Walmart associates gain greater control over schedules

Discussion
Feb 22, 2016

Seeking another lever to motivate employees, Walmart is allowing associates greater control over their weekly work schedules.

Store managers currently allocate hours within the times employees say they are available to work. By the end of the year, associates will be able to claim fixed shifts, which guarantee the same hours each week, or opt for flex shifts, building their own schedules from the hours available in two-and-a-half-week increments.

Fixed shifts will first be offered to the longest-tenured associates, then on a first-come-first-served basis as new shifts become available. An app is being developed to help associates manage schedules.

The changes address the challenges of unpredictable scheduling, particularly for those working other jobs or arranging childcare, faced by many retail workers. Starbucks, Abercrombie and others have been called out for using “on-call shifts,” typically managed by software that notifies employees, often within a short time frame, whether or not they will be working on a given day.

Although Walmart hasn’t been called out for using on-call shifts, activist groups have long demanded that the discounter provide more advance notice of schedules, greater consistency, greater access to full-time work, and scheduling based on seniority.

Walmart mentioned the scheduling adjustments last year as part of its $2.7 billion investment in wages and training. Tests of the system at two stores in Arkansas and Kansas showed an 11 percent decline in absenteeism and a 14 percent drop in staff turnover.

Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told The Washington Post that the greater visibility and information into scheduling offers greater flexibility for employees.

“And more features might be coming in the future, like the ability to split shifts in smaller increments,” he added. “I think everything is on the table in figuring out how to get people in the store working when people are shopping.”

Photo: Walmart

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important is providing more control over scheduling to Walmart associate morale versus higher wages and other perks? Should other retailers in the space also commit to offering fixed and flex shifts?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"At this point, it’s all about the Benjamins. Control over schedules is great, but pales in comparison to the poor wages and total number of hours allowed."
"The research says that Walmart is on the right track. If employees are given a choice between more control over the hours they work or a slight raise, most will take more control over hours."
"A retailer can’t possibly expect to deliver a quality customer experience with purely flex, high turnover, low pay employees — even if you’re low cost, low service Walmart — in a world where a customer can get a much better low service experience from her computer at home."

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21 Comments on "Walmart associates gain greater control over schedules"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

This is an easy, no-to-low cost move for Walmart that should have a big positive impact. Everyone wants control over their environment, even if it’s just perceived control. Choosing schedules and consistent schedules day-to-day and week-to-week will give them that perceived control.

Of course other retailers should do this. It’s not new in business — airlines have been doing this forever.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Sorry. At this point, it’s all about the Benjamins. Control over schedules is great, but pales in comparison to the poor wages and total number of hours allowed.

Max Goldberg
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

This is a positive move by Walmart. It acknowledges that its employees have lives outside the retail giant and allows some certainty and flexibility. I still believe that Walmart needs to pay a living wage, but salute them for this important step.

Bob Amster
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

This concept and its corollaries and extensions represent a win/win for employer and employee. Happy associates tend to treat customers better. Retention of associates (reduced turnover) has to be a plus for the employer. Managing the odd situations when everyone has claimed all the fixed or all the variable shifts and other people want them will be the next hurdle to overcome, but it is doable.

Dick Seesel
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Most hourly retail employees have issues with erratic scheduling and unpredictable hours from week to week. If Walmart can figure out how to meet its own scheduling needs with this new system, it’s a win for both the associates and the company.

Kevin Graff
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Not sure how to give a standing ovation on this forum, but that’s what I would give Walmart for this move! The staff experience is just as important as the customer experience. Look for more and more retailers to smell the coffee and improve every element of the staff experience.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
5 years 7 months ago

It’s a step in the right direction. Retailers need to rethink employees, especially store associates. Reverse the trend of de-investing in employees by paying a living wage, empowering and educating associates so customers are better informed, and giving them more control over their schedules.

David Livingston
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

If you are interested in retaining employees, it’s important to accommodate your employees. I spoke with a Walmart manager recently and he said their business model is based on employees quitting after about eight months however now they are quitting too often and many stores are short 40 to 50 employees.

Raising wages will help some. As expected some employees are now requesting fewer hours so they can still qualify for public assistance. That is a larger group of employees than most realize. Walmart has a long way to go before they change to a business model that attracts long-term employees. Walmart would probably have to dangle a carrot of $15 a hour and make part-timers into full-timers to solve that problem. Walmart would be crucified on Wall Street. I don’t see that happening unless legislated. I can’t say what is best for retailers regarding fixed and flex shifts. It all depends on if you are a high-turnover warm body retailer or if you want employees to stick around for awhile.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

I too support this move by Walmart. I just wonder about the detail.

Does this work by department and/or function with a department? For example, do all stock clerks have an equal opportunity or do they have to stay within their department or a range of departments? I would find it hard to believe that someone in a stock clerk role in the grocery department would be able to “post” for an hour slot in electronics. The process may add some flexibility, but not all those implied by the article.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
5 years 7 months ago

It’s a good move. The retail industry historically demands weekend and night work, which are really disruptive to employees’ lives when combined with unpredictable schedules. Oh, and that thing about a living wage would be an even bigger positive, but I’m not holding my breath.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

The research says that Walmart is on the right track. If employees are given a choice between more control over the hours they work or a slight raise, most will take more control over hours.

