Walmart adds perks to pay increases

Discussion
Jun 08, 2015

Beyond its widely covered wage increases, Walmart is taking several other steps to improve employee morale, including relaxing wardrobe requirements, changing in-store music playlists and adjusting store temperatures.

Last Wednesday at a pep rally for 3,000 U.S. store and distribution center employees at the University of Arkansas, Greg Foran, who took over Walmart’s U.S. division last August, announced a number of employee-friendly initiatives. These included:

Wardrobe: Starting July 1, stockers and other back-of-store workers will be allowed to wear blue jeans and T-shirts. Service oriented associates can wear black or khaki colored denim. Previously, only khaki or navy pants with a white or blue collared shirt and blue company vest could be worn. On special occasions, like days with sporting events or seasonal holidays, team jerseys, ugly Christmas sweaters or pink shirts to support breast cancer awareness may be worn.

Temperatures: Store temperatures are being adjusted in answer to complaints stores were too cold or hot. In the East and Central regions, temperatures will raised to 75 degrees from 74 degrees during summer months. In the West, average temperatures will be lowered to 75 degrees from 76 degrees. Temperatures are controlled centrally.

Walmart associates

Photo: Walmart

Playlist: Wal-Mart Radio, produced by an on-staff DJ and broadcast to individual stores, is being brought back after nine years to add more variety to each store’s playlist. Most recently, stores were allowed to pick their own music, which sometimes led to certain CDs being heard repeatedly. Jokes were made at the meeting of endless plays of Justin Bieber and Celine Dion.

Sales incentive: Walmart is bringing back VPI (Volume-Producing Item), a program that enables associates in each store to select hot items to emphasize in talking to customers and in visual displays. Cash prices will be given for the top VPI on a monthly basis at each store, across regions and companywide.

Last Tuesday, Walmart said it would raise the starting hourly wage for managers and workers in specialized departments, such as the deli in the U.S. Earlier this year, management indicated it was increasing the minimum wage for entry-level workers to $10 per hour by February 2016

"Our job, my job, is to make your life easier," Mr. Foran said at the meeting, according The New York Times.

What do you think of Walmart’s latest moves to boost employee morale? How do you think Walmart’s work environment now stacks up to its competitors?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"These are good steps, but they won’t take the place of paying workers a living wage. Too many Walmart workers still need government assistance to support their families."
"If these changes will make for happier employees, hooray! Likely to be short-term morale boosters, though. At the end of the day, they’d prefer to get paid more."
"I think these moves (other than the wage increase) are superficial and will not do much to improve morale. Most of the time employees can’t even hear the music if they are doing their jobs and helping customers, answering questions, checking people out, etc. Can anyone tell the difference of a one degree in temperature change anywhere?"

Join the Discussion!

20 Comments on "Walmart adds perks to pay increases"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

These are good steps, but they won’t take the place of paying workers a living wage. Too many Walmart workers still need government assistance to support their families.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

If these changes will make for happier employees, hooray! Likely to be short-term morale boosters, though. At the end of the day, they’d prefer to get paid more.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

I think these moves (other than the wage increase) are superficial and will not do much to improve morale. Most of the time employees can’t even hear the music if they are doing their jobs and helping customers, answering questions, checking people out, etc. Can anyone tell the difference of a one degree in temperature change anywhere? The VPI incentive program may reward a very small percentage of employees and the night crews will love wearing jeans and t-shirts, but that should have been happening anyway!

If Walmart wants to retain its better employees and attract good people they should enhance the health care program and offer all employees a bonus opportunity based on store performance.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

These are all steps in the right direction, but probably don’t address the real problem.

Retail workers need three things: An honestly livable wage that allows them to support themselves and a family, a solid benefits program including healthcare and retirement, and a reasonable career path.

Put those things in place and it probably doesn’t matter what’s playing on the in-store radio.

As to how Walmart ranks against other employers, I’d say it’s taking good steps in the right direction, but certainly isn’t the industry standard for great employment yet.

Quentin Smelzer
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

I find it interesting and kind of disingenuous that Walmart’s television ad about boosting employee pay features a sign with a big “15” on it but the pay increase is only to $10. That said, these measures are a step in the right direction.

Ian Percy
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

My knee-jerk reaction was to ask how on earth Walmart’s dress code could be any more “relaxed.”

A much deeper thought focuses on Mr. Foran’s goal of making employee lives “easier.” Is that really something to aspire to with employees? Life isn’t easy for any of us and if it were, most of us would be pathetic couch potatoes by now.

How about goals like helping employees make their lives and work more “meaningful,” “purposeful,” “stimulating,” “rewarding” or “productive?” “Easy” is not the goal. Furthermore no employer policy can make any of these things happen, we can only create contexts that make these experience possible IF they are chosen by the employee him or herself. Admittedly, that does start with removing Justin Bieber from the playlist.

Zel Bianco
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

I think Walmart has zeroed in on some of the small gestures that can make a significant difference in morale. While this may not necessarily make more workers apply to Walmart over other options, it will keep employees happier and lead to happier customers as well.

David Livingston
Guest
6 years 3 months ago
First i think this announcement is so condescending to Walmart workers. For anyone with the title of manager, making $10 an hour is a joke. If you are making $10 you are not a manager. I don’t care what it says on your name badge. You are not a real manager until you no longer are required to wear that vest with the “*” on the back. Walmart workers are already some of least professional looking workers in the industry. Now Walmart is going to expand this shortcoming. I wonder if Walmart is doing this to see which employees take the step backward to help them decide who is serious about their job and who isn’t. Think about it, most of us would be embarrassed to wear jeans and t-shirts to work. As for the store temperature. Really, one degree, and they put this in a press release as some kind of employee benefit? Or the music soundtrack? They were probably going to change it anyway. I think this is demoralizing to employees and the… Read more »
Joan Treistman
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

This time around it’s about the packaging. Walmart is wrapping some of its minor changes in its advertising strategy. I’m guessing they are using this promotion opportunity primarily to build equity with customers because employees can see right through it.

If Walmart is serious about boosting the quality of life for employees then I agree with those who call them out on the incremental value of the steps they are taking — not enough in the right direction. And for sure that phrase about making their life “easier” struck me as disingenuous and off-point.

Studies have shown that non-salary changes can improve employee morale, but that’s when the salaries of the employees are at least living wages. Until then, for Walmart and other employers, it’s a matter of “show me the money.”

Steve Montgomery
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

A phrase I learned from my friends in Texas is applicable to these changes — all hat and no cattle. Great optics but not overly significant in terms of their employees’ lives.

Roger Saunders
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

The Hawthorne experiments were groundbreaking studies in human relations that were conducted between 1924 and 1932 at Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works in Chicago. Walmart is taking the right steps by focusing on their associates. Those 2,000,000-plus associates around the world are a direct link to the billions of customer transactions that take place each year, including the e-commerce path.

Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO made it clear last week at the Shareholder Annual Meeting that he has less concern about competitors and is more interested in helping associates adapting to today’s retail world in terms of speed, innovation, teamwork and store appearance. McMillon recognizes that an army of Walmart associates will come up with the promising ideas that will move this giant forward.

Smart move to begin the tactics here.

Hy Louis
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Ditto Steve Montgomery. Most jobs area all about the money. T-shirts, music and store climate control is a distant second to real money. My guess is these monthly bonuses will not be enough to encourage employees.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

People go to work for the money and benefits, if there are any. Performance sales incentives work for the ones who can sell regardless of how long they are in the market or the company. When store management sectors off the floor into departments and offers the best opportunities to a favored select few the interest in the company falls off. So too does the company’s ability to ensure they are getting maximum efforts from all employees. Retailers refuse to explore this fault to their advantage and throw away countless sales because of this tolerated and often encouraged form of favoritism. Comparing the benefits of a store management and store employee system versus department management and membership may disclose many unseen opportunities for all, including the customer, who must hear from employees, “This isn’t my department!”

Warren Thayer
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

All steps in the right direction but Walmart still lags the pack. It is still about wages and benefits.

Kim Souza
Guest
Kim Souza
6 years 3 months ago

These perks are minor in the scheme of things, but cumulatively this signals that Walmart is listening more to its employees. With a workforce of 1.4 million, the secret to Walmart’s turnaround and future success is mobilizing this massive army to improve customer service today and innovate for tomorrow.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

If Walmart needs to do all of these things at the same time, then there has been a serious problem for quite awhile. Walmart needs to offer a living wage and support health care. If and when the basics are resolved, then some of the other initiatives may have an impact. Walmart’s work environment still lags competitors.

Mark Burr
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

It’s interesting to see where the poll stands, at least at this time, with the VIP incentive program leading the other changes.

A while ago—quite some time ago—I might have thought the same way. Yet, to many workers, even the lower paid workers, other things seem to matter just as much as the dollars. And in recent years, through surveys, associates in companies put things like jeans on Friday’s at the top of their list. Who’d have thought? Yet, it’s true.

It also shows that many of a certain age see things more simply than those of a lesser age. The things that are important to the younger are far, far different.

It’s likely the wardrobe changes will have a much more significant impact than even imagined by Walmart. Sure the associates will take the money, but they want the other stuff just as much if not more in reality.

Tom Brown
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Should be good moves to keep the employees from organizing unions. Would be a terrible thing if they got to negotiate for themselves.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
6 years 3 months ago

I am sorry, but changing the temperature one degree and allowing jeans will not compensate for a lifetime of treating workers like worthless chattel. From locking employees into the store overnight to collecting food for workers who cannot afford to feed themselves—Walmart has collected a series of value-driven flaws that some window dressing cannot alter in the short term.

Alan Cooper
Guest
Alan Cooper
6 years 3 months ago

I like the new attire for the floor personnel. It’s neater and refreshing over others such as Target, where employees are slovenly dressed in varying degrees and shades of sloppy/unpressed red shirts.

The temperature is irrelevant in the big picture. Anything that brings more income to the employees OR a reduction in healthcare insurance premiums is a benefit. The raise in the minimum wage has consequences; either through a reduction in full time jobs or an increase to suppliers. Although Walmart leadership may not like to conduct business based on public perception, it is unavoidable.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"These are good steps, but they won’t take the place of paying workers a living wage. Too many Walmart workers still need government assistance to support their families."
"If these changes will make for happier employees, hooray! Likely to be short-term morale boosters, though. At the end of the day, they’d prefer to get paid more."
"I think these moves (other than the wage increase) are superficial and will not do much to improve morale. Most of the time employees can’t even hear the music if they are doing their jobs and helping customers, answering questions, checking people out, etc. Can anyone tell the difference of a one degree in temperature change anywhere?"

Take Our Instant Poll

Which of the following will do the most to boost Walmart employee morale?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...