- What if anything is done for employees and their welfare above and beyond these mechanisms?
Sadly, for an organization that is voted the Most Admired by Corporate America, there’s little to claim in terms of providing employee welfare. At NOW’s annual conference on June 22, 2002, President Kim Gandy announced the latest Merchant of Shame in the Women-Friendly Workplace campaign: Wal-Mart. NOW took this step after receiving “numerous complaints regarding workplace environment and employment practices at Wal-Mart stores, distribution centers, and regional and corporate offices.” (Bull, 2002, p5)
Amid this plethora of complaints and grievances against Walmart, it is fair to say that employee welfare is not a priority for its management. As a reaction to these mounting criticisms, its Head of Human Resources, Susan Chambers, has made some gestures that might change the company’s self-image to that of a benevolent one. One of her first decisions after assuming the top HR role is to
“expand Walmart’s health care coverage to parttime workers after they have been on the job for a year. Part-timers have had to work at the company two years before becoming eligible for coverage. Wal-Mart also will offer coverage for children of part-time workers…”Keep in mind that covering part-time employees is not the norm in retail,” Chambers said in prepared remarks to the World Health Care Congress. “But every American deserves health care, and we want to lead by taking this step.”” (Frauenheim, 2006, p.11)
- Is the organisation maximising the potential of its employees? Are they fairly treated?
It is fairly obvious that Walmart’s employee relations is not an ideal model for corporate America. Based on what one can gather from its annual meetings, employee empowerment is not a high priority. Instead, the focus is largely on business expansion and increasing shareholder value. Hence, maximising employee potential is not in the management agenda. To the question of whether employees are fairly treated, the company’s track record speaks for itself. For the top business enterprise on the Fortune 500 List, Wal-Mart holds some truly embarrassing statistics. These statistics further show that the organization is lagging behind in terms of treating its employees fairly.
“Women comprise 72 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly workers, but are only one third of its managers and supervisors. Only 38 percent of Wal-Mart employees participate in its health insurance plan-the national average is 60 percent-because at Wal-Mart the premiums and deductibles are prohibitively high. This leaves six out of every ten employees (more than 425,000 Walmart employees) with no company-provided health insurance. Two-thirds of them are women. The complaints against Wal-Mart come from across the nation…employees are suing Wal-Mart for sex discrimination in pay, promotion, and compensation. This will be the country’s largest sex discrimination suit against a private employer if it is granted class-action status.” (Bull, 2002, p.5)
- What recommendations (evidence-based) would you make to improve employee welfare? What would the impact be on business priorities?
*One need not look anywhere else than heeding to Sam Walton’s founding vision, to turn around the company’s HRM record. Articulated by Walton on numerous meetings with stakeholders, the list of 10 golden rules contains many direct and indirect references to employee welfare. Hence, it is a matter of revitalizing these principles and following them in their true spirit, which will improve employee welfare in Walmart. Sam’s Rules for Building a Business are as follows. The management will do well to remember that by ‘partners’ Walton meant not just customers, suppliers and shareholders but also employees.
Rule 1: Commit to your business.
Rule 2: Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners.
Rule 3: Motivate your partners.
Rule 4: Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.
Rule 5: Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.
Rule 6: Celebrate your successes.
Rule 7: Listen to everyone in your company.
Rule 8: Exceed your customers’ expectations.
Rule 9: Control your expenses better than your competition.
Rule 10: Swim upstream. (extracted from Newsome, 2000, p.20)