- What stakeholders are managers ultimately accountable to (e.g. shareholders)? What are the priorities of these stakeholders for the business? How might their priorities affect or constrain the organisation’s ability to look after employees’ welfare?
The stupendous success of Walmart means that the shareholders are handed impressive returns on their investments. Although, the stakeholders in Walmart include customers and employees as well, it is often reported that Walmart employees get a bad deal. In terms of priorities, empirical evidence suggests that the shareholders come first, followed by customers and then the employees. Even the emphasis on looking after the customer is questionable, when one considers how the giant retailer’s business practices, including its notoriously low pay and stingy benefits, are costing American taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Hence, what is gained at the billing counter in terms of discounts gets offset through taxes to the government. This is especially true as a majority of Walmart employees (placed at the lower levels of the corporate ladder) are dependent on Medicare, Medicaid and other government social welfare programs. For example, a report was released in 2004 by the minority staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee. Titled ‘Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We AIl Pay for Wal-Mart’. The report states that
“each Wal-Mart store employing 200 people costs taxpayers well over $420,000 annually in public services-staples like food stamps and child healthcare-that Wal-Mart workers have to rely on because their meager pay and health insurance place most of them among the working poor.” American Teacher, 2005, p.17)
In this context, there is little doubt that there’s huge, hidden cost to both Walmart customers and employees. Moreover, Walmart “is in the driver’s seat in the global race to the bottom, suppressing wage levels, workplace protections and labor laws. The giant retailer also has been found guilty of violating child labor laws. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor cited the company for 24 child labor violations, including one incident in which a minor was injured while operating a chain saw.” (American Teacher, 2005, p.17) Hence, it is fair to say Walmart does not fulfil the requirements of all its stakeholders in a fair and balanced manner. This is an area where their HRM department will have to introspect.
- What jobs are there in this organisation, and what kind of people (in terms of skill level, education, motivation, reasons for work etc.) choose to work there?
Being a retailer, Walmart’s most important asset is its employees, who provide a human face to the economic behemoth. The entry level positions include greeters, cashiers, clerks and customer service representatives. These positions do not require high skill and consequently a basic college diploma is sufficient qualification. Even a high-school pass out certificate is sufficient for certain positions. Personnel in supervisory or managerial roles either have a business school background or rise through the ranks. People of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are hired, although people from minority communities are disproportionately represented at the managerial level.
A significant portion of Walmart employees are temporary/contracted workers and part-timers. This group is usually low-skilled and drawn mostly from minority communities. Those seeking temporary work also tend to be quite young (in their late teens or early twenties). They seek these positions either to supplement their incomes or to save up for college tuition, etc. Walmart is criticized though, for hiring fewer women when compared to men. Hence, there is a perception of gender bias within the organization. For instance, in the largest class-action lawsuit in American history, Walmart v. Dukes,
“Walmart stands accused of systematically discriminating against as many as 1.5 million women in wages and promotions. The Supreme Court has agreed to a limited review, judging solely whether class-action certification was justified. In 2000 an ex-greeter named Betty Dukes sued Walmart under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (an obvious intervention in the market) for lack of promotion. Walmart unsuccessfully argued that Dukes had received frequent reprimands for lateness from her female supervisor, which led to a demotion. In 2001 Dukes and several other plaintiffs asked the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to “class certify” their case.” (McElroy, 2011, p.37)