By Ben Hasan, SVP and Chief Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Walmart, Inc.
Technology is changing how we live, work, and shop at an unprecedented pace, and our customers have high expectations. In addition to finding great items at great prices, people today also expect the shopping experience to be easy, enjoyable, and fast. To better serve them, we have to be innovative and agile, and we need a diverse workforce that is representative of those customers. We need diverse associates—associates with unique styles, experiences, identities, abilities, ideas, and opinions—to help us stay out in front. We have to lead in talent. Throughout Walmart’s history, our associates have been the key to our success, and it will remain that way in the future.
Walmart must be a place where associates feel welcomed, comfortable, and safe in bringing their authentic selves to work each day, and are where they are engaged and empowered by inclusive leaders to be high performers. Walmart often ranks near the top of diversity and inclusion reports, and generally, we outpace our industry. But that doesn’t mean we’re in a position to call it good and pat ourselves on the back. We’re on a journey to improve—and we still have a lot of road ahead of us. We have to challenge ourselves to do better, when it comes to championing inclusion. Just as we’re reinventing how we serve customers, we have to examine what we could be doing better in terms of hiring and promoting associates and leaders with diverse backgrounds.
Attracting this kind of talent isn’t enough. If we don’t create the kind of inclusive environment in which new ideas can thrive—where associates with differing viewpoints have the courage to speak up, and leaders have the courage to listen and act—we’ll never realize the full ROI that can come from our diversity. We’re winning today, in large part, because of technological innovations like online grocery and in-store pickup towers, which are removing friction from the system and making shopping easier for busy families. These innovations wouldn’t be possible without an inclusive culture that champions new ideas and collaboration. Notice that each of these technologies has eCommerce origins, yet are executed in our physical stores. We’re winning today because we’re playing as a team—technologists and operators alike are recognizing the role each plays in fulfilling our purpose of saving people money so they can live better.
We are accomplishing this by focusing on cultivating inclusive leaders who are equipped with the necessary tools to lead in a diverse and changing world. These next-generation leaders must develop and demonstrate an ever-evolving set of characteristics to achieve both business results and personal career growth. One skill all our leaders—today and tomorrow—will need is inclusive leadership. Inclusive leaders are committed, curious, courageous, cognizant of bias, culturally intelligent, and collaborative. These attributes are critical if we are to drive innovation through inclusion. Such leaders also display the ability to not only embrace individual differences, but to also leverage them for competitive advantage.
To develop Inclusive Leadership at Walmart, we provide our associates with several opportunities to participate in a variety of trainings. Last year, we began working with the Racial Equity Institute (REI) in order to benefit from its training on recognizing, understanding, and addressing systemic racial inequity. We also recently kicked off our Driving Dialogue series by encouraging leaders to take their teams to see the film The Hate U Give. We hosted screenings across our campuses and, following the film, leaders engaged associates in a healthy dialogue about the film and its social implications. Our goal is that these leadership-led events will inspire meaningful conversations about identifying and mitigating bias, and fostering greater inclusion in the workplace. We sometimes have to engage in uncomfortable and difficult conversations in order to gain greater understanding and sustainable, systemic change.
Our people make the difference—and that means all of our people. No matter who you are, you have a place at Walmart. We want everyone to be a part of how we are changing retail, and we are committed to creating inclusive environments in every store and in every part of our business. More than ever, Walmart will provide opportunity—a place where all associates can build their dreams and grow. If we use our curiosity to our advantage and continue to increase our inclusiveness, we have a bright future ahead.
Senior vice president and chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer for Walmart Inc. He is responsible for the continued development of the evolution of the company’s culture, the development of behaviors that embrace diversity and inclusion at all levels of the company.