As confirmed by Lee Scot's words regarding the aggressive strategy followed by each Wal-Mart store (Mohideen, 2009, p. 9), even if general stream planning and decision making is still largely centralized, being undertaken at the Wal-Mart Headquarters in Arkansas (for elements such as type of products to be sold, stores to be opened or closed, financial results and objectives, etc.), for issues regarding how to battle the local competition and better respond to customer needs, planning and decision making takes place at store level, as mentioned before in the "Functions and roles of managers" chapter.
Managing by objectives is a very much used practice within Wal-Mart, regional objectives being cascaded to store level. As is to be expected, the number one objective at store level and beyond is to reduce costs as much as possible.
Human Resource Management is still largely based on the ideas of its founder regarding the relationship between the employees and the organization.
Consequently, all Wal-Mart employees, from the executive level down to the clerks, are being called "Associates."
The relationship between the employees and Wal-Mart is based upon respect, close communication, high expectation and efficient incentives. The associates receive a significant degree of autonomy and they also receive continuous feedback regarding their performance within the company and regarding the operations of the stores (Wal-Mart, 2009).
Changes at Wal-Mart and adapting to the 21st century
Even against its size, Wal-Mart has demonstrated its capacity to change and adapt in a world dynamic environment. This has been proven by the various technical inventions and initiatives undertaken through the years (e.g. The implementation of the bar code systems= and continues today through the environmental sustainability actions taken by the company once such elements became of high importance both for social but also economic and politic purposes. Another change was necessary to be undertaken by the company in its strive for globalization, where adapting its culture to the local reality was a must (e.g. modification of its customer greeting practices or renouncing to the "Morning Cheer" in countries such as China or Germany, etc.) (Towers, 2004, p. 5-8).
Communication at Wal-Mart
Today, it is widely known that Wal-Mart has been confronted with important communication and PR problems, as its brand has been taking public hits for years, even being the cause of public websites exclusively dedicated to criticize it, such as www.wakeupwalmart.com.
Millions of critical posting regarding the company, some of it fair and some not, are mostly due to the poor communication strategy undertaken by the company in the past decade. As Wal-mart ignored criticism (related mostly to its hiring practices unfair to minorities and their terrible track record of promoting and hiring women) until it reached the boiling point, and media reports had appeared about possible illegal operations of surveillance within Wal-Mart, the company finally took the decision to respond. Nevertheless, it was a bit too late. Right or wrong, the company has seen its image declining in front of millions of Americans due to its lack of pro-activity in communicating with its stakeholders… (Adubato, 2008)
From a financial point-of-view, Walmart's seems nevertheless to have its affairs straight, as its average annual total revenue growth was a little more than 10% for the three years from fiscal year ending January 2006 to the fiscal year ending January 2008. Its net sales increased in the fiscal year ending January 2009 by 6.8%, to the level of $255.7 billion, while the segment operating income grew slightly more, 7.1% to $18.8 billion. Its International operations registered consistent growth, with segment sales growing with 9.1% to $98.6 billion, while segment operating income rising 4.6% to $4.9 billions (Wal-Mart, 2009)
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