Walmart U.S. CEO: Good retail jobs are much more than good pay
At a keynote session Sunday at the NRF Big Show, John Furner, Walmart U.S.’s new CEO, said the first step he took to drive employee satisfaction when leading Sam’s Club was to invest significantly in retention, particularly team leaders that guide departments.
Mr. Furner, who led Sam’s from 2017 to late 2019, said, “The team leader lives in the community, probably went to school in the city and he wants to be there. So, retaining that team leader is just great business for us.”
Retention was made a higher priority after surveys continually showed members asking for “friendly” associates.
Sam’s hiked hourly pay for team leaders to between $18 and $20 from the low teens, he said. Turnover in some of the targeted positions saw decreases of as much as 50 percent.
Mr. Furner’s comments came after Taco Bell announced last week it was testing paying managers $100,000 a year at some company-owned locations to support employee satisfaction, recruitment and retention.
But Mr. Furner stressed at the session entitled, “Why Retail Jobs Can Be Good Jobs,” that it’s not “all about pay,” but also “removing friction.” Sam’s in recent years has rolled out programs to make it easy to change schedules to accommodate work-life balance as well as initiatives to enhance in-store productivity.
A breakthrough was the launch last year of “Ask Sam,” an app that allows associates to access information via their mobile phones about work schedules, locations and inventory availability. The retailer has also simplified tasks and has moved to reduce SKUs to alleviate bottlenecks due to inbound shipments.
Sam’s has also used technology to bring more employees to the selling floor. Previously, the highest-paid, longest-tenured employee at Sam’s would be someone handling invoices in the back office; now it’s the head of the meat department.
Finally, training and development remain critical, particularly as new jobs, such as those supporting home delivery, are created. “It’s just a matter of giving the people the path and the ability to learn, train and develop,” said Mr. Furner.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has it become significantly more important for retailers to retain their senior staff? What job aspects that don’t involve a paycheck are particularly beneficial in improving retention?