Career Development At Walmart
Career development and career management are no longer a reserve for the human resource department alone; these days companies are involving all their employees in career development. This shift in behavior emanated from the stiff competition plaguing the retail sector. Companies need to look for ways of incorporating job enrichment, lateral assignments, rotation programs, and other activities that can improve employee retention.
The company chosen for analysis is Walmart. Walmart is the country’s largest employer. Given this fact, there is need to examine whether this retail giant adheres to basic career development techniques as part of their human resource management programs. In case of any negatives, then recommendations will be made on how the company can improve. (Green, 2001)
Ways of retaining employees at Walmart
One of the major indications of Walmart’s’ employee retention practices is its orientation program. Upon arrival at Walmart, new employees are taken through a recruitment process where they can learn about all their new job position. Additionally, the orientation process is also present in order to teach employees about the organizational structure within the company. The company’s representatives explain that the warm welcome extended to consumers upon arrival at the store is the same thing that occurs when new employees report to work. In this orientation process, staff members are taught how to gauge consumer expectations. Employees are also taught about the rich Walmart history and the environment required to deliver the high performance expectations synonymous with the company. All these initiatives are aimed at making employees stay within the organization more favorable. This empowers the employees and gives them the incentive to remain within the company. (Sullivan and Zaino, 2005)
Walmart also offers training and development programs. While many other companies look at training as an occasional issue, Walmart considers training as part of their regular work environment. The company ensures that a substantial portion of their employees’ time is dedicated to training. The company affirms that the emphasis on training and development occurred to equip employees with the necessary skills to continue climbing the corporate leader. They believe that top positions within the company would be better performed by people who had been with the company before.
In line with these arguments, Walmart established a new type of creation known as the Leaders Out In Front. The purpose of this training program is to teach field associates within the country how to manage their portfolios effectively. The following professions are liable for training
* Market managers
* Store managers
* Assistant managers
The company asserts that this program prepares their employees to improve continuously through training. The first category of employees that is liable for the program, are the assistant managers. The program assists those managers in determining necessary skills required to be efficient leaders. It also helps them to assess quality in the work of their subordinates. This particular training program is not just effective for Walmart in general, it is also important for those particular employees that do it. This is because it gives managers a competitive edge and makes them more lucrative for higher positions.
Another training program established by Walmart is known as the Stores of learning program. The latter scheme is relatively new as it was started in 2007. Here, the company established virtual classrooms in chosen stores where employees can learn about the most effective methods of service delivery.
Walmart also ensures that their employees develop their careers through skill assessments. The company has instituted a program known as the Associate Investment model where supervisors evaluate employee competencies. This methods of employee assessment is particularly accurate owing to the fact that it allows the assessment of the evaluation process. This means that in case evaluation was done poorly, the company can detect it and makes their employees more prepared for future eventualities. (King, 2006)
The company goes through a rigorous process of career assessment and development through this tool. Phase one of the process entails on-boarding. Here, the company ascertains that their employees know all the skills and knowledge required to perform their job functions. So this can be regarded as the informative phase. The next step is called the fundamental track phase. Here, the company conducts performance management to assist their employees in the process of understanding their responsibilities. It is tailored at creating a good foundation for employees as they go about their duties.
Employees then go through the third phase known as the advanced track phase. Here, associates within the company are taught how to plan their careers. In doing this, the company ascertains that their employees go through all the progressive steps required to get to different positions within the company. Associates are required to examine their own competencies and the kind of opportunities available within the company to see where they fit in. All in all, the latter program teaches Walmart employees about how to write resumes, conduct interviews, plan their careers and seek for job opportunities within the company. As of today, around twenty five thousand Walmart employees have undergone the latter training programs where they have learnt a lot about where they fit in the Walmart key competencies.
Walmart’s top managers have talked about the importance of developing talent within their company. These executives assert that while other retailers are outsourcing a substantial part of their production process, Walmart is keen on retaining new talent within the company. Owing to the fact that the company has leadership programs for employees and managers alike, it is demonstrating that the company is committed to developing Walmart related employees. The company’s Vice presidents feel that only those individuals who have been close to the jobs are the ones who are most prepared to take up others positions within the company. (Marquez, 2005)
The company’s leaders in human resource asserted that the reasons behind the company’s success was because they dedicate a substantial amount of their time (60%) in determining whether the most appropriate person has embraced the most appropriate opportunity. As if this is not enough, the company asserted that their competitive advantage has been brought about by the training practices they have been conducting throughout the world. According to this group, the company intends on introducing a program where employees let them know about their ambitions. Thereafter, the company then decides to train those employees for the positions which they will take up. For instance, if an employee wants to work in Walmart China, the company needs to ascertain that they have the right language and corporate requirements necessary to make it in that respective area.
Career development should not just be regarded as an internal issue. Companies ought to equip themselves with information about the goings-on in their external environments. For instance, many companies change their laws frequently with regard to employee practices within certain countries. Consequently, Walmart always makes sure that it keeps up with these changes in employment training and recruitment practices. Failure to effectively monitor these systems could make other retailers more competitive than their counterparts. (Walmart, 2008)
In response to some arguments about Walmart’s’ employee practices, the company decided to create a program that would facilitate career development within the company in an acceptable way. In some of the stores owned by the company, there are new programs designed to ensure that there are technologies that facilitate communication between staff members and their subordinates. This means that the company is trying to increase its employee satisfaction performance and is also trying to boost their morale. The company instituted this kind of approach owing to the fact that there is intense rivalry between players in the retail industry. If the company fails to do this, then it will loose access to some of their most valuable employees. These employees may be relocated to other retail companies that may not even be larger than Walmart. Walmart takes the issue of career development seriously because of the fact that it is the largest employer. Its human resource managers have asserted that the rest of the country is expecting more from them in terms of employment.
