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On the latest episode of The Debrief, Donna Morris, Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer at Walmart, joins our Co-Founder Teddy Chestnut to chat about how she builds great teams at scale for the world’s largest employer.

In the episode, Donna and Teddy discuss:

  • Donna’s career path, from the beginning of her career to her time at Adobe, all the way to her current role at Walmart 
  • How hiring at scale has changed her hiring philosophy
  • Her reflections on how to create a great candidate experience
  • How Walmart is using AI to empower their associates

Check out our highlights from the conversation: 

Donna’s favorite interview question. Donna’s favorite question is, “If I was to meet someone who has worked for you, what will they tell me about you?” Donna says, “I really want to hear how they articulate how they think they show up to someone else they’ve worked with. It’s often very telling in terms of who they are as a leader and how they might contribute to our environment here at Walmart.”

Donna’s greatest career unlock. While Donna was serving as the CHRO at Accelio, the company was acquired by Adobe. During that transition, she moved to a Senior Director role. Donna recognized that although her title was going down, this was an opportunity to continue learning. Ultimately, Donna believes this experience was one of the greatest unlocks in her career. 

Donna says, “Don’t be focused on title; be focused on the opportunity to make an impact and the opportunity to continue to learn in your career.”

How hiring at scale changed Donna’s hiring philosophy. With 2.1 million associates worldwide (and counting), hiring at Walmart is unlike any other organization. Walmart’s high-volume hiring has changed Donna’s perspective on hiring in two fundamental ways: 

  • Assessments. Donna believes assessments are a critical way to reduce hiring bias. She says, “We use assessments for our stores and our clubs…It really contributes to quality of hiring and, frankly, the ability to have a really diverse set of associates that work for us.”
  • Technology. Leveraging technology is essential for running an effective hiring process, according to Donna. She says, “There is so much opportunity ahead for us in terms of how we leverage technology effectively in some of our people processes.”

Designing a candidate experience that puts candidates at the forefront. At Walmart, every candidate could be a customer, so ensuring candidates receive a great experience is of utmost importance. Donna and her team strive to create an excellent interviewing experience that allows candidates to learn about the company and themselves throughout the process.

Walmart’s focus on people-led, tech-powered. Walmart recently built an app for their associates, Me@Walmart. Donna says, “We didn’t want the app just to be a work-based tool to help people navigate their work, but we wanted it to also be a tool that would unlock the potential in people’s lives. And so we use it to do things like bring insights to our associates about their schedules, medical plans, and career.” The app also includes an assistant, similar to ChatGPT, to help associates with tasks like drafting a communication or creating a job description.

The impact of AI on HR. Donna says we’re already seeing the real impact of AI on the people space and how it can help with things like summarizing meetings or drafting job descriptions.  

Donna says, “I believe the promise for the people function is we’ve long wanted to have self-service. And finally, we might end up being in a situation where we can provide increased opportunities for self-service by virtue of actually using generative AI for people to find information that they want to find on their own.”

The keys to inclusive hiring. Donna aims to create an environment where all Walmart associates can bring their best selves to work and feel comfortable contributing their ideas. Donna says, “We’re really focused on ensuring that we’re extremely inclusive of our practices. So are those hiring teams diverse themselves? Do we actually look at a diverse group of candidates? Are we really being inclusive of how we think about sourcing individuals?”

Donna’s #1 rule for interviewing. One of Donna’s top interviewing rules is leaving room for the “gray aspects.” Donna says, “Nobody’s going to perfectly check the box. So how do you make sure that you’re opening yourself to see how someone presents themselves with their skills and capabilities and how they align with your organizational values and your beliefs?”

Lessons learned from hiring mistakes. Donna believes that usually, when it doesn’t work out with an employee, it’s about the ‘how’ not the ‘what.’ Donna says, “When it doesn’t work, it’s because they’re just not a fit for the organization, and they’re not willing to potentially adapt. It’s not about assimilating into a company; it’s about integrating.”

To avoid hiring the wrong candidates, Donna suggests using behavioral-based interviews. She says, “Past performance is a great indicator of what will lie ahead for individuals. I think it’s important to really explore how people have navigated in the past to indicate what they will do for you in the future.”

Listen to Donna’s podcast episode or watch the entire conversation below:

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