Benjamin Keith, Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Walmart Connect, tells us about their personal and professional journey to building out Walmart Connect’s DEI program, and how those initiatives are taking root across the entire business. More information can be found in the recent which reflects the company’s progress across the enterprise.
From retail manager to DEI leader
I started working in retail when I was 16, working for a handful of clothing retailers and each time developing from an employee to manager. Then I joined Walmart Connect in 2019, because I knew it was a big opportunity to move into the ecommerce space, which I had been wanting to do. So, I joined as an executive assistant supporting the leadership team, before I ultimately moved into my current DEI role.
Following a calling to DEI
Implementing change was something I grew up around, my mother was always fighting for equality and justice for everyone. She taught me the importance of caring about others even if it feels like the issues they face don’t affect you personally. Growing up queer in a small town motivated me to stand up for myself and others very early on in life and well before entering the workforce.
Walmart has been growing and evolving a DEI program for many years. Today it includes a CDEI team and 9 Associate Resource Groups, reflective of diverse communities, available to support our associates through cultural programming, education, resources and allyship. When George Floyd was murdered, a movement was triggered across Corporate America to provide greater support for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. To further Walmart's DEI efforts, Walmart Connect formed a DEI Committee specific to our business unit to support our associates. I joined without hesitation. I continued my day job and volunteered my extra time supporting our DEI initiatives for one year and was then able to turn my side passion into my full-time job!
Evolution of Walmart Connect’s DEI program and advice for others
Building Walmart Connect’s DEI program was the best ambiguity you can ask for in the workforce. Our leadership team surveyed our associates to understand the areas of DEI that they cared most about investing in. This feedback helped shape the program’s key focus areas: Business Opportunities + Impacts, Culture + Education, Recruiting + Retention. I sat on a steering committee that oversaw the development and execution of the entire program, and it quickly became clear that this was more than a part time volunteer role – this was a full-time job. Over the course of a year, I documented the work we were doing, and the impact we were having on the organization, and with support from leadership, built a business case to form my own team dedicated to DEI.
For those looking to create a career path in this line of work, learn who your partners are, build trust and bring them on the journey with you. You need the opinions and experiences of others to help inform the way you will show up to support your organization.
Bringing these strategies to life
Walmart Connect is focused on ensuring our associates, our advertisers and partners, are as diverse as the communities Walmart serves, to help create more equity in the industries we touch and to cultivate a culture of belonging for all. DEI work can be highly gratifying, though it is very rarely instant gratification. There is a lot of trial and error until you get to a sustainable place of success and stability and even then, you will always have to re-visit to ensure proper alterations and upkeep.
One example is our ‘Walmart Connect Acceleration Academy,’ a test and learn, invite only, diverse brand amplifier. The mission of the program is to help diverse and small brands increase brand awareness and learn how to grow sales on Walmart’s site and app. Additionally, not only is this supporting smaller brands, but it is also putting authenticity in front of the customer, creating a shopping experience with purpose that supports Walmart’scampaign.
Walmart Connect strives to engage meaningfully by partnering with organizations like , , , and . Organizations like these enable us to diversify our pipeline and allow associates to be seen and connected to who they are in and out of the workplace. Mindsets are evolving around our relationship with work, it is no longer JUST about collecting the paycheck, but people want to make a positive difference to the space around them.
Vision for the future
We are striving to be the best in class for other areas of business and companies. I want our associates to genuinely feel their sense of purpose and belonging here and I want to provide our leaders at all levels the skill set to embrace the unique perspectives, styles, and abilities of our diverse associate base. Of course, I would love to grow the team, which as of January 2023 is now a team of 2! Anjana Melvin has joined me as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist here at Walmart Connect and already she has been elevating our efforts bringing her own learning and work experience to the table.
2023 feels like a BIG opportunity for Walmart Connect to continue our amazing progress and DEI growth story. If anyone has any ideas, suggestions, feedback – please reach out to me, I love to connect and acquire additional avenues of support to provide to the team. Here’s to you!