Part of Walmart’s efforts towards improving their employees career practices was seen when the company designed a project in 2005, aimed at creating a different level of human resource executives. The company placed one human resource executive in charge of ten stores in US districts. The purpose of doing this was to ascertain that the company improves the coordination of its services across the country rather than in specific stores. This will also go a long way in enhancing career opportunities for its employees if it succeeds. The company is currently implementing the program and is assessing whether the company’s employee turnover will reduce. At the moment the company is grappling with a turnover of 50%. If it can reduce this figure by ten percent, then it will have ascertained that the program can work and they will therefore spread it to the rest of the country. (Wal-Mart, 2005)
On top of the latter initiative, Walmart has also created an avenue for helping their employees in human resource. There is a team made of five members who have the mandate to deal with all the eventualities that may arise when handling employees. The members of this team have legal backgrounds and experience in human resource. Their task is to help Walmart’s’ managers tackle challenging situations. For instance, if a company has hired a worker with a unique problem, the team has the ability to give advise to this manager. They are always available day and night. By doing this, the company has empowered a substantial number of their store managers because handling employees is not an easy task. Besides that, the company has also enhanced the experiences of subordinates within the corporation because now employees need to only focus on their specific jobs rather than dealing with managers who do not know how to handle them. The major aim behind this team of experts was to reduce the workload faced by a substantial number of their managers who had to accommodate employment practices, laws and regulations all at the same time. By giving them a group pf mentors that can assist them, the company is ensuring that they have some sort of refuge from all the demands of the job.
Walmart has incorporated the issue of technology in career development. They have managed to do this by automatically notifying managers who are interested in certain jobs that the positions are available. This is possible in almost all areas regardless of the geography. In the past, the company used to utilize a paper system where employees would give information about days of manually. However, the company is in the process of automating this system in order to minimize chances of incurring errors.
Strengths and weaknesses of Walmart’s career management
Walmart’s practices have been very instrumental in ensuring that service delivery is up to par. However, the company is still grappling with law suits from unions, workers and the general public at large. The company is not very vigorous about their career development because they record one of the highest employee turnover rates; fifty percent. Other competitors like Target, Costco boast of employee turnover rates below twenty percent. This means that there are still some things that the company has not achieved. (Broder, 2004)
For instance, the company needs to improve the amount of wages which they play their clients. This is because pay acts as an important incentive for increasing employee retention rates and also for encouraging employees to grow with the organization. The company pays their employees nine point seven dollars per hour yet other competitors pay over fifteen dollars per hour. This does not make sense since the company brings in close to eleven billion dollars in revenue annually. Critics have asserted that this discourages employees from continuing with the organization and it impedes their career development. The company could boost employee morale by cutting down on the amount of money paid to top executives. This is because there is a huge divide between executive managers and the rest of the workforce. Walmart has designed their system, in such a manner that the profits of the company are only shared by top management while the small employee who deals with the consumer one on one has been disregarded. Taking a comparison of what Walmart pays its Chief executive and what another retailer like Costco pays their chief executive; as of 2005, it was reported that Walmart’s’ manager got five point three million dollars while the chief executive officer in Costco got only three hundred and fifty thousand. This indicates that Walmart still has a lot to do with regard to treatment of their employees. (Herbst, 2005)
Another issue that Walmart needs to work on is prompt response to employee needs in career development. The government waited until it was faced with laws suits and campaigns by civil rights groups before they started implementing some career development programs. The company’s human resource division ought to examine career development needs before hand and then give them suggestions about the most appropriate actions. The company has been very slow about responding to some of the needs within the company.
Walmart has implemented some programs to assist in career development. These include training programs, incorporation of technology in career development, job orientation, career assessment and creation of a team of experts in human resource, notification of employees in case of position and many others. However, the major problem with Walmart’s’ career development is that thy have high employee turnover brought on by poor wages. The other problems is with regard to their responsiveness to employees’ career needs; they only wait until they have been prompted by external parties.
Herbst, M. (2005): The Costco Challenge: An Alternative to Wal-Martization?; Report for Labor Research Association, 9th May 2008
Broder, J. (2004): Voters in LA Suburb Say No to a Big Wal-Mart; New York Times 4th March
King, M. (2006): Point Austin: Let’EM Eat Op-Eds!; The Austin Chronicle, 2nd October
Greenhouse, S. and Barbaro, M. (2006): Wal-Mart to Add More Wage Caps And Part-Timers, New York Times, 2nd October
Walmart (2008): Employee store practices, retrieved from http://www.walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStore-sWeb/navigate.do?catg=610 accessed on 15th August
Wal-Mart (2005): Report on Ethical Sourcing, retrieved from http://walmartstores.com/Files/05_ethical_source.pdfIbid.9 Ibid.1 accessed on 15th August
Green, F. (2001): Wal-Mart Removed From Socially Responsible List; San Diego Union-Tribune, 1st May
Marquez, J. (2005): Walmart throws lifeline to managers, Free Press
Sullivan, L. and Zaino, J. (2005): People First: Talent Development Is A Wal-Mart Hallmark, Infoweek magazine, 27th September