Walmart puts its associates first

CEO Doug McMillion discussed Walmart's investment in employees at the NRF's BIG Show 2018. (Walmart)

NEW YORK—Walmart has a history of prioritizing the needs of its employees and will continue that legacy left by founder Sam Walton, said CEO Doug McMillon in a sit-down chat with NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay at NRF's BIG Show 2018. 

The fireside chat on Sunday came on the heels of Walmart's announcement that it would increase the starting hourly wage for its U.S. associates to $11 and expand maternity and parental leave benefits. The company will also provide a $1,000 cash bonus for many eligible employees and provide financial assistance to associates adopting a child. 

McMillon told the crowd that Walmart employs 2.3 million people around the world and most of them are on the front lines with customers. While he admitted that the company is still locked into its pledge to invest in technology and to run its business in a more tech-first way, the associates are a big part of that investment. 

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"Wages and benefits matter in creating opportunity for them," he said. "As we become a different type of technology company, the people that are in that mix or process will be the way that we win." 

The increase in associate wages will take effect as early as February and will cost the company about $300 million annually. And the one-time bonus represents another $400 million that Walmart will invest by the end of fiscal 2018.

In addition, the leader, on his four-year anniversary of leading Walmart, spoke about the need for Walmart and other retailers to make decisions that contribute to the greater good. As reputation and values increasingly grow important for consumers, so does the need for brands to reflect this passion. 

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So how does a company with 32 million employees make sure to reflect a need to do good in the world?

McMillon said Walton's belief that his employees should work together to create a better life for everyone will stand the test of time.