Walmart’s DEI Director Talks Building Equity Into Talent Career Cycle

Donald Fan offers practical advice on recruiting, hiring and more  
Walmart DEI
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Walmart’s DEI journey began some 16 years ago, and as Donald Fan—the Bentonville, Ark.-based company’s senior director, global office of culture, diversity, equity and inclusion, told WGB, it’s a journey of “unwavering efforts and actions” that continues today.  

These efforts include integrating equity throughout the entire recruiting, hiring, onboarding, career development and advancement process.

“An equity strategy aims to lev­el the playing field and ensure all employees feel psychologically safe to bring their whole selves to work,” says Fan. “And everyone is offered a fair chance and equitable opportunity to learn, de­velop and advance. That effort helps transit from an employee-centered value proposition to a human-cen­tered value proposition that treats employees as people, not workers.”

Walmart's Donald Fan

Fan recently shared with WGB his practical examples that integrate equity in each of the crucial career moments:

1. Recruiting and Hiring. Nurture a broad sourcing pool, and attract underrepresented talent through innovative initiatives and a trusted brand name:

  • Cast a broader net by diversify­ing candidate sources to reach an inclusive talent pool.
  • Rethink qualifications to attract candidates from nontraditional backgrounds.
  • Nudge recruiters and hiring managers at key points in the process to increase awareness of potential bias using AI.
  • Conduct an in-depth analysis of recruiting processes, such as application pool, screening result, interviewing candidates and selection decision, to reveal potential bias in each step.
  • Require diverse slots and diverse interview panels to achieve a more equitable selection decision.

2. Onboarding. Involve everyone deliberately to set them up for success and create an enjoyable experience for all in the early days:

  • Emphasize equity, inclusion and employee value proposition during the onboarding experience.
  • Establish a buddy system, where every new hire is paired with a cultural ambassador to show them the ropes and decrease their learning curve in a new work environment.
  • Introduce new hires to the ERG groups to engage them with a sense of community.
  • Create checkpoints to learn and understand new hires’ experiences and needs, and ensure that everyone has a level playing field to start their career with your organization.

3. Learning and Development. Purposefully invest in a robust talent pipeline and strengthen the talent bench of disenfranchised groups by aligning skills, abilities and competencies with future organizational needs and changing business and talent strategies:

  • Offer everyone equitable access to learning and development opportunities and resources.
  • Re-skill diverse employees so they can move into jobs that are currently predomi­nantly white or male; imple­ment targeted development programs to teach learning agility and unlock their full potential.
  • Provide high-performers early access to sponsors to enrich their work experiences, expose them to senior executives, and acceler­ate their careers.
  • Incorporate talent development and succession requirements in all people managers’ perfor­mance goals.
  • Upskill employees to thrive in teams and position them to weather inevitable career challenges due to automation and digitalization.

4. Performance Appraisal. Apply a meritocracy system with objective and unbiased standards to raise employee engagement and morale:

  • Appraise employee performance and outcome, not appearance and background; communicate and apply an impartial frame­work and standard for appraisal ranking.
  • Create a feedback loop to give honest and constructive advice frequently.
  • Objectively identify “optimal” candidates for promotions and advancement using AI and ma­chine learning.
  • Measure employees’ perception of belonging, fairness and uniqueness.
  • Tie DEI results to annual performance reviews and adopt a zero-tolerance policy with regard to harassment, discrim­ination, bigotry and other noninclusive behaviors.

5. Compensation and Rewards. Incentivize all employees with fair pay and benefits based on contri­bution, competency development, adaptability and potential:

  • Commit to pay-equity by review­ing compensation practices and conducting pay equity audits regularly to mitigate pay disparity.
  • Identify well-being offerings that help establish an emotion­al connection with employees; make employees’ overall mental, physical, and financial well-being a priority.
  • Offer inclusion perks and benefits centered around employee needs.
  • Ensure your employee value proposition speaks to underrep­resented talent.

6. Remote Experience. Reshape ways of working to meet the unique needs of an inclusive workforce:

  • Break roles down into activities to determine which can be completed under flexible work arrangements tailored to employees’ personal and professional needs.
  • Identify ways to provide employees with options regarding where and when they can maintain productivity within the team context.
  • Provide virtual space for a remote team to share; test best practices and learn from peers.
  • Redesign virtual work and workspace attuned to inclusivity concerns and employee well-being to increase innovation, performance and morale.

“By embedding equity into the talent lifecycle, you enrich your employees’ experience; thus, you accelerate their engagement and pro­ductivity and make your team high performing, dynamic, and resilient,” Fan said.




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