Meet Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer at Walmart.

Donna Morris
January 5, 2022

This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.

The following is an interview we recently had with Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer at Walmart.

What is the state of the human resources industry today?

In nearly three decades working in human resources, my purpose has been contributing to the success of people and the organizations I’ve been proud to be a part of. While that may have looked different in previous years or roles, the fundamental purpose hasn’t changed despite the challenges we’ve all faced through these pandemic years. In fact, the past two years have only magnified the opportunity we have in human resources to truly contribute to ensuring people are the center of organizations, and that there is a focus on the well-being of our people, supporting their growth, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion, navigating and leading change in an organization. While it has been a challenging time, it’s an opportunity to magnify the role of  human resources in contributing to an organization’s success.

What are the most common challenges you face when managing employee feedback and reporting?

One key to our success is associate feedback. For Walmart, most of our associates are on the frontlines supporting customers, so it’s imperative to get a better understanding of what they’re seeing, hearing and experiencing, then turning that feedback into action that will improve our business. To maintain a culture of open communication and enable associates to speak their minds, you have to focus on ensuring there are strong, trusted channels for your people to share what is on their mind. One of our primary ways is through human interaction (meetings and listening sessions), our annual Associate Engagement Survey (AES) or our Open Door process, which enables associates to share ideas, ask questions and raise concerns in good faith with their supervisors and other leaders at any time without fear of reprisal.

What are 3-5 pieces of advice for organizations in your industry looking to improve their employee feedback culture?

There are so many important leadership lessons to share, but some of the most valuable to me include the following: 1. Be visible, accessible, approachable and vulnerable – it builds trust, and they will draw strength from connecting to you. 2. Be truthful — define reality but give hope. 3. Listen without immediately solving. 4. Ask. They may be slow to tell you things need fixing. 5. Tell stories about the vision and path to the future. 6. Lean toward over-communication.

What’s the future of HR?

For a long time, I’ve viewed the role of the HR professional as a partner to architect success for the organization/business and the people that work for that business. Partnering on the strategy and ensuring you determine the organizational design and how work gets done, increasingly the role people and digital play, and at the center talent – ensuring you have the right people across the organization, that you can attract, engage, reward and retain. I believe the function also contributes directly to the betterment of the lives of our people and increasingly the communities in which we operate. As we look to the future, we have an important opportunity to create an even more people-centered culture for our companies and directly contribute to driving organizational success.

How do you see your role evolving over the next 3-5 years?

At Walmart, we believe our people will continue to make the difference and be our competitive advantage, in an increasingly digital and technology-driven world. That belief drives our People team and is what guided us as we looked out and chartered what we saw as our strategic priorities for the next 3 to 5 years. Those four areas of focus are digital, growth, well-being and inclusion. We are focused on ensuring our organization is becoming more digital for our associates and to serve our customers. We’re focused on the physical, emotional and financial well-being of our associates. We’re supporting the growth of the company through the development and growth of our associates. We’re building upon our foundation as a diverse company to be better for all – an inclusive Walmart for everyone. We’re centered across our business on these people priorities, all of which are framing the role we play for our organization going forward.

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