As we slowly get back to work alongside the pandemic, organizations while working hard to take care of their employees’ safety and well-being, are also realizing that this is the time to focus on employee productivity as they continue to adapt to the changing times. We caught up with the Chief People Officer of Walmart, Donna Morris to find out how they are battling the pandemic, managing the performance of their employees, and rewarding them.
Donna Morris is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer for Walmart. A member of the executive committee, Donna is responsible for attracting, retaining and developing talent for one of the world’s largest private employers.
Donna has nearly 20 years of leadership experience in delivering innovative people solutions, developing and managing teams that operate in an agile way, and helping to build a high-performance culture that promotes diversity and inclusion. Donna joined Walmart from Adobe, where she served as Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President of employee experience.
Donna joined Adobe in 2002 and most recently led all aspects of the company’s human resources, real estate and security operations. She also serves on the board of directors of Marvell Technology.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
How has Walmart responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure employee safety, managing relationships with clients, collaboration with industry leaders and internal workforce management?
The global health crisis has been top of mind for us since the beginning of this year when our stores in China first responded. Since then, we’ve taken a number of steps to keep our people safe, including changing our store hours, installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in all stores, using new spray kits to sanitize carts, taking associate temperatures, and requiring that associates wear masks. We also donated parking lot space for test sites, PPE and supplies to hospitals, and food to those in need. In these unprecedented times, we’re fortunate to be able to use our size and resources to do good for our associates, customers, and communities.
How has the impact of COVID-19 been on the retail industry? How are you adapting to the changing times and embracing the new normal? What are your focus areas?
Change is normal for Walmart. Our founder, Sam Walton, believed in creating a culture of change at Walmart and knew that it would give us a competitive edge. When we come to a crossroads, we remember that. What this year’s challenges have done is push us to accelerate – as a company and a society. We’ve made changes – many of them tech-related – in the past couple months that we had put off for one reason or another. But, as we’ve changed how we work, our mindset has shifted and we haven’t focused so much on perfection before implementation. There’s something good to be said for trying new things, iterating as you go, and moving with speed.
We have an obligation to empower our teams to lead, to be inclusive, to innovate, and to learn and that is what we need to guide us into the next generation of retail. At the end of the day, we want to attract and retain the best of the best, and our strategies should support and reflect that
To what extent has the outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated the shift toward digital transformation? What are some of your latest measure in terms of business continuity and digital innovations?
We’ve been going through a digital transformation for many years now, and that’s proved more important than ever this year. Customers changed how they shop almost overnight, and it’s likely that won’t change in the future. Those who might have been hesitant to try pickup or delivery are using those services now – and they’re finding how easy it is. Moving forward, we’ll continue to listen to our customers, and we’ll keep adjusting and improving based on how they want to be served.
How do you see the performance management and rewards systems landscape across organizations amid this COVID-19 pandemic?
As with everything this year, the way companies approach these subjects will no doubt change. For us, these are outcomes of our work to make Walmart the place to be. We need to establish an approach that centers on growing careers and investing in our people. That means focusing on empowerment, development and internal movement, so that everyone has an opportunity for great success here. We’ll do whatever makes sense to get us there – and that might mean making changes to these systems, among other efforts such as investing in workforce training and education.
What are the new elements and metrics HR and business leaders should keep in mind while streamlining the new performance management and rewards strategies? What's Walmart's strategy?
I think we should all ask ourselves how well we’re preparing the leaders of tomorrow, so that our business is still thriving long after we’re gone. We have an obligation to empower our teams to lead, to be inclusive, to innovate, and to learn. To drive the digital transformation that’s needed to guide us into the next generation of retail, we need phenomenal associates that have the opportunity to grow within the company. At the end of the day, we want to attract and retain the best of the best, and our strategies should support and reflect that.
Remote working became the new normal during the pandemic lockdown. How are you embracing remote work and empowering your workers to come to speed with their productivity?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to working from home. We understand that it’s been quite an adjustment – one that many people have never experienced before. Some of us are balancing work, kids and school, and it can be tiring. We don’t have commutes now, so many of us naturally end up logging in earlier and logging off later than before. On the other hand, others are thriving in this environment. As individuals, we need to make sure that we’re creating our own boundaries. Find what works best for you.
What should be the differentiating factors in these times when almost everyone is contributing to his/her best and apprehensions, confusion and anxiety are all around? How to do expectation management in current WFH times?
Communication is so important right now. Those of us working from home right now don’t get the casual interactions that we would have in the office. We’re encouraging everyone to make time to create and collaborate as a team – to have those casual chats. Make it fun and remember that it doesn’t have to be all business.
What have you learned from your employees in terms of their performance assessment and rewards expectations? Do you see a change in terms of their expectation on how the company will reward them?
While there is still much left to discuss and learn, we can all agree that the work our associates are doing every day is nothing short of extraordinary. They’ve worked tirelessly through some of the busiest and most challenging months in the history of our company and they’ve served their communities when they needed it most. To reward them and show our appreciation for this exceptional work, we’ve given a series of bonuses over the past few months, which totaled more than $900 million. As a company, we’re focused on recognizing hard work, giving credit where credit’s due, and rewarding our teams – it’s the right thing to do, and I wish I could thank all 2.2 million of our associates individually.
To show our appreciation for the exceptional work of our employees, we’ve given a series of bonuses over the past few months, which totalled more than $900 million. We’re focused on recognizing hard work, giving credit where credit’s due, and rewarding our teams – it’s the right thing to do
What are your top priorities as you go ahead amid this pandemic? How do you envision the future of the retail industry given that the pandemic is still fledging its wings across several countries?
I came to Walmart at the beginning of this year with a simple goal: to help make Walmart the best company in the world to work for. I couldn’t have imagined how tumultuous my first few months would be, but I’ve been heartened by how our company has responded – from our leadership to our frontline workers, all taking care of our communities and each other. As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, taking care of our people is at the top of our priorities. The retail industry has always been competitive and fluid. Companies that succeed in this environment will be the ones that prioritize their people, and we’ll continue to do just that.
Read more such stories from the August issue of our e-magazine on 'Performance and Rewards in the New Normal’