Make your top two recommendations for fixing the problem at Walmart.

Early in 2019, the giant retailer Walmart instituted a sweeping revision of some core human resource policies affecting its 1.1 million hourly workers in the United States. The move was undertaken in response to the fact that an increasing number of states and cities now require employers to offer paid sick leave. As of February 2019, Walmart’s store and warehouse workers can earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours total. The time can be used for any purpose without infringing on vacation time. Since the new policy consolidates and unifies a number of earlier rules, the company expects it will simplify administration and compliance, as well as reduce absenteeism. Management also hopes the policy change will help continue a decline in turnover that started the year before, when, it says, an improved wage scale, relaxed dress codes, and more generous parental leave helped reduce turnover by more than 10 percent.1


At the same time, however, the company has tightened up some of its other employment policies. For instance, workers can now be fired for accumulating only five attendance violations within six months, whereas the limit was nine in the past. Short of firing, attendance has new financial consequences too. Although workers with perfect attendance can earn higher quarterly bonuses, they currently make up fewer than a third of Walmart’s hourly employees. Those who miss more than a handful of shifts will now see their bonuses cut by as much as half. Before the policy revamp, employee bonuses were based solely on store performance.2


“Walmart is responding to our call for change with a new policy. But what they are giving with one hand, they are taking with the other,” said Shashauna Phillips, a Walmart employee in South Carolina and a leader in OUR Walmart, a worker group. Phillips also worries that one result of offering a financial incentive for perfect attendance is that employees will come to work sick.3


Others share her concern that Walmart has a way to go before it can claim to be doing everything possible to support and retain its workers. Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, issued a statement saying that Walmart’s new sick-leave policy was “a small step forward but not enough,” noting that “Walmart . . . is not a poor company” and urging it to raise its starting pay to $15 an hour (as a public outcry and legislation introduced by Sanders recently forced Amazon to do). Walmart currently starts its hourly workers at $11 an hour, up from only $9 as recently as 2017.4 Writing in The Hill, Congressional representative Ro Khanna of California and Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, also urged Walmart to increase its basic wage, saying that Congress should take action again, to compel Walmart and other large employers to pay their workers enough to feed their families and avoid forcing the “taxpayer-funded safety net” to make up the difference. Amazon faced a choice between raising wages and paying the government for the social safety net benefits its workers claimed. It opted to raise wages; Khanna and Perrone feel Walmart should make the same decision.5


Walmart’s sales are growing steadily and are expected to near $530 billion for fiscal 2019.6


Apply the 3-Step Problem-Solving Approach

  • Step 1: Define the problem in this case.
  • Step 2: Identify the key causes of this problem.
  • Step 3: Make your top two recommendations for fixing the problem at Walmart.
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