Local Walmart employees to benefit from new pay scale

Published 12:25 am Saturday, March 21, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye Wal-Mart employees Patrick Gould, left, and Hunter Combs check inventory at a holiday display in the store.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Wal-Mart employees Patrick Gould, left, and Hunter Combs check inventory at a holiday display in the store.

Starting next month Walmart is enacting a new employee pay scale plan and training program that will affect nearly half of its employees, including many at the local store in Elizabethton.

The raises were announced by the company in February as part of a $1 billion investment by the retail giant in how it pays and trains its hourly employees. One part of the initiative will be raising starting pay from minimum wage at $7.25 per hour to $9 an hour.

“That will take effect on April 4,” said Patrick Gould, co-manager of the Elizabethton Walmart. “It’s going to affect about 40 percent of our store.”

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But new hires are not the only ones who can expect to see more money on their paycheck, Gould said.

Currently, hourly positions with the company have a top end an employee’s pay can reach, something the company calls “maxing out.” “Anybody who is maxed out will receive a 2 percent increase as well,” Gould said.

For example, the current pay range for cashiers is $7.65 to $16 but with the new pay scale, that range will be $9.00 to $17.55, according to the company.

The company will also continue pay raise incentives for its employees based on training and performance, Gould said.

“By next year, those who are making $9 will have the potential to be making $10,” he said.

Hunter Combs has been an employee at the Elizabethton Walmart for two years and he is excited about the pay scale and training plans announced by the company.

“The money is going to be nice, but it definitely motivates you to want to work harder and promote,” he said.

Streamlining the training and promotion process is also part of the retailer’s new initiative for employees.

“Walmart is piloting a new, comprehensive onboarding and training development program that will create clear career pathways for associates so they know what is expected of them in order to get promotions and earn more money,” Walmart spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said. “Associates will gain valuable retail skills to help them at Walmart or other jobs they may take elsewhere.”

“This new, comprehensive onboarding and training program, created with the help of our store associates, will help them better see how to get to where they want to go in their career,” she added. “Training areas including teamwork, merchandising, retail fundamentals and communications.”

Current employees will start going through this training this summer, Henneberg said. The company’s new hires will begin the training in early 2016.

“This is something our associates have been asking for,” she said. “They want more clarity on the opportunities available at Walmart and how to advance at the company. Under this new plan, associates will gain valuable real-world skills in a structured way to help them at Walmart or other jobs they may take outside of Walmart.”

“We want associates to have more control over their careers and earn higher pay and advance their careers based on skills they learn and for providing high-quality customer service,” she added.

Both Gould and Combs know that career advance opportunities are available with Walmart. Combs is currently in the company’s management track program while Gould is an example of an employee working his way up through the company.

Gould began his career with the company 10 years ago working as an Inventory Control Specialist on the sales floor.

“I did about a year’s stint in ICS before I started in the management training program,” he said. From working the sales floor, Gould made his way through the management ranks and now serves as a co-manager for the Elizabethton store.

A Carter County native, Gould graduated from Elizabethton High School and went on to college, never anticipating his career path would lead him to Walmart.

“When I graduated college, that is about the time the economy started to decline,” he said.

He took a job working at the retailer and has not looked back since.

“Walmart has been good to me,” he said. “I’m very fortunate and very blessed to be a part of the Walmart family.”

“If there is one thing I can say about Walmart, it’s that it has provided for my family,” the married father of one added.

Currently in his second year at Northeast State Community College, Combs is majoring in business management and plans to stay with the company after he graduates.

“At first I was just going to do it to get through college, but I fell in love with the place,” Combs said of his job at Walmart. “I can’t really picture myself going anywhere else now.”

Combs, also an Elizabethton High School graduate, hopes his career with the company follows a similar path. He works as an inventory specialist, the same position Gould had when he first started with the company.

“I’d love to be a store manager in 10 years, but I’ll just take it year by year,” Combs said. “I don’t see why that can’t happen with the opportunities that have been given to me. I’m willing to go as far as I can.”

There are many pathways to career advancement at Walmart, Gould said, and the new training programs should help makes those pathways clearer for employees looking to advance.

“There are promotion opportunities out there,” he said. “There are so many avenues you can go with in Walmart.”

Each year, about 75,000 employees company-wide move from part-time to full-time positions within the company, Henneberg said.

“Last year, we promoted more than 170,000 associates,” she said. “The opportunities to grow a career for associates have always been available, but we haven’t always made the path as clear as we could have for associates.”