Wal-Mart has been ranked in the Fortune’s list of the top 100 companies to work for in the United States (Mark, 2003). Wal-Mart had increased their workforce from 1996 to 2001 by almost 50 percent, of which the percentage of women decreased from 67 percent to 64 percent during this time. Wal- Mart had used a hierarchical human resources (HR) structure that consisted of several levels of management, divisions, and regions. “In 2001, management employees earned about $50,000 on average while hourly employees earned $18,000” (Mark, 2003). Wal-Mart’s “Division One” had over 2,600 stores which were organized in five or six divisions, with five or six regions within their given area, and 80 to 85 stores within each region (Mark, 2003).
Policies were set on a computer-based information system that employees could access at any time, along with watching videos on the company’s history, and reading the associate handbook. Promotions were given based on performance evaluations and requirements. Certain allegations were made that Wal-Mart was more male oriented in higher-level positions, and overall hiring more men than women. Wal-Mart created a goal to make the percentage of women employees 50 percent of the workforce.
A problem exists in that Wal-Mart has fought off any organizing attempts of unions by their employees, which limits employees’ influence on policies and company process’s. This problem filters down to the hiring and promotional process that occurs within the company. As stated in the case study, “…from date of hire until first being promoted to an assistant manager was 4.38 years for women and 2.86 years for men. For store managers, the times were 10.12 years and 8.64 years respectively” (Mark, 2003). From the numbers, men were promoted faster than women, but Wal-Mart states that promotions were given based on performance evaluations. Furthermore, it was stated store managers filled positions with lateral moves and waiving minimum requirements as a way of bypassing the process (Mark, 2003).
Wal-Mart published documents to reflect how committed they are to fair practices. On the flip side, the public can now scrutinize Wal-Mart by using their public reports against them. A public article stated, “women associates had stated that Wal-Mart supervisors told them that men were paid more because they had families” (Mark, 2003). Included in the same article was a Wal-Mart official that admitted to writing that customers should feel as if they can trust Wal-Mart employees “with their wife and their wallet” (Mark, 2003).
Additional information would have to be offered pertaining to the required practices and process’s Wal-Mart has in place for the hiring of employees and promoting employees from within the company. Does Wal-Mart have a policy where an entry-level employee can be hired, and managers and supervisors are promoted from within the company? Surveys and reports taken from current employees for their thoughts on the numbers of men to women in various positions will help with determining where and how severe the problem is. Why is Wal-Mart continuously voted one of the best company’s to work for if there was a serious problem internally?
Possible solutions to the problem can range from having more People Division (HR) employees to oversee a smaller number of stores, to filtering public reports that may potentially create a negative perception of the company. Implementing more People Division employees within each region will allow more attention to be given for each store. Wal-Mart looks to move towards making their employment equity record balanced. This is apparent when taking into consideration the numerous letters to managers to push for making the numbers of men to women more equal.
Wal-Mart can filter applications submitted and have them separated and reviewed on an as needed basis on what gender is needed more at a specific store. Rank the applications per region based on specific qualifications and gender. Then rank the region and the stores within this region on which store needs more women or men employees.
For promoting employees, a minimum requirements list should be associated with each job position. A series of events should happen for each promotion beginning with the supervising manager and ending with the People Division Executive Vice President. Possible candidates are nominated and then screened by higher-level management along with those that apply. Only employees that meet all the requirements should be considered. Regional management will have the biggest influence on the hiring or promotion of an employee since they are ultimately responsible for that region.
To be equal to all candidates applying for a given promotion, a test or jeopardy style game should be played and the winner is given first chance to take job. The test and game questions will pertain to company policies, job duties, and associate handbook information.
Another solution would be for the employees to form a union. This would give the employees some power to fight for their working rights. Unionizing the employees would give them some power to make sure all employees were treated fairly within their workplace. Adding more people to the People Division will increase employee expenses for the company. Also, the addition of more People Division employees will create more training to be done and could take People Division employees away from their daily responsibilities.
On the other hand, the addition of more People Division employees could help with balancing out a gender issue and hiring more of one gender than the other. More People Division employee’s means that you can have more HR employees present at more stores at one time. This will help with moving towards employment equity faster and mitigating any problems quicker. This may be the best solution for Wal-Mart and maintaining their reputation for being one the best companies to work for.
As for the filtering of applications, having minimum requirements set for each job, and regional management having a large influence on the decision for who gets promoted, this would all cause more attention for them. Filtering applications may already be done, but this can lead to being accused of discrimination. Wal-Mart stating that they “urge” their supervisors to correct any inequalities in the store that pertain to gender is already a basis for being accused of gender discrimination. A store has fewer women than men and the store hires women to balance it out. The men are being discriminated now. An employee of a specific gender is promoted to balance out the men to women ratio amongst regional and store managers. That is still discrimination towards the opposing gender. It would be a lose-lose situation for Wal-Mart.
Holding a test and a jeopardy style game could be a viable screening act to allow the most knowledgeable, company savvy person to be first in line for the promotion. The questions will pertain to specific company policies, job duties and responsibilities, and associate handbook. The negative part of this would be creating a competitive environment that can distract employees from their job. Also, time would have to be taken to allow for the taking of the test and the playing of the game, and the possibility of several promotions at the same time would pose a problem.
The formation of a union for the Wal-Mart employees would have great benefits for them, but possible negative aspects at the workplace. Being unionized means that the employees would make less money due to union dues, but could have better benefits and more job security. Wal-Mart holds the power by keeping unions out and keeping the power to make decisions without possible employee strikes.
Hiring or implementing more People Division employees would play as the best solution for the problem. Increasing the amount of “eyes” the People Division have in the stores will help with the hiring and promoting of employees to be done quicker. Having more People Division employees means more time at stores and with employees educating them on issues at the workplace, company culture, and the process’s that the company has in place. Rather than regional and area managers visiting every few weeks, there would be a People Division employee visiting a few times a week. The new People Division employees could put more policies in place due to the familiarity of the stores.
These policies will be enforced more having the HR employee present more often. This could also alleviate the perception of customers and employees that think men are promoted more based on their gender. Specific requirements are present with each job position and the best candidate for that position would get it. Performance evaluations can help validate a manager’s decision on which he/she nominates to be promoted. A man or woman who are both in the running for the same position, and they both meet the requirements and have similar performance evaluation reports, the person that has been with the company the longest will then be chosen.
The article mainly pertains to the employment equity goal within Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s constant push against the employees unionizing has allowed them to expand, become the low price leader, and keep company costs low.
Mark, K. (2003). Staffing Wal-Mart Stores, INC. (A) [case study]. Ivey Management Services. Mark, K. (2003). Staffing Wal-Mart Stores, INC. (B) [case study]. Ivey Management Services.