Lumina Study Shows the Benefits of Walmart Employee Education Program

Lumina Foundation announced the results of its study of Live Better U, Walmart’s associate education and training program. The study focused on understanding the attrition, promotion, and job performance ratings by race and ethnicity among employees who enrolled.

In mid-2018, Walmart created Live Better U in partnership with Guild Education, a Denver-based organization supporting businesses that invest in employee education benefits. The program offered education benefits to roughly 1.5 million full- and part–time Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in the United States, allowing them to earn college degrees or acquire job skills without taking on debt.

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From the program’s launch in 2018 through this April, when nearly 30,000 associates were enrolled, almost 7,300 credentials had been awarded, including degrees and short-term credentials. Since the program began, more than 56,000 Walmart associates have participated.

“To our knowledge, this study represents the first time a company has shown employee outcomes disaggregated by race and ethnicity,” said Haley Glover, the report’s author and a Lumina strategy director. “Understanding program impact on diverse employee populations is necessary to building a program that is equitable in delivery and outcomes.”

The report, supported by analysis from a leading global professional services firm, shows that 49 percent of Live Better U participants identified as white, 18 percent as Black, and 16 percent as Hispanic or Latino. Other racial and ethnic groups comprised the remainder.

The study found that Walmart hourly employees who participated were significantly less likely to leave the company than non-participants. White hourly employees who participated in Live Better U were 80 percent more likely to receive promotions than non-participants. Black workers were 88 percent more likely, and Hispanic or Latino associates were 71 percent more likely. Overall, 17 percent of Live Better U participants received promotions.

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“Walmart has taken a giant step toward improving the educational outcomes of its employees,” said Danette Howard, Lumina’s senior vice president and chief policy officer. “We hope that Walmart continues to study Live Better U’s impact across its diverse workforce and inspires other companies to do the same, building momentum for improved transparency and accountability.”

Walmart has continued to develop the program, including more recently expanding academic partnerships and providing fully paid college tuition and books for employees. In August 2021, Walmart also announced it plans to invest nearly $1 billion in career-driven training and development over five years.

“We are proud to provide 100 percent paid college tuition and books for Walmart associates to develop their skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. “As part of Walmart’s culture, we are continuously evaluating how we can strengthen our programs and offerings to help further our associates’ learning and growth at Walmart. We appreciate Lumina’s thorough review of Live Better U to make an even greater impact.”

Walmart also offers credentialing programs in areas of need, including cybersecurity, health care management, logistics and supply chain management, and transportation. Unlike traditional corporate programs, the Walmart model is not based on tuition reimbursement. Requiring employees to pay for school upfront is a barrier for many hourly workers.

Through Guild’s college partnership model, Walmart employees have access to programs at many institutions, including Bellevue UniversityPurdue University Global, and Southern New Hampshire University. (As of June 2, Lumina became a shareholder of Guild. Lumina had no direct stake before the completion of this study’s analysis. However, Lumina may inadvertently have held indirect interests in the company through commingled, blind pool investments managed by third parties.)

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