"We make wage adjustments all the time. We just decided this is a really good moment to be more bold," Doug McMillon said in a "Squawk Alley" interview. "Right now we want to make sure everybody is crystal clear how vital our store experience is to our future."
McMillon spoke on CNBC after Wal-Mart announced that hourly workers will earn at least $1.75 above the the current federal minimum wage, or $9 per hour starting in April. By next February, they will earn at least $10 per hour.
McMillon said Wal-Mart is trying to position itself ahead of the market in order to retain the best talent available as the employment situation continues to improve.
"Today's cashier is tomorrow's store manager. Tomorrow's store manager may have my job, so we want to make sure that opportunity is there for people, as it has been for so many of us in the past," he said.
Wal-Mart's announcement should ease customer complaints, Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Trussell told CNBC.
"Frankly part of Wal-Mart's problem has been concerns around inventories being out of stock, been about bad customer service, long lines at the checkout counters. There's been a lot of disgruntled workers," he said.
The move appears to be an effort on the part of McMillon and Wal-Mart U.S. president and CEO Greg Foran to correct some of those past evils, he said.
The retailer said spending on wage and training initiatives, as well as incremental investments in e-commerce, would cost the equivalent of 26 to 29 cents per share.
Wal-Mart also released quarterly results, reporting earnings that beat forecasts, though revenues fell short.
It reported adjusted earnings of $1.61 per share, compared with $1.60 a share last year. Revenue rose to $131.57 billion from $129.71 billion a year ago.
Sales at comparable U.S. stores rose 2.1%, marking a second quarter of growth in that category.
"That's the best sales growth we've had out of the U.S. business in a few years," Trussell said. "I think that does speak to a lot of the questions we've had about the consumer and are they benefiting from this environment that includes lower gas prices, so it's at least a step in the right direction."
CNBC's Katie Little contributed to this report, which originally appeared on CNBC.com.