- Walmart is expanding its Live Better U (LBU) employee benefit program "to include in-demand skilled trade and digital skills programs, beyond [its] traditional college programs," according to a June 10 release. Adding digital skills and trade offerings will provide access to a variety of new programs, many of which require less time to complete than college degrees, it said.
- The company will allow all part-time and full-time associates to access the benefit on their first day, crediting the impact of LBU participation on engagement and retention. "Those enrolled have significantly higher retention rates in their jobs at Walmart. Promotion rates are double amongst those who engage in an LBU program," Julie Murphy, executive vice president of people of Walmart U.S., said in a statement. "Our goal in rolling back the eligibility date to first day of employment is part of a strategy to engage associates on day one and identify these self-starters early in their Walmart careers."
- Since 2018, more than 25,000 Walmart or Sam’s Club associates have used the program, which offers low-cost college coursework and free high school completion. The company said a majority of participants are female, and nearly half (47%) are people of color. "Regardless of which path an associate chooses," the statement continued, "those who take advantage of LBU have one thing in common – they are earning a degree or certificate along with a paycheck, without lifelong student debt."
Before the coronavirus pandemic, access to external education was growing as a benefit offering from employers looking to stand out in competitive labor markets. Today, people management leaders are more focused on access to outside education as a vehicle for workforce development — a way to keep up with rapidly evolving skills needs amid constant change — or even as an outplacement benefit for laid-off or furloughed workers.
Even as many companies are making workforce reductions, others are hiring aggressively, and thinking about how development opportunities will help them stand out from the crowd. Walmart has been a leader in the retail space when it comes to education benefits. Since 2018, the company has offered some form of education benefit and has embraced new technology, using VR for learning and assessment.
When the pandemic first hit, CVS announced an intention to hire 50,000 new employees, and more recently Dunkin’ launched a national ad campaign promoting 25,000 job openings nationwide. Walmart has also been adding to its ranks, after it announced plans to hire 150,000 in late-March while rolling out an accelerated hiring process and multiple rounds of bonuses to entice prospective candidates.