What it does do, however, is boost employees' loyalty to the retailer, lowering its turnover costs and helping it better retain trained employees longer, Johnson said.
"I think to the extent that they can provide more opportunities for their employees to advance … it's going to be a boon for them," Perkins said.
Frequently the subject of debate over fair pay practices, Wal-Mart has also been criticized for its slow checkout lines, out-of stock food and consumables departments and poor customer service. A survey released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index on Wednesday found that Wal-Mart ranked last among department and discount stores for customer satisfaction.
This is something that new CEO Doug McMillon has been working to correct. During the holiday season, for example, the retailer rolled out its "checkout promise" that all of its cash registers were open during peak shopping hours each weekend.
"We want to provide a great customer experience and we want our associates to know how much we value them," McMillon told CNBC. "We can't win if we don't create a situation where digital and physical come together in a way that customers are well-served."
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Along with boosting employees' pay, Wal-Mart said it will provide additional training, offer free or low-cost college credit and give workers more control over their scheduling. That includes providing some workers fixed weekly schedules, which would give them a steadier income flow.
In a note to employees published on Wal-Mart's website, McMillon—whose first job at Wal-Mart was loading trucks at a distribution center—said: "As important as a starting wage is, what's even more important is opportunity, and we'll continue to provide that ladder that any of you can climb. If you work hard, develop new skills and care for others, there should be no limit to what you can do here."
For its part, OUR Walmart, a group that frequently criticizes Wal-Mart over its pay practices, said that while it is "proud" of the raises it won for 500,000 workers, "this announcement still falls short of what American workers need to support our families."