retail news in context, analysis with attitude

From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"Walmart Inc. wants to avoid a big problem: having too few store managers.

"It is a key position for the retail giant, one that requires long hours and in big stores overseeing an operation with roughly $100 million in annual sales and a team of 300.

Many managers leading the company’s roughly 4,700 U.S. stores have been in their roles for at least a decade, and Walmart executives say they need to find a new generation to replace them. The tight labor market and competition for workers create another challenge - even for a job that often pays more than $200,000 a year."

The story notes that "Walmart leans on U.S. store managers to fuel the engine of its largest and most profitable unit. Traditionally candidates for those roles are promoted internally, working over nearly a decade to train as assistant store managers and then what Walmart calls co-managers before taking the top job.

"Around 75% of Walmart managers started out as hourly workers at the company. Walmart aims to protect that pipeline by attracting more college graduates and outside hires and then fast-tracking them into managerial roles."

Part of the plan is to "create a program to recruit and train college graduates to become store managers, promising a starting wage of at least $65,000 a year and an accelerated two-year track into the top store job. The program, known as College2Career, launched with two recent graduates this spring and aims to bring nearly 1,000 applicants through this summer.

"The College2Career program is one piece of a shift inside the country’s largest private employer. Walmart wants to better use the 1.6 million U.S. employees it already has and broaden the company’s appeal to prospective job seekers. So far, that has included raising pay for thousands of workers and offering more and better opportunities for training."

Bloomberg, in a similar story, notes that "those aren’t the only jobs the company is trying harder to fill: It recently boosted starting pay for its truckers to as much as $110,000. And like other retailers, Walmart has been raising wages and adding educational and training opportunities in recent years."

KC's View:

In making these moves, Walmart is setting a floor with which every one of its competitors will have to deal … and, I suspect, will amp up the recruitment efforts being made at major retailing and business schools.

One component that ought to be in these improved packages, I think, is the paying off of student loans by the companies doing the hiring.  There will have to be minimum commitments by the new employee, but I think this kind of offering will go a long way toward attracting top talent.