Army Principles Helped This Walmart Manager Move up the Ranks
Elise Hackstall no longer wears an Army uniform. But to this day, the military values she learned in her years of service still inform her identity.
Take, for example, the honor code she learned as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy: She’s been known to quote it when talking to her 10-year-old daughter about the importance of honesty.
Then there’s a skill she honed as an Army personnel officer: Be direct and constructive, even when the message you’re conveying might be tough to hear.
For Hackstall, commitment, accountability and leadership weren’t abstract principles but essential traits that propelled her through a military career at Fort Knox.
When she joined Walmart, she quickly noticed a cultural overlap. The company's four basic beliefs had plenty in common with the seven Army values she already knew, sharing an emphasis on respect and integrity.
"A lot of it aligned with who I was," Hackstall says, "so that made Walmart a great fit for me."
That was over 10 years ago. Since then, Hackstall has been promoted multiple times. She started as a shift manager in Columbus, Georgia and became store manager at the biggest Walmart Supercenter in her market. That led her to an opportunity to move into human resources management.
Putting in the (Team) Work
Most recently, she moved back to operations as a developmental market manager, training to supervise teams across multiple stores. This position will give her the skills to apply for market manager positions that open up after her training is complete.
The training, along with her previous position as a market human resources manager across stores in four states, has introduced Hackstall to Walmart employees from a variety of backgrounds.
"It's really helped me to have a bigger appreciation of what kind of people make up our business—people from all over the country who help our stores to be successful," she says.
Hackstall's longstanding interest in human resources work extends back to her Army service at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where she was stationed after graduating from West Point. Hackstall served as a personnel officer and continued in human resources positions after transitioning to the Army Reserve in 2008.
She continued to serve as a reserve officer until this past spring, when she left the military to focus on her career with Walmart.
Walmart is committed to recruiting former military members and matching them with jobs that fit their skills. Hackstall points out three skills that veterans often carry into civilian life: communication, commitment and accountability.
Military people know how to come up with a plan, articulate that plan and carry it out. When a store manager needs someone to run point on Black Friday, the biggest retail day of the year, she says, "If there's a veteran in the store, many times that's the person."
Hackstall adds that Walmart helps to create a network for the veterans it recruits. Recently, she talked with someone who was leaving the military and considering coming to Walmart. What advice did she offer?
"Anybody who joins Walmart will quickly realize whether the company is a fit for them or not," she says. "It's fast-paced, you have to be extremely adaptable, and you can't be rigid in your thought process."
"Limitless" Job Opportunities
Hackstall notes that Walmart offers a broad range of roles that might not be obvious to candidates who think mainly of the day-to-day tasks at a store. From medical services to real estate to information systems, Walmart's size creates all kinds of job types.
"There are limitless opportunities with this company," she says. "Whatever you want to do—short of being a brain surgeon or an astronaut—you can do for Walmart."
For Hackstall, spending time in her new role as developmental market manager fits with her long-term plan to gain experience in multiple facets of Walmart's business. When asked about the future, she doesn't hesitate.
"My end goal is to be the head of HR for the company," she says. "Every single position that I've taken has been to make sure that I am putting myself in a place where I can be competitive for that role."