks who will think this is all for show … but I'm willing to believe that an enlightened senior management is in touch with the degree to which these kinds of services are critical going forward, in a time of great tumult and polarization.