Employer Branding

The Employment Branding Challenge for Retail Giant Walmart

Think your company has plenty of staff? Try 2.4 million employees worldwide. Walmart is one of the best known retail brands in the world, learn how this impacts its employment brand and how clarity of message helps candidates to self-select in or out.

I’ve had a chat with Michael Smith who heads up employment brand for Walmart, have a listen to the podcast episode below or keep reading for a transcript. And be sure to subscribe to The Employer Branding Podcast.

What are your top employer brand challenges?

One thing that we talk about here is that we joke about what our former SVP said, “The only people we don’t recruit are neurosurgeons and astronauts.” If you think about the breadth of work that we do, we have jewel inspectors, we have about 70 pilots, we’ve got a meteorologist, we have all sorts of these niche jobs that when you think about what does it take to power the world’s largest company, it makes sense.

But most people associate Walmart with a retail store, the Asda that they walked into. So they aren’t thinking about what it takes on the back end to make sure that you have the right product on the shelves and all the different players that go into that. So, I would say just the scope. We have so many people to hire. And how do you be relevant to everyone without becoming irrelevant to everyone? But, also, I think from a reputation standpoint, depending on your last experience, you may have a very strong positive opinion. You may have a less positive opinion. So we haven’t been good traditionally about telling our story, which means that people don’t really understand the company and the culture. And so that’s something we have to overcome as well.

Talk us through your employer brand strategy.

I would say the employer brand strategy is ever evolving, because our employer brand is really owned in the minds of the people. What you think of our company is our brand, and the best that I can do is create resources to help you understand better and bringing your perception up to the reality. So I’d say that the brand is an ongoing, ever changing, ever evolving thing. But at the core of our strategy is defining the value proposition, how, you know, we’re not for everybody, but we offer the opportunity of a long fulfilling career for the right fit.

So understanding who we are as a core company, making sure that our values are clear, making sure that our culture is clear. We just launched our new careers website, on March 21st. And so they’re going to see a little bit of our efforts to help improve the quality of the image that you’re going to see but also have a better understanding of what we have to offer both from a job perspective but also from a culture perspective.

Do you have a step-by-step guide to employer branding?

To give you a high level overview of where to begin and what I would recommend, I think I mentioned the value proposition first. I think you really have to understand who you are as a company, because you want to be authentic in everything you do.

Just selling everyone on “this is a great company” is a mistake, because not everybody is going to be a good fit, and you don’t want to bring people in just to have a revolving door and have them leave within a few months. So understanding your company is really important. Understanding your enterprise goals and then translating them into recruiting goals. You mentioned in a conversation earlier about you have to understand the talent plan to be able to execute. So you really have to understand the company challenges, understand your recruiting challenges and your recruiting game plan so that you can align and create KPIs and goals that are tied to those specific challenges.

Once you have your challenges defined and what you’re going to get from an objective standpoint, that’s when you plan to measure that. And if you’re going to do anything, you have to have a fixed goal, this is what we’re going to try to achieve, and this is the time frame in which you’re going to achieve it. And you have to have the measurement capability, whatever technology, or measurements, or surveys, or whatever in place to be able to track that in time.

And once you have those goals established and know how you’re going to measure them, making sure that you assemble the right team is absolutely critical. And really thinking through the greater stakeholder group, there are many, many people in an organization like the size of Walmart that have the opportunity to help or hinder, and really there’s only one brand. It’s not a consumer brand, an employment brand and all these other brands yes you segment, but they’re all tied together. So making sure that you in our case work with marketing, and corporate affairs, and internal communications, and all those things that have the opportunity to influence or amplify the brand or aligning the work are formed early on and become bought in so that they can contribute valuable insight along the way.

From there, starting to do some of that research to build upon what you know already about your company. So asking candidates, “What is it that you’re looking for? What is it that we’re missing? How did your interview experience go?” Asking existing employees, “Okay, you were onboarded. What worked, what didn’t?” And start honing in on those specific areas that you need to address.

And, you know, from there, you start thinking about your target demographic, okay? You’ve got a baseline of knowledge. You have an understanding of what it is that you need to accomplish, how you’re going to measure it. Who are the people that you’re going to go after? With Walmart, again, the demographic was, dozens of different personas. I talk about the website, because that was our most recent brand initiative. For that, we couldn’t be all things to all people. We needed to narrow that down. So we basically grouped six personas that were based on user needs.

So there are many different personas, but all of them have similar needs when it comes to accessing a website, for example. And once we understood what those needs were, we could think about the touch points and the candidate journey. So thinking about the process of what a candidate does. They’re in the world, they see an advertisement, or they encounter a recruiter, and maybe they’re led to go visit the website. Once they’re there, they start to read, they start to bond, they start to understand the company and the culture and say, “Hey, you know, I actually like this. Maybe there is something for me.” Then they dig deeper.

They start to learn about the role and how a day in the life might look like and then maybe the area. If they’re going to relocate, “Can I live in this place?” And they start to invest. And maybe they speak with a recruiter, maybe they actually take a flight and come to visit. And from there, they’ve got to waive that opportunity amongst their other opportunities, and finally, hopefully, if it’s a good fit, they’ll sign on with the company and go into the onboarding process. So understanding each of those phases and the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those user groups as they move through them helps us understand what information we want to present and when.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelSmithD and don’t forget to subscribe to The Employer Branding Podcast.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.