I realize the sample was in only two stores, but the numbers were amazing. A 14% decrease in turnover. In Walmart’s case, that would equate to millions of dollars of savings in recruiting, hiring, training, not to mention the increase in customer service.

I wonder what has taken them so long.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
5 years 7 months ago
I think there are two points to this. One, flexible shifts and control over availability are benefits that can offset low wages, for all the reasons cited: child care, multiple jobs, transportation challenges. There’s no reason for retailers to be jerks about schedules when technology could make it easier for everyone — I love the implied surprise (or why wouldn’t they have done it sooner?) that giving employees more say in the schedule results in less absenteeism and turnover. Shocker! Two, part of the reason they are doing this is because they need to make sure they have people on staff when the store is busy. Another shocker! I think it just goes to show how far away from sensible employment practices many retailers have gotten. Walmart is just one. But even more important, I think this is the beginning of a series of related headlines we will see this year. Fixed shifts — full time, benefited shifts that encourage knowledgeable, trained employees to stay on with a company, supplemented with flex shifts for part time employees… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

This is a great morale builder and an easy way to manage employee needs on a detailed level. It makes Walmart a more employee-friendly employer, while also providing employees with a sense of control regarding their working environment.

vic gallese
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Control over schedules is key if one wants to reduce turnover. People will find a way to get their required hours thru another employer if necessary.

You can bet the fixed shifts are for evenings and weekends, so this idea may NOT be for everyone, not even WMT.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Interesting to compare wages and hours. Gee! I am having a problem with this because both are significant. Yes, it is important for many Walmart employees to be able to schedule their hours around their availability since a high number are part time (if even that). But equally as important is to be able to bring home more money at the end of the pay period. A livable hourly wage carries a great significance here.

Karen McNeely
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

This is huge. For many employees dealing with changing schedules can be the most stressful part of their lives. For others, such as students, having flexibility is a great benefit. Back in the day when I was a department manager I always knew the easiest way to get a lackluster employee to leave voluntarily was to mess with their schedule.

Money is good and necessary, but the ability to plan ahead and have steady hours is priceless. I think this will help encourage longer tenure and improve morale. In some respects it also make scheduling easier. I think this is a win-win.

Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Any time you can give employees the power to control something — and in this case something as important as their schedule — is a good thing. There are boundaries that employees must adhere to, but it is an opportunity to provide some flexibility in the employee’s schedule.

Roger Saunders
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

As long as there are positions that represent hourly employment, retailers will find that associates will be interested in having greater control over their schedules. Some individuals are “morning people” or they have children’s school issues to work around. Others are comfortable working all evening shifts, even if these represent part-time status.

Hospitals, out of 24/7 necessity, have long worked with shift work. Programs can be written to support managers’ needs to coordinate staffing. If Walmart’s two store test proves successful in reducing absenteeism by 11% and employee turnover by 14%, the improvement in quality, productivity, and store appearance will more than pay for this scheduling change strategy.

Tony Orlando
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
I’m just curious about the fact that many who have commented like the idea, and than say that Walmart should pay a living wage. I’m no fan of Walmart, but what exactly did you have in mind for a living wage? Retailers — especially Walmart — rely on volume for survival, and if they paid 15-20 dollars hour to their employees (which would be difficult even for the very deep pockets of Walmart), what would then happen to the prices inside the store? These employees are not welders, nurses, or electricians, so how can Walmart justify this living wage being discussed here, without adding more to all the prices of the products they carry? The fast food protests are the same problem, as the dollar menu would become the $2 menu, and profits for the franchisee would be in peril. Retail can not pay much more than it already does, without shareholders wondering what happened to the profits. I can appreciate the concern of those who feel that the employees need a much higher wage, but it is… Read more »
Larry Negrich
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Very positive step to allow workers to have more say in their schedules. Flexibility to pick up shifts that work within their life activities can only help to improve all facets of the work experience and, hopefully, to customer service.

Hy Louis
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
Higher wages at Walmart are really not much of a perk. An extra $30 a week would put some employees at risk of losing much more in public assistance programs. A living wage in retail is generally reserved for the top tier employees. After all, not all retail employees are of the same caliber. Retail has its pecking order just like in baseball. Walmart has done an excellent job in providing employment for those considered unemployable by other retailers. Walmart has an opportunity to provide some stability for those with a lot of instability and dysfunction in their lives, compared to perhaps employees of Costco, The Container Store, etc. Let’s face the truth, if you are working at Walmart and being paid by the hour, you may have had some bad luck or made some poor choices at some point. Walmart faces a difficult task in providing fixed and flex shifts for people with higher degrees of absenteeism and stress. I really wonder if any of these ideas will improve the shopping experience or have… Read more »
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Braintrust
"At this point, it’s all about the Benjamins. Control over schedules is great, but pales in comparison to the poor wages and total number of hours allowed."
"The research says that Walmart is on the right track. If employees are given a choice between more control over the hours they work or a slight raise, most will take more control over hours."
"A retailer can’t possibly expect to deliver a quality customer experience with purely flex, high turnover, low pay employees — even if you’re low cost, low service Walmart — in a world where a customer can get a much better low service experience from her computer at home."

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