Thirty Columbia Wal-Mart employees Thursday became the retail giant’s first South Carolina graduates of the corporation’s excelerated new training program designed to make its stores more competitive.
The employees, all of whom work at the Bush River Road superstore as department managers, underwent two weeks of training aimed both at providing the workers core retail skills and sales floor knowledge the company hopes will improve customer service, department by department.
The training, which takes place in a dedicated portion of the stores that have been specified as Training Academies, concentrates on leadership skills, merchandising, technology, operations and customer service.
The company has set up computer rooms and classroom-like meeting rooms in the Training Academy sites.
The Bush River Road Wal-Mart is the first in the state to host one of the Training Academies. Wal-Mart says it will open four more of the training centers in stores around the state, including in Florence, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and the Upstate. Wal-Mart operates 118 retail outlets in South Carolina, including 82 supercenters. The company employs almost 33,000 workers.
Nationwide, the company plans to open 200 Training Academies by the end of 2017, company officials said, each academy training center providing training for employees from approximately 25 surrounding stores.
“What’s different about the academies than any program we’ve done before is, we teach and train associates what they need to be doing, what they need to be focusing on – it’s operators teaching operators,” said Sean Real, Wal-Mart regional general manager.
“Before, you would have people who never ran a store, who weren’t assistant managers in a store, who didn’t have that store background or experience, teaching people who are working in stores. This is totally different now.”
Wal-Mart has long been criticized for unresponsive customer service in its stores, amid reports the Arkansas-based retailer’s customer service scores are among the lowest in the retail industry. As the world’s largest retailer has continued to lose market share, Wal-Mart’s leadership has announced plans to improve worker pay and provide them training, all aimed at improved customer satisfaction.
The Academy Training program, launched by Wal-Mart in February, is also designed to attract and keep employees, the company said.
Travis Brown, hardware and paint department manager at the Bush River Road Wal-Mart Superstore, was among the graduates of the new training program Thursday.
“When I came to Wal-Mart, I came with a plan, a goal,” said Brown, who graduated from Benedict College with a management degree in 2010. That plan was to work his way into management, he said. “This is (another) stepping stone into my career goals.
“Yes, some people do come to Wal-Mart just for a job, but some people come here to build careers, and I want to be able to help them as well,” Brown said. “Those tools I learned at the academy will help me be able to do that.”
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398