Walmart Canada Announces $50 Million Investment in Associate Career Development [Interview]

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Walmart Canada is investing $50 million over the next five years in associate career-driven learning and development, offered through programs at top-tier schools in Canada.

The company will cover the cost of tuition, books, and course fees for associates through its Live Better U (LBU) education program.

AnnMarie Mercer

“We believe there is a path for everyone at Walmart and we want to remove barriers to high quality education,” said AnnMarie Mercer, Chief People Officer, Walmart Canada. “We’re proud that through LBU, we’re offering our associates a program designed with them in mind. LBU meets associates where they are on their educational journey by offering online, flexible programs to help them balance work, life and school.

“As the retail environment, and I’ll actually go beyond just the retail environment, the world around us is changing quite rapidly and as we think about the future how do we ensure that we’re continuing to upskill our associates to meet the needs both today and in the future. That’s kind of the genesis behind LBU. It’s really about upskilling for the future.”

Live Better U Canada (Image: Walmart Canada)

LBU offers a path for all associates, whether they’re looking to accelerate their growth, get in-demand credentials, or receive a degree or licensing for a specialized role. The course offerings were curated based on the new and future needs of the business. Some offerings include:

  • Growth accelerators such as English as a Second Language, French as a Second Language and GED courses;
  • In-demand courses and certificates such as project management, data analytics, omni retail, ecommerce, business communications and strategy; and
  • Degrees and licensing for pharmacy technicians and opticians, with more to come.

“As we think about talent, every organization is looking for critical skills for the future . . . We want to make sure we have a path for all. Within Walmart we have very different career paths and associates can explore whether it’s a pure retail operations side or a career in HR, a career in technology, data, etc.,” said Mercer. “And given our size as an employer, 100,000 associates across Canada, we want to (ensure) we are creating opportunities for our associates to grow and that is both within our local market as well as preparing and creating paths for individuals internationally, given that we operate in many different markets around the world.”

Image: Walmart Canada

Mercer said the program in Canada will likely touch thousands of people across the country.

She said the retailer wants to ensure associates are trained and equipped with the skills of the future so they stay and grow with Walmart Canada. All eligible permanent part-time, full-time, and salaried Walmart Canada associates can apply to LBU.

“LBU has been a game-changer in the U.S. these past five years, and we’re thrilled to expand our footprint and offer this life-changing benefit to even more Walmart associates,” said Lorraine Stomski, SVP, Associate Learning & Leadership, Walmart Global. “Our participants are more likely to be promoted and less likely to leave the company than their peers, meaning it helps our people and our business. Nearly 120,000 Walmart U.S. associates have taken advantage of the opportunity to grow with the company while building a brighter future and better life. We can’t wait to see that impact continue to grow with this expansion.”

Walmart has more than 400 stores across Canada.

LBU is the latest offering in a comprehensive learning and development offering at Walmart Canada. Last year, they launched an internal talent marketplace: an AI-enabled platform that provides visibility to career paths within the company. In addition, associates have access to OnDemand learning platforms including Harvard Spark, Harvard ManageMentor, and ExecOnline.

“LBU is a part of a whole ecosystem of learning. Earlier this year we launched another program called OnDemand Skills and this is various different programs through key partners . . . It’s an element where you can take and upskill any time, anywhere. That’s for various different disciplines. It could be for data. It could be many different topics,” said Mercer.

“We also have our Walmart Academy which is really around building critical skills that we require which are job requirements for today. And LBU is really about preparing for the future. So that way we’ve got various different streams as we think of the whole talent ecosystem of how do we build pathways for all of our associates when, how and where they want to take it.”

Mercer said associates have told the retailer that they want to continue to grow, to continue to learn. This gives them the opportunity to continue to build skills for a future career with the company.

“I think we’re really excited about this because everyone is looking for critical skills in the future. We really have taken an internal first approach in a way that we can continue to grow our talent. They’re ambassadors of our culture and what we believe in. We have a very strong purpose as an organization with a save money, live better purpose. We believe that across all the things that we do,” she said.

“So if we can continue to develop talent within our organization, those are great leaders for the future as well.” 

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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