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Wal-Mart plans to open on Wednesday in Ooltewah its second employee training academy in Tennessee as the retailing giant tries to provide consistency and improve worker performance.

The academy will be Wal-Mart's 33rd nationally and one of 200 the company plans to set up nationwide by the end of 2017, said spokeswoman Anne Hatfield.

"It's giving associates confidence to do their jobs well," she said. "In the end, it's all about serving our customers."

The company's first academy countrywide opened outside of Dallas this past spring, Hatfield said. In the Volunteer State, one opened in Paris, Tenn., earlier.

The Ooltewah site is located on 2,600 square feet in the back of its supercenter, she said. Sometimes, the academies are located in part of the store, while at other times they're placed in a parking lot, the company spokeswoman said.

The Ooltewah location will start training mid-level and department managers who work within about 30 stores in the region, Hatfield said.

Each training class takes about two weeks to complete and there's a graduation ceremony at the end, she said.

All the academies nationwide operate the same way, Hatfield said. Training is a combination of classroom work and going out onto the store floor to apply what the employees have learned, she said.

According to industry publication RetailWire, the new approach replaces Wal-Mart's earlier training method. That involved having an employee complete a computer-based learning module and then shadow a sponsor employee.

The publication said some studies have shown that employee training correlates positively with customer satisfaction. In 2015, a Wharton School of Business study found that stores that rated high in customer satisfaction were those with knowledgeable associates, who boosted sales, RetailWire said.

Hatfield said that while training in Ooltewah starts with supervisors and department managers, eventually all employees will go through as the academies are built out.

She said that each academy has its own dedicated instructional staff.

"There's not anyone doing another job half time," Hatfield said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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