Wal-Mart Makes Personnel Policy Changes

Discussion
Jun 07, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Last year, Wal-Mart chief executive officer and president, Lee Scott, told attendees of the company’s annual shareholder meeting, “With more than 1.3 million associates, and plans to create many more new jobs, it is our responsibility to make sure we offer an attractive place to work, and continue to focus on fairness and equal access to pay and promotion.”  


At this year’s meeting, held last Friday, Mr. Scott said the world’s largest retailer was making progress toward achieving those goals. He cited a number of examples including:


  • The creation of an Office of Diversity to lead the company’s efforts in broadening opportunities for all in the retailer’s recruitment and employment practices.

  • The establishment of a program that links management incentives to reaching diversity goals. “Our goal is to make sure that the percentage of qualified minorities and women we promote is equal to the percentage who apply and overall in 2003 we met that goal.”   

  • The use of technology to improve store-level compliance with corporate personnel policy such as the use of electronic messages being sent to checkout to remind cashiers of scheduled breaks. Managers will also be required to inform associates when making adjustments to time cards and employees will need to verify the changes are correct.

  • A new pay structure being implemented at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores across the country. While Mr. Scott was short on details, it is thought the changes will mean an increase in starting wages with lower percentage increases for associates with more time on the job.

For Mr. Scott, the changes being made are simply a reflection of following the philosophy of the company’s founder. “I think we all know how Sam Walton felt about the importance of treating people right — while making ourselves and our business better. In the end, that is what these changes are all about.”


Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the reported progress and changes Wal-Mart is making in its approach
to human resources?


Wal-Mart is to be applauded for taking these steps. As the world’s largest retailer, it should be an example of how business ought to be done. That said,
we’ll be interested to see if full-time store-level employees will earn enough to stay above the poverty level under the new pay structure.


Wal-Mart says it doesn’t expect any substantial impact on bottom line performance as a result of these changes. The rhetoric sounds as if Wal-Mart is adding
costs, but the company doesn’t seem overly concerned about that. That has us wondering just how much change is actually going to occur.

George Anderson – Moderator

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