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Empowering the Leaders of Tomorrow: A Deep Dive into Sam’s Club Manager Quality (MQ) Program

Discover how Sam’s Club is training and retaining current and future leaders with its innovative Manager Quality (MQ) program

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Manager Quality (MQ) program at Sam’s Club arose from a need for enhanced leadership training and development opportunities identified by the company’s associates.
  2. The MQ program is a comprehensive five-week learning program based on four main pillars: identifying, developing, managing, and rewarding talent.
  3. Sam’s Club has successfully used the MQ program to foster the development of leaders and managers from within, improving employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
  4. The MQ program’s success can be attributed to its adaptability, engaging learning methods, and focus on creating clear career pathways for associates.
  5. The program is continuously evaluated and improved upon using execution, feedback, and behavioral metrics.


In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, the importance of quality leadership development can’t be overstated. This need is particularly pressing in businesses with a significant number of employees, such as Sam’s Club, a leading American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc. In the face of managing approximately 100,000 employees across 599 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and additional locations in Brazil, China, and Mexico, Sam’s Club has been successful in establishing an effective leadership training program: the Manager Quality (MQ) program.

Origins of the Manager Quality (MQ) Program

The idea for the MQ program stemmed from a focus group of associates expressing their need for development and support. They desired personalized learning and career development opportunities, reflecting a widespread interest in enhanced leadership training. With these insights in mind, Jennifer Buchanan, Senior Director II of Field Learning and Development at Sam’s Club, and her team set out to develop an innovative solution that could meet these needs.

Structure and Content of the MQ Program

Based on the feedback they received, the team designed the MQ program, a five-week learning program. The curriculum covers four foundational concepts or pillars: identifying, developing, managing, and rewarding talent. The program leverages a blend of instructor-led training, in-the-flow-of-work training, and multimedia learning resources to cater to different learning preferences.

The MQ program was first tested in a pilot run at 91 Sam’s Club locations, where over 1,200 associates, from hourly workers to managers, received training on topics such as effective communication, development planning, interview skills, conflict management, and time management. The pilot’s success led to the program’s official launch in October 2021 as part of Sam’s Field U, the company’s broader training portfolio.

Flexibility and Customization: Key Success Factors

A significant contributor to the program’s success is the flexibility it offers learners. Associates can tailor the content according to their career trajectory, helping them to build a detailed learning map towards their future roles. This adaptability not only enhances the learning experience but also empowers associates to take charge of their career growth.

Recognition and Reward System

Recognizing the hard work and effort of its associates, the MQ program includes a digital badging system. After completing the full program, associates can attend a virtual graduation ceremony, where they become an “MQ program ambassador.” This role has proven pivotal in promoting the program’s benefits and extending its reach beyond the initial rollout.

The Impact of the MQ Program on Retention

Sam’s Club’s Chief Operating Officer, Lance de la Rosa, recognizes that these career pathways are a “crucial factor” for retention. By clearly outlining the learning opportunities that can help associates “achieve their career dreams,” the company aims to showcase the limitless career opportunities within the organization. This transparency, combined with the company’s commitment to personal growth, has had a positive impact on employee retention.

Measuring the Success of the MQ Program

The success of the MQ program isn’t just anecdotal; it’s backed by solid data. Buchanan and her team monitor three types of metrics quarterly to gauge the program’s effectiveness. These metrics include execution metrics (such as project rollouts and learning experiences completed), feedback metrics (gathered through pre- and post-learning surveys and tests), and behavioral metrics (captured from unsolicited posts on internal social media platforms). The latter helps the team observe behavior changes without their presence influencing learners’ responses.


Sam’s Club’s MQ program exemplifies how comprehensive leadership training can benefit all employees, regardless of their current role within the organization. By empowering its associates to take control of their professional growth, Sam’s Club has built a strong foundation for leadership development, boosting employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Its success serves as a testament to the power of inclusive and well-designed leadership training in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

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