Afghan veterans join the ranks of a diverse store in Minnesota.
Store 2198 in Bloomington, Minnesota, sits in the metro Minneapolis area, right down the street from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. The Supercenter is a long way from Afghanistan—nearly 7,000 miles—yet it is now home to many associates originally from the country, many of whom once served alongside the U.S. military.
How did Afghan refugees wind up in Bloomington? Former store manager Brian Kinsey, who recently moved to Store 3364 in St. Paul, explains that Richfield, a nearby suburb, has an Afghan refugee center. Brian says an employee at the center suggested the refugees might make good associates for Walmart.
“We started with one or two, and then the word spread that we were a good place to work for,” Brian shares. “We brought a few associates in on overnights and then a few more showed up and a few more showed up and now pretty much the majority of the overnight and the Stocking 2 team are Afghan refugees.”
Today, about 30 associates at the Supercenter are originally from Afghanistan.
Mulakhail Sher Mohammad (pictured above) was the first of the Afghan refugees to join Walmart. He worked with the military in Afghanistan for 15 years and arrived in the U.S. in 2018 with his wife and kids. He started working with Walmart in 2020 and is now a hardlines team lead.
With his son helping to translate, Mulakhail says he likes that Walmart is close to his house and that the people who work with him are nice. Working at Walmart has helped him feel at home in the U.S., he adds.
“The thing about the Bloomington store is, it is extremely diverse,” Brian says. “We've got more Somalian associates even than Afghan associates, and Hispanic associates and East African associates.”
Lisa Langeslay (pictured above) was the store lead for the Bloomington store when Walmart World connected with her. (Since then, she’s been promoted to store manager at Store 1786 in Eagan, Minnesota!) Lisa explains that English is a second language for many of the store’s associates, so team leaders have become adept at finding ways to communicate. The Me@Walmart app has been a help since it can be used in a variety of languages. Associates also use Google Translate on their phones to ask or answer questions.
Brian and Lisa say coaches and team leads show respect for diverse associates and are willing to make them feel welcome. “We take the time, and not everybody can slow down and take that time,” Lisa says.
And the difference that time and care makes translates into quantifiable results. Store 2198 has maintained a high associate engagement score: 86% of associates surveyed said they’d like to stay at Walmart.
“We're always so busy in a fast-paced, complex store. But that's what our associates do," explains Lisa. "So it seems like everyone together is just one big team and they have no problem asking for help.”
“These associates are very hard workers. They very much want to be independent,” Brian says “They are very proud to be working for Walmart and take a lot of pride in their work.”