Accelerate Positive Change: A Q&A with Ben Hasan

Now is the time for HR and corporate leaders to act to increase inclusion, equity and justice in their organizations and in broader society, the senior vice president and chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer for Walmart says.

August 20, 2020
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Ben Hasan

Ben Hasan believes that Walmart’s values drive the retailer’s commitment to inclusion and equity. Its goal of saving people money so they can live better lives applies to all people, regardless of identity, experience, style, ability or perspective, says the company’s senior vice president and chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer. Hasan joined Walmart’s Global People team in 2015. He and his staff are responsible for the strategic evolution of the company’s culture and the development of behaviors that embrace diversity and inclusion at all levels. According to Hasan, the team knows that now is the time to act to increase inclusion, equity and justice. He will be a keynote speaker at the Society for Human Resource Management’s INCLUSION 2020 conference, which will be held virtually Oct. 19-21.

How would you describe Walmart’s culture?

The Walmart culture is how we live our values—service to the customer, respect for the individual, strive for excellence and act with integrity—through our everyday behaviors. Our culture is a fundamental component of the onboarding process for every one of our more than 2.2 million associates worldwide.

Beyond condemning hatred and racism, what can organizations do to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion?

Race, unfortunately, affects many outcomes in our society, so an analysis of race must be part of the next step—including by companies like Walmart as well as across society. If we don’t work together to fully understand the compounding factors of inequity, we all run the risk of widening the gap before we close it. We don’t have all the answers, but we know we can’t afford to wait to figure everything out. We’re committed to making change inside our own organization and being a catalyst for good in the world.

What steps is Walmart taking in that direction?

In June 2020, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon announced that the company would use its influence to address systemic racism in society head-on. We’re now looking at how Walmart’s core business operations overlap with areas of society where racism and inequity appear to be perpetuated.

We’re examining our own financial and business practices to identify initiatives to help create opportunities for businesses owned by women and diverse suppliers. We’ll also look for opportunities to influence how access to capital works beyond Walmart.

We’re exploring ways to improve health and wellness for our customers and our own associates through our existing businesses—like our pharmacy and, increasingly, our Walmart Health Clinics as we grow them.

‘If we don’t work together to fully understand the compounding factors of inequity, we all run the risk of widening the gap before we close it.

In the area of education, the company is working to strengthen academic support for associates, and we’re creating broader and deeper ties through our recruiting programs with historically black colleges and universities.

Our recruiting and hiring practices are under review to ensure that nonviolent, formerly incarcerated applicants are appropriately considered and successfully onboarded as they enter the workforce.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing $100 million to create the Center for Racial Equity to support philanthropic initiatives to help advance economic opportunity.

What can HR professionals do to ensure they’re hiring from a diverse candidate pool?

Walmart’s HR department is working to be more transparent with respect to gender and ethnicity by reporting twice a year on our workforce representation and processes for advancing diversity. We thoroughly review our people practices regularly and are always looking for opportunities to improve and to hold our leaders accountable.

We developed a talent review toolkit to help leaders identify potential in people and to recognize and mitigate unconscious bias. We have also implemented practices to ensure that hiring teams and candidate slates are diverse. To drive internal movement and development, most new or replacement positions from the vice president level and below are posted internally first. A suite of assessments and structured interviews are used to evaluate candidates, and we hold a calibration meeting to discuss and compare candidates before making a hiring decision. Select internal and external slates for officer and management positions include at least three candidates, with at least one candidate being a woman and/or person of color.

What is the Walmart Academy and how does it help associates advance?

The Walmart Academy is an immersive training program for associates to gain skills they can use to succeed with our company and beyond. Walmart Academies use the Walmart sales floor to train associates in advanced retail skills and soft skills like leadership, communications and change management. All academies have a dedicated staff. They provide training using cutting-edge, hand-held devices and virtual reality. The program prepares associates for jobs as front-line hourly supervisors, department managers and assistant managers. Associates can receive college credit for paid training at Walmart Academies. Since the first academy opened in 2016, the program has grown to nearly 200 locations nationwide. As of April 2019, our academies have trained more than 800,000 associates, providing them with a clear path to advancement.

Interview by John Scorza, managing editor for SHRM’s weekly All Things Work newsletter.

Photography courtesy of Walmart.

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