Recruiting From the Military

Wal-Mart offers management opportunities to former members of the armed forces

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Michelle Terry enjoys a challenge. It’s what led her to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 2003, Terry served in the U.S. Army as a member of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and by the age of 21, she was responsible for the training and welfare of 80 soldiers. As a maintenance platoon leader, she managed equipment worth more than $10 million, and at one point she managed a warehouse that supported more than 3,500 troops.

So when Terry decided in 2008 to leave the military, she wondered if she’d be able to find a civilian job that would optimize the leadership skills she’d honed in the Army. “I was looking for a company that had values similar to the military, that offered upward mobility and would value my potential and try to develop it,” Terry says. As timing would have it, in June 2008 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had begun an innovative recruitment program designed to bring more young people into store management–those with proven leadership skills who were interested in learning the retail business. The military would offer an excellent talent pool, executives thought. “The nation has made a huge investment in the growth and development of military leaders,” says Gary Profit, senior director of military recruiting for Wal-Mart. “They have a record of performance under pressure.”

So Wal-Mart launched its program to recruit junior military officers, or JMOs, scouring job fairs and connecting with military-focused headhunters and military associations to find talent. Terry is one of 250 military leaders to date who have been trained by Wal-Mart to work in store operations management as shift managers, store managers, and market managers.

JMOs are first introduced to Wal-Mart’s culture by visiting the home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, for about four weeks of training. Afterward, they are sent to a store and paired with a high-performing manager who serves as a mentor and teaches the recruits about the world of retail.

All in all, the training program, which lasts about 90 days, gives participants basic skill development in Wal-Mart merchandising, supply chain, finance, and human relations.

Wal-Mart’s strategy of finding top leaders and giving them the retail experience they need to excel is a good one, says Timothy A. Wilson, president of T.A. Wilson & Associates, a management consulting and organizational development firm in Northborough, Massachusetts. “What better organization to train young people in how to lead than the military?” Wilson asks. Not only is it patriotic to give former military leaders a chance, but it’s good business sense, he adds. “You have a strong core of people that can demonstrate the ability to manage complex problems and projects.”

At Wal-Mart’s 2010 Shareholders Meeting in June, President and CEO Mike Duke remarked that in order for Wal-Mart to continue to grow globally, its workforce, which will increase by 500,000 jobs over the next five years, must reflect that diversity. The JMO program can help in that regard since “the military community is one of the most diverse talent pools in the world,” Profit says.

About six months after Terry began training, she was tapped to oversee her own Walmart store–a supercenter in O’Fallon, Missouri, where she manages between 430 and 450 associates. “Wal-Mart valued my leadership from day one,” she says. “They told me, ‘We’re going to help you get the retail piece, but come in with that leadership ability and we will develop it.’”

  • ken

    i am a walmart worker in indiana.  i was in army for 13 yrs. i cant seem to move up in my walmart/

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    Was fired from Wal-Mart for helping an elderly lady get an electric  wheel chair. I was in the Army.

    • sam

      What exactly did they say you did wrong? I bet there was a lot more than that.

  • jo

    I admire you for that.I’ve noticed that to be quite a trend,(atleast in our walmart). Quite a few members of management are iether military, or military affiliated in our store. Military is always the career choice I’ve admired, I’ve wanted to join and have been able to, but yet I work at Walmart,Ive also thought about turning that into a career. So, your article greatly interested myself, and it was refreshing to hear after a long days work there is actually someone besides myself, that actually oddly enough does not mind their job;after all there is worse things that have been done with my time other than the ‘such simple’ problems at walmart. Don’t get me wrong I do,(I’ll be nice)comment about ‘irritating’ things on the job, but heck as long as I know it all doesn’t bother to much over-all.As far as those that have giving comment on ‘lack of growth’ with their walmart.Ok, am I missing something here, ya’ll ex- military, therefore you were hopefully taught how to fight and how to respect. Then I’m sorry but what’s wrong with respecting yourself, standing up for yourself, re-locate if need be.I’d have to do that at my store to, it’s not a super center, but there is one approximently 30 min away, and I live in a very ‘hick’ area.The move,and/or extra gas sure would be worth it to me.Especially when I look at my options of employable places with any benefits,or anything.So for all of ya, I’m sorry it’s not Walmart, it’s your choices.

  • Tyrone Riser

    I too, was impressed at first with Wal*Mart’s recruitment program & was a staunch advocate for it. To the point I was at odds with other “Military Hires/JMO’s” for Wal*Mart. Unfortunately I found out Wal*Mart’s ideals don’t leave the HQ’s in Bentonville. This company is in no way like the military or any other ideal company. They pay their associates low wages & ask for things they know they can’t execute in a timely fashion. Then threaten or fire managers for not “Holding Accountable” or firing the associates who are barely scraping by. The idea of fire the associate before they fire me, is not a representation of the miltary or any humane company. The violate their own policies at lower or different levels and the “Upper Management” hides their face from it. Many of these “Military Hires” have either been given difficult store that experienced managers won’t take, for fear of not executing and losing their careers, not to mention not receiving a bonus. A lot of the military have quit because of being disgusted with the company’s hypocrisy and lack of consistency or they have been fired. I myself know of a large number of “Black Military” hires who have been subjected to unfair practices and who are being either unfairly treated or harassed. There are some cases of successes in the program, but even with those the employess do attest that this is not the company we were told we hired into. I am facing termination because I helped my associates capture and detain a shoplifter who stole $400 worth “Blue Ray” DVD’s. In the apprehension I was grazedon my foot by the shoplifters counterpart while supporting my staff. They state they follow policies, but more often than not they pick the polcies to follow. My store is in a high crime area and they did even staff me with the personnel to run the store, which they told me I had to take or be asked to take a lower position or face being discharged from the company. I was told the day before a walk interview to go to the store & interview. The policy states a manager must “Opt-in” (apply for the store), then do 1-2 phone interviews for the store, then do the Walk/Tour interview. I wanted, “Opted-in” for, walked the store, had been briefed on the store & found a home in Myrtle Beach. This has happened to a lot of the miltary hires. In NC many “Black Military Managers” have been consistently harassed for inept execution of the company’s impossible programs. It’s not just a racial issue although it has a great deal of racial tendencies, but the whole company is not as it seems. So please realize Wal*Mart is not the company it pretends to be. I believed they were, but all those lawsuits didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. The company is not passed saving, it’s just going to take the REAL attention from the people in the Home Office of Bentonville, primarily Bill Simon the CEO. The program was his idea (he’s a former Naval Officer) and he is the reason Wal*Mart is still trying to go the right way. He has to get to the bottom of these corrupt practices. Something needs to be done before the company goes past the point of return. Just ask the people who work there, at any level of employment.

  • Being responsible for overpriced equipment does not necessarily suggest any actual understanding or knowledge. also, platoon leaders are 2nd and 1st lieutenants, which well describes the first 3 years of service, but not after (especially for a well military educated soldier). managing that warehouse must have been when everyone else was on vacation, or maybe when there was a horrible inventory that needed doing.

    that aside, there is a serious issue in saying you want your job to be like another job you leave. if the work ethic, atmosphere, job potential and all that is similar to the job you just left…what makes you unlikely to leave this one? an officer that said “i hated the military, i want a job thats nothing like it” would convince me they were telling truth.

    im impressed shes a store manager now, although you deal with LESS people the higher you go. imagining that the head boss is in any way directly dealing with daytime shelf sorter / shopping cart guy is absurd. as in military or anywhere, there are layers of management. the ceo of walmart may oversee a million employees through a chain of supervision, but not personally. lets be reasonable.

    whats the point here? nothing really. everyone is posting what they are thinking, just blogging something that may educate or entertain or amuse.

    @tyrone riser – thats a shame. sorry to hear that. walmart is big enough that all forms of human behavior exist, despite the best or worst intentions and policies. not exactly sure how or what you were at odd with versus other JMOs, but overall very informative. also not fully understanding the shoplifter incident (besides the seeming trend to pretend it doesnt exist, and focus on other things). thank you again

    @jo – what on earth are you talking about? based on your ability to communicate a point, you may not be in touch with current walmart practices, or even general common sense. the lady in the article was a west point graduate (read, college educated) officer that got headhunted. ill bet the guy slaving in the pits for 13 years isnt. the guy posing something random about a wheelchair isnt. what compelled you to respond in such a way to absolutely vacant previous comments is…i dont know.

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  • Dillon

    I live in Spokane Wa and they are hiring LPs and I have applied many times over this year and never get a call! I have 6 years in theU.S. Army, trained under the special operations command and have my B.A. in criminal justice and military science and still can not even get an interview. I do not believe Wal-mart supports U.S. troops at all. if they are going to hire some kid off the street over a combat Vet that is that has as many qualities as i have and is only 27 years old.

    GO ARMY !!!

  • Dillon

    sorry should have check that for grammar!

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  • Michael k. Coager

    Does Walmart have recruiters? If so, is it possible for a Walmart Recruiter in my area(Albany, New York Area) call me at home? Please email me for my home phone number.