This paper is commissioned to analyze satisfaction of the employees at Walmart Company, determine the principal factors that account for high or low level of satisfaction, and suggest ways to improve working conditions and thus increase employee satisfaction.
The research draws attention to the fact that the salaries of the Walmart employees are rather low, and in comparison with competitor companies, the employees of Walmart are considerably underpaid. The principal competitor of Walmart is Costco whose employees earn much more than the Walmart staff. Costco salaries are well in excess of average minimum wage, while Walmart wages remain significantly lower and they are not increased due to the growth of inflation rate. The research points out that Walmart Company has been criticized more than once for its employment policy. Labor unions and other social organizations have noticed that cases of gender discrimination, abuse of public subsidies, and inefficient security policy were not uncommon for the Walmart stores.
The research allows drawing a conclusion that employee satisfaction at Walmart is rather low and significant improvements of the working conditions are necessary. The main area of weakness is employee morale, controversial wages policy, and inadequate management principles. One should also notice that this research has certain limitation that will be discussed below.
The Walmart stores are an American multinational retail company specializing on sells of apparel and footwear. The corporation is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, and it operates a network of more than 11 000 warehouses and department stores in 27 countries. Walmart is one of the largest corporations in the USA with 2.2 million employees worldwide (Indeed All Jobs, 2014). However, in the recent years, the company had to face a number of strikes, complaints, and lawsuits from the employees, and that proves that workers are not satisfied with their employer. Therefore, the company has many issues that need urgent consideration.
The study population of the research is mainly the employees of Walmart stores in the USA. However, the similarity of the company’s policies in the majority of its subsidiaries and departments allow supposing that the results gained by this research can be applied to the staff of Walmart stores in other countries.
The objective of this research is to analyze Walmart employee satisfaction, determine main issues that the employees have to deal with, and give recommendations regarding possible ways of their solution.
The principal method of the research is monitoring of data provided by the Internet sources. The data in question includes official sources, such as articles in electronic newspapers and magazines, and unofficial sources providing direct opinions of current and former Walmart employees, such as informal forums and chatrooms. The comparison of these data gives a possibility to single out the principal problems and make a generalized conclusion. The information collected for the research is provided by sources dating 2005 to 2014 and allows looking at the discussed issue in a broad context.
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Walmart wages policy is a controversial issue. Many experts have noted that salaries of Walmart employees are significantly lower than those of the staff of the competitor companies. For example, Walmart’s chief competitor, Costco Company, reveals a steady 8 per cent growth of the wages while Walmart salaries grow only by 1.2 per cent. In identical economic conditions, such a low rise in wages is unreasonable, and it is obvious that Walmart employees should earn more if the company wants to match the level of its competitors (Hochberg, 2013). Walmart managers explain such a salary policy by recent recession in business and considerable decline in the company’s average income. However, low wages are likely to increase employee dissatisfaction, and unsolicited dismissal rate will grow since the employees will lack motivation to work. The shortage of workforce will probably result in merchandize deterioration and decline in sales. Retail operations require enough staff and efficient work in order to improve the quality of services and attract more customers. During the recession period, Walmart reduced its staff and lowered the wages (Farfan, 2010). However, after the crisis ended and business started to improve again, the wages remained on the same low level as before.
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Walmart has also faced much criticism concerning working conditions. Approximately 160 000 to 200 000 employees in the USA are often forced to work overtime without additional payment and sometimes even without being allowed to take lunch breaks (Hochberg, 2013). In 2005, the company received a lawsuit on behalf of the pharmacists who were treated like hourly employees because of the rapid decline in sales and extremely low wages (Farfan, 2010). Considering the large number of women and parents among the employees, such a wage policy is absolutely irrelevant since it is extremely complicated to sustain a family with this salary.
Being unable to increase sales, the managers of Walmart have been continually trying to reduce labor costs. These attempts in most cases result in intense pressure on the staff since cutting of the labor budget cannot account for particularly busy days when the employees have to work overtime. Unstable working schedule and frequent working for several extra hours is a significant problem for the part-time employees who have another job and cannot always adjust it to the excessively flexible schedule at Walmart. Students find it inconvenient to work at Walmart for the same reason since academic schedule cannot be accommodated to the imprecise requirements of Walmart managers. Sometimes, on the contrary, employees are sent home earlier because the business is not active. They are not paid for the shortened hours, and no compensation for lost part of the income can be received. Such working conditions make employees quit quickly. Walmart is distinguished for its high turnover rates as compared to the other retail companies. The average turnover among full-time employees at Walmart ranges from 35 to 45 per cent, and 56 per cent among part-time workers (Goodrich, 2013). High turnover rate is not beneficial for employee satisfaction since it creates increasingly stressful environment. Newly hired workers are less efficient than the old staff members are. They often need to learn at their workplace and cannot keep the pace of their colleagues. As a result, the productivity of work decreases, and the atmosphere in the team is likely to become more strained since more experienced employees are required to train the new ones and, at the same time, keep their regular professional responsibilities.
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Walmart has also been accused of gender discrimination in the hiring process. More than 1.5 million female Walmart employees in the United States complained of gender discrimination at their workplaces in 2007 (Hochberg, 2013). Gender inequality issues have been registered in more than 3400 stores across the country. In some American departments of Walmart stores women have been continually paid lower wages while men who did the same work and embraced same positions earned significantly more. Some cases of sexist verbal offence have been registered. For example, a female employee soliciting for promotion got a refusal with an offensive remark about her makeup (Hochberg, 2013). Sometimes female employees were forced to work longer hours or with a more inconvenient schedule than their male colleagues. The average wages of men are sometimes nearly twice as high as those of women. This disparity was noticed on all job tiers, starting with a vice president and ending with cashiers.
Severe control and aggressive management are other concerns of Walmart stores that are not conductive to employee satisfaction. As one of the former staff member stated, Walmart managers often try to oppress the employees psychologically and scrutinize all their tasks, even minor ones. Punitive behavior of the managers probably also results from the company’s low-wages mentality that makes people feel dissatisfied with their position and leads to the abuse of their authority. At the same time, many former employees noted that management at the company was rather poor. Labor division was not precisely defined, and some staff members were not sure about their responsibilities. Insufficient management often resulted in maltreatment of customers, making them angry or upset. Conflicts with the customers usually had to be solved by the employees themselves since managers tended to neglect their duties and ignore them (Indeed All Jobs, 2014).
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However, at the same time, Walmart management is supposed to pay much attention to the employee morale. Walmart ostensibly aims at the creation of an egalitarian “family” or a “corporate community” where all the staff members would be united by the common cause on equal terms (Goodrich, 2013). In some Walmart departments, an attempt is made to establish informal relations and friendly atmosphere by means of usage of the first names in conversation as well as on badges. The employees supposedly are encouraged to achieve better results rather than disciplined and required to work efficiently. However, despite the seemingly positive consequences of such company policies, many employees are not satisfied with them and think that artificial cheer and friendliness are more humiliating than encouraging (Indeed All Jobs, 2014). Thus, the managers’ attempts to boost morale and motivate the workers for better performance in the majority of cases prove to be a failure.
However, it should be noted that this study has significant limitations resulting from insufficient data and the necessity to rely on self-reported data that is likely to be highly subjective. The evidence provided by the employees is subject to selective memory, exaggeration, and attribution. For example, many workers blame the managers for problems arising in the team and attribute their solutions to themselves. Moreover, certain opinions are rather controversial and contain inner contradictions. Such data cannot be independently verified, this is why the research does not claim indisputability and relevance to all Walmart departments. The official sources also cannot be considered fully reliable since their authors form their theories on the basis of subjective data collected from the employees or from the study of lawsuits against Walmart. Though the lawsuits provide officially acknowledged facts, they still are strongly affected by personal prejudices of the plaintiff and judges, and their outcome is not irrefutable.
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The Walmart managing team needs to realize that poor treatment of the employees and uncomfortable working conditions will be a serious obstacle for the company’s further growth. Continual maintenance of the present employment policies, punitive management, and maltreatment of workers on the basis of sexual or social prejudice are likely to result in the increasing employee dissatisfaction, growing turnover, and decline in working productivity. Punishment instead of encouragement as well as ostensible attempts to create friendly environment used as a cover for aggressive management are two extremities that make workers feel uncomfortable at the company and deprive them of motivation to improve their professional skills. Rising financial expenses and the loss of potential customers are inevitable consequences of growing employee dissatisfaction.
Possible recommendations as for the improvement of working conditions and increase of employee satisfaction include elimination of punitive management, rise of wages and introduction of new beneficial programs and restructuring of the old ones, leveling of payment for all employees having similar positions, creation of favorable environment for organization of professional unions and so on.
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Elimination of punitive management would reduce general stress level among workers. The number of complaints and lawsuits, which Walmart has dealt with, proves that the stress rate at the company is extremely high, and the employees often have to face critical situations. Democratic management and creating of positive motivation would lower the tension in the team and enhance the efficiency of work.
Beneficial programs such as better health care, childcare or parent support would be highly relevant to Walmart considering large number of women employed there. Currently, only full-time workers are eligible for Walmart beneficial projects. However, considering the big number of part-time employees, the company would gain more positive results by introduction similar programs for part-time workers and giving them the same rights as to the full-time employees.
Another useful beneficial option would be introduction of flexible working schedules enabling the employees to choose their working hours independently, without being forced to repeatedly adjust their schedules to the changing requirements of the company. Expanding of the retirement plan options and retirement support would also be a useful action that could improve employee satisfaction.
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Detailed descriptions of professional duties and responsibilities would also be highly relevant since Walmart employees have more than once complained of insufficient training and superficial instructions. Provision of direct feedback of performance and enabling workers to see how they affect the company and business would help to increase their motivation. Seeing that their individual performance influences the company as a whole would make employees feel more responsible for their actions and increase their desire to achieve better results.
However, it is important to note that these recommendations are not the only possible solution of the problem, and further investigation is required for suggestion of other ways to make Walmart stores more employee-friendly and increase the level of employee satisfaction at the company.