Will labor scheduling upgrades make Walmart a better retailer?
As the largest retailer on the planet, Walmart has plenty of critics. The company has long been a target of those who say it doesn’t pay store-level employees well enough. Management has also come under criticism, including from some of those very same workers, for the way it schedules shifts. Now, Walmart is rolling out an upgraded scheduling system that it says will give associates more control over their work hours.
The system, known as Customer First Scheduling, was launched recently at 650 Walmart Neighborhood Markets around the U.S. As the name suggests, Walmart is looking to more accurately match its staffing levels to customer traffic in its stores. The retailer plans to roll the system out to all its stores across the U.S., but has not given a timetable for that to happen.
According to reports, the Customer First system will give associates the ability to lock in their work schedules for up to six months at a time. Most workers are expected to stay on their current schedules and all will get three weeks advance notice of any changes.
Mark Ibbotson, executive vice president of central operations at Walmart, told The Associated Press, “We are cautiously working through the big change. We are pleased with what we have seen so far.”
As with any new system, Walmart’s has also had some bugs.
“Some days it will schedule one person on the entire front end from 7-11 a.m. and other days it just won’t schedule at all until 1 p.m.,” a Walmart worker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
In recent years the practice of so-called on-call scheduling has come under scrutiny by legislators and state attorney general offices. A number of chains that admitted to practicing on-call scheduling have stopped doing so fearing government intervention and, to some degree, the negative effects it has on employee morale, customer service and public perceptions.
- Walmart Launches New Scheduling System – The Associated Press/ABC News
- Walmart Rolls Out a New Worker Scheduling System – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Wal-Mart’s new scheduling system looks to improve peak-hour staffing – Reuters
- Is labor scheduling too erratic? – RetailWire
- A&F to phase out on-call scheduling – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will a change in Walmart’s labor scheduling system make the company a better retailer and employer? What common challenges and opportunities do you see for retailers related to labor scheduling?