Training Top 125 Best Practice: Walmart’s Pathways

Pathways is a comprehensive development program for entry-level associates that can be completed in as little as 60 days.

In 2016, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon gave the following call to action: “There will be no better place in retail to learn, to grow, and to build a career than Walmart.” 

As such, the company has committed to providing its associates with consistent, relevant tools for meaningful professional growth. Nowhere is this commitment more evident than Pathways, a comprehensive development program for entry-level associates that can be completed in as little as 60 days. Pathways empowers associates to create their own opportunities. It went from an idea brainstormed on a napkin to an initiative cascaded to more than 1 million Walmart U.S. associates. The program provides visibility and career progression opportunities.

Program Details

Prior to the implementation of Pathways, less than 10 percent of entry-level hourly associates were completing their functional training plans, leading to inconsistent performance of core store processes. Additionally, internal research on associate productivity, progression, and attrition in key areas indicated two critical needs: improving communication and strengthening relationships between hourly associates and their supervisors. Walmart designed its Pathways training with these factors in mind.

Pathways content consists of Onboarding, Service, Selling, and Role-Specific courses. Much of this content teaches role-specific fundamentals such as how to run a cash register, clean up a spill, or interact with a customer. Later modules promote the development of transferable skills such as communication, customer service, and on-the-job critical thinking. Selling and Role-Specific content builds upon existing retail expertise to develop merchandising, pricing, and inventory management skills. These courses help associates sell better by focusing on the customer and matching them with what they need.  

Pathways content features training blocks supported by on-the-job activity sheets that are completed by associates on the sales floor with support from their supervisor. Associates might watch a video to learn a new skill, reinforce their learning via a simulation, and then practice related behaviors in their work area. Once associates have completed a Pathways module, they undergo an attendance check, a performance standards review, and an assessment. Success in all three phases leads to graduation, and graduates become eligible for the My$hare quarterly incentive program offered to associates when stores exceed predefined sales and profit goals.


Pathways aligns with Walmart’s People Strategy for the acquisition, development, engagement, and enablement of talent. Pathways has shown to improve customer loyalty, business growth, market share, team performance, and service quality. Walmart has tracked a 10 percent improvement in retention among the more than 400,000 associates who have graduated from the program to date. This has led to an overwhelming return on investment, considering the potential cost of each employee lost to turnover. 


Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.