America’s largest retailer is attempting a surprising new strategy to help the company attract and retain top-level talent. Walmart (No. 22 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021) has announced that it will now begin covering full tuition plus the cost of books for its workers to attend a select group of schools across the U.S.
Nathaniel Meyersohn of CNN Business reported that the new initiative is “the latest effort by the largest private employer in the country to sweeten its benefits as it seeks to attract and retain talent in a tight job market.”
According to Meyersohn, the program “includes 10 academic partners ranging from the University of Arizona to Southern New Hampshire University.”
In order to qualify for the tuition program, part-time and full-time employees must continue to work at Walmart while matriculating into an academic program.
The company will also eliminate “a previous $1 a day fee paid by Walmart and Sam’s Club workers who want to earn a degree and also begin covering the costs of their books,” Meyersohn reported. “Around 28,000 workers participate in the program, which Walmart began in 2018. Walmart has around 1.5 million workers.”
In a press briefing with reporters, Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said, “We feel that eliminating the dollar a day investment removes the financial barriers to enrollment, and it will increase access.”
This new academic program is just the latest in several positive changes Walmart has taken over the last year to bolster employee retention and help recruit new high-level talent.
Earlier this year, the company added four new academic partners to its scholarship program, bringing the total number of partnerships to 10. Walmart also offered new degree and certificate options in areas like business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity.
According to Meyersohn, Walmart has an incentive to expand the program because participating employees were “twice as likely to get promoted” and “are retained at a ‘significantly higher rate’ than other workers.”
Earlier this year, the company also raised wages for 425,000 U.S. workers to $13 an hour. However, Meyersohn reported that the overall minimum for workers remains $11 per hour, “below competitors such as Amazon and Target’s $15 starting rate.”
Academic partners currently involved in the Walmart degree program include:
- Johnson & Wales University
- The University of Arizona
- The University of Denver
- Brandman University
- Penn Foster
- Purdue University Global
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Wilmington University
- Voxy EnGen