Walmart to offer bonuses for good attendance

Photo: Walmart
Feb 04, 2019
Tom Ryan

Walmart plans to give bonuses to its U.S. employees who don’t call out often. The goal is to better deliver a consistent experience for customers and reward its most dependable