Walmart, the world’s biggest corporate employer with over 2.1 million associates (employees) worldwide, has developed a sizeable footprint in Asia in less than two decades. “We are on a huge growth drive in Asia. With over US$16bn in sales and 140,000 associates in the region, we are poised for extremely ambitious growth,” says Scott Price, CEO and President, Walmart Asia. “We already have a significant presence in China, Japan and India.”
Over the next five years, Walmart Asia plans to double its outlets and floor space in Asian markets and increase its sales significantly.
“The ability to get, keep and grow top talent to lead our growth is therefore one of the most significant challenges we face in Asia, especially given the unique cultural diversity in this region, the expertise and skill sets needed and the pace at which we hire, says Price. “We will continue to be one of the largest employers in the region.”
Recruiting business partners
In just 15 years, Walmart has grown its staff to over 140,000 associates in Asia. In the next five years, Walmart will more than double this number in the region. The American multinational retailer corporation is using several different tools to achieve this recruitment goal.
“We are actively partnering with universities and colleges, attracting graduates and providing thousands of associates with their first jobs every year, giving them training and work experience,” says Price.
“We also have an opportunity to recruit young international leaders through a partnership with global youth organisation, AIESEC. This will allow us to attract talent from more than 110 countries and offer them internships in the Walmart Asia office, with subsequent employment in our Asian markets,” he adds.
One of the most effective ways to attract store associates is via word of mouth – and every single associate counts. Given the large number of people who work for Walmart in stores, for them to become ambassadors for the company is very important, says Price. “People who are working in the stores share with their friends about the opportunities and experiences at Walmart, and this creates great interest from new people wanting to join our company.”
Indeed, when Walmart opens a store, it creates jobs that offer competitive wages and benefits as well as the opportunity to advance. An example of how compelling jobs are to prospective employees is found at the Walmart store in Huaibei, Tier 3 City of Anhui Province in China, which received more than 2,200 applications for around 260 available positions when it opened.
Walmart has also been recognised on several occasions for being a good employer in the last few years in Asia. These awards include Best Employer in China, given by the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and Best Retail Place to Work and the Retail Innovation Award in China in 2010.
Recently, Walmart appointed Rosalind Brewer as the new head of Sam’s Club, its warehouse club business, making her the most senior female employee in the company’s history. The head of Sam’s Club is one of the three most senior positions in the company below the chief executive. Sam’s Club has annual sales of US$53bn.
This is one of the many things that show Walmart is a big proponent of gender diversity. The organisation capitalises on the melting pot of its diverse talent to help the business grow and develop.
“Since 80% of the 200 million people who shop at a Walmart globally every week are women, we have placed a great deal of focus on ensuring that there are women in important decision-making roles,” says Price.
“We have already achieved significant results in this area in Asia – one out of three leaders in Walmart home offices and almost 60% of our associates across the Asia region are women. In Walmart China, 21% of store managers are women; and 22% of senior leaders in Walmart Japan (Senior VP and above) are women.”
Since 2008, Walmart has had Women Leadership Councils in each market to build a pipeline of female talent and to support their progress internally and help them cope externally. Female Leadership Councils have direct access to country CEOs, helping to ensure that there are excellent employment opportunities and attractive training and development programmes for women at all levels.
It is not only gender diversity that is encouraged at Walmart Asia, but also diversity in opinions and an open work environment where associates’ suggestions, observations, problems or concerns can regularly be brought to the attention of management.
“With our Open Door Policies working in all the markets, it is possible for anyone to phone up or talk face-to-face with staff at any level of supervision in our company,” says Price.
The retail giant also believes in providing excellent opportunities for physically-challenged employees to develop in the company. For instance, Walmart China currently employs 1,080 disabled associates. Peter Cai, the General Merchandising and Operations (GMO) manager in Sam’s Club, has been recognised by the local government as an ‘Advanced Individual in Helping the Disabled’, awarding him for his commitment to serving the community.
Walmart Japan employs 418 physically or mentally-challenged associates. “We are not only employing differently abled people in Walmart Japan, we are also striving to propose special service to physically or mentally-challenged customers,” says Price.
For example, Yuka Miyachi from the Gifu Kayo store in Japan learned sign language in order to serve better those customers who have special needs. Miyachi was able to provide them with a better shopping experience, showing them where items are located, and explaining how to use the things they bought. She was honoured at the 2010 Shareholders’ Meeting for Walmart International with a special recognition award.
The three markets that Walmart currently covers in Asia – Japan, China and India – are quite diverse. “In India, where 47% of the population is under the age of 20, mobile commerce is emerging, skipping even the e-commerce step,” says Price. “While in Japan, more than a third of the population will be aged over 60 years by 2020, and our customers there are increasingly looking for value for money in their daily shopping.”
Similarly, associates’ needs are also quite unique, differing from country to country. The India team is entrepreneurial, eager to grow by more than 200% each year. The Japan team has great professionals in the retail area, as the SEIYU business that Walmart acquired is one of the largest supermarket chains in Japan, being established in 1963. China is the retail giant’s oldest operation in Asia and celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2011.
Price is passionate about the cultivation of a ‘glocalised’ Walmart culture in Asia. “Being a multinational retail company, we bring values that have been incumbent for our company since its birth in 1962,” he says. “But we understand that our culture needs to be adapted to local cultures and primarily motivate associates who are working in the stores day-to-day.”
For instance, while Walmart has international assignees in the Asia leadership teams, the company’s main intention is to develop local talent in the market. “In China, 99.9% of our associates are Chinese,” says Price. “And in India, more than 70% of our store management team started out as hourly-paid associates.”
Leadership development is an integral part of Walmart’s talent management mix. The company is bringing international standards of leadership development to the retail industry in Asia, setting up institutes that provide leadership development programmes, including the Walton Institute which provides store managers with additional education in an academic setting.
“Since its inception in 1985, over 29,000 Walmart managers have attended nearly 700 classes in Bentonville, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, China, India, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the UK and Japan,” says Price.
Walmart Asia also launched the first Global Leadership Institute in June 2011 for leaders from China, Japan, India and the regional office in Hong Kong. The programme was designed to help leaders expand their capabilities and build the skills necessary to lead the company. The seminar consists of week-long classroom sessions, extensive diagnostics, coaching, and action learning.
The Leadership Assessment Center, on the other hand, provides accelerated development and potential career growth by evaluating an individual’s proficiency in the competencies required for success within an identified role or position.
The Advanced Leadership Development programme provides interactive exercises for participants to gain training in judgment, communication of goals, and displaying interpersonal savvy, while the Business Leadership Series helps to build capabilities in meeting global business needs, enhancing cross-functional experience/expertise, collaboration, developing strategy, shaping business direction, upholding high ethical standards, sustaining Walmart’s culture and core values, and developing talent.
The Presidents Roundtable provides top talent with exposure to strategic business discussions among regional presidents, country presidents and other key leaders.
“Our growth opportunities are limitless. However, it takes great associates and leaders to ensure we grow with excellence,” says Price. “How we find, train and motivate tens of thousands of new associates in the region every year keeps me thinking.”
+ More than 200 million
transactions per week
+ 9,700 retail units
+ 69 different banners
+ 28 countries
Scott Price is the president and CEO of Walmart Asia. He has responsibility for the company’s current operations in Asia, including China, India and Japan, as well as business development in the Asia region. Walmart has a significant presence in Asia with more than 100,000 associates and more than 650 units in China, India and Japan.
Price joined Walmart in 2009. Most recently, he served as CEO of DHL Express Europe. Prior to that, he was CEO, DHL Express Asia Pacific. He also was the president of DHL Express Japan, DHL’s largest market in the Asia-Pacific region. Prior to joining DHL, Price spent a decade with the Coca-Cola Company. During that period, he assumed various roles which included country leader in Japan, and as director and country manager in China, which included Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia.
A US native, Price earned a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina. He also holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master’s in Asian studies from the University of Virginia
+ I love: Being with my family
+ I dislike: Excuses and avoiding responsibility
+ My inspiration is: Regular people who do meaningful things
+ My biggest weakness is: I am genetically impatient
+ In five years’ time I’d like to be: Having fun with whatever I am doing
+ Favourite quote: Keep Calm & Carry On
WalMart's founder, Sam Walton, believed that under the right circumstances every employee has the capacity to be a business leader. For this reason, he pushed decision-making downwards by empowering all of his employees to act like business owners. Walton referred to his ‘employees’ as ‘associates’ so they would act like entrepreneurs, and take ownership of the business. This has been embedded in the retail giant’s corporate culture ever since.
Helping people live better
While the regional office in Hong Kong is small, it is making a big difference in building capability across the region and in enabling the reapplication of best practices between countries in a number of areas. On a local level, the office is also seeking to make an impact in the Hong Kong community. A recent project was a Mentoring Day for female youth from underprivileged schools of Hong Kong.
Walmart Asia has also successfully launched the ‘My Sustainability’ programme in China and Japan to enhance social involvement of associates and stimulate their teamwork and motivation.
Examples of the ‘My Sustainability’ programme are the ‘Charity Bazaar’ and ‘Save Electricity Together’ projects in Japan. They were launched after the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.
“During the ‘Charity Bazaar’, we raised ¥2 million to support associates in Tohoku, and 15,000 associates in Walmart Japan managed to save 40,000 kWh of electricity during the ‘Save Electricity Together’ initiative,” says Price.
Throughout 2011, China associates contributed more than 200,000 working hours through community events.
Walmart is also topping DiversityBusiness.com’s list of the Top 50 Organisations for Multicultural Business Opportunities, Business Week’s list of the Top 20 Companies for Leadership, and was recognised as Best Employer in China by the International Public Management Association.
Walmart supports the community by empowering women in APEC countries by sourcing from women-owned businesses, training women in farms and in factories, and through charitable giving. It sources directly from more than 1 million farmers in APEC countries, raising their income and reducing waste in the supply chain.
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