Wal-Mart employs over 2 million individual worldwide. The Wal-Mart employees are referred to as associates and this is done out of both a sense of respect, as well as the realization of the important role played by the employees in the creation of organizational success. Wal-Mart argues that one of its goals is that of making the world a better place for its customers, shareholders, but also for its associates. The organization addresses the prospective employees through various channels, including the most recent internet recruiting.
The company lures future associates through the promise of several benefits. These benefits are generally divided into two categories: health and wellness benefits and financial benefits. The first category of benefits includes medical coverage, dental insurance, business travel insurance, disability coverage or illness protection. The financial incentives include a stock purchase plan, a retirement account rollover, discounts on purchases, paid holidays, Wal-Mart profit sharing and the 401 K. plan (The Wal-Mart Stores Website).
Still, despite these benefits, the company continues to encounters several critical aspects in its approach of the employees. In other words, there are several human resource issues which should be addressed. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:
(a) Lack of financial incentives -- the Wal-Mart employees are paid minimum wage and their levels of on-the-job satisfaction are decreased. While this strategy is recognized as necessary in the maintenance of the lowest retail prices, it should also be recognized that it creates internal tensions.
On the one hand, there is the dissatisfaction revealed in the relationship with the employer, represented by the managers. Employees will tend to reduce their commitment to completing the tasks assigned to them by their supervisors. On the other hand, the dissatisfaction of the staff members would be felt in the relationship with the customers. Not being able to benefit from the proper assistance, the customers' satisfaction would also decrease, all to impact the final profitability levels of the corporation.
This status quo points to a situation in which the retail giant cannot afford to not address the problem of employee dissatisfaction. In other words, with the implied risks of increasing operational costs, it is recommendable for the company to present its associates with more financial incentives.
(b) Lack of non-financial incentives -- the Wal-Mart employees often argue that the medical insurance they receive from the employer is insufficient and that they often have to pay for the medical services from their own pockets. Also, there have been complaints according to which the treatment of the employees is far from being equal. According to the current and former employees at Wal-Mart interviewed in Greenwald's documentary, the company favors white males for promotions in managerial positions. Women and different ethnicities are said to be discriminated against.
This situation creates the disadvantages observed throughout the previous section -- employee dissatisfaction, poor performances, customer dissatisfaction -- but also generates a new series of problems. Given a context in which such accusations of discrimination within the workplace continue to surface, the public reputation of the company will be negatively impacted. Also, it is possible for investigations to be launched which could lead to millions of dollars in loses.
In a context of globalization and international openness to cultural diversity, Wal-Mart's discriminatory practices will only jeopardize the firm. The advice is then that of creating equal employment opportunities for all staff members. It would even be possible to organize culturally diverse groups in which the associates can become better acquainted with the various cultures. In the long run, this strategy would also help in better interacting with the culturally diverse customers.
A final recommendation is that of increasing the sense of safety and security at the job and outside the job. This can be achieved through a better guarding of the Wal-Mart facilities on the one hand, and by the offering of training programs, on the other hand. While it might sound intriguing, the offering of training programs will sustain the formation of the individuals and will support their professional future. It will also increase their satisfaction levels, and as such their performances.
Greenwald, R., 2005, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
Wal-Mart 2009 Annual Report, http://walmartstores.com/sites/AnnualReport/2009/making.html last accessed on April 9, 2010
Wal-Mart Stores Website, http://walmartstores.com last accessed on April 9, 2010
Wal-Mart Website, http://www.walmart.com last accessed on April 9, 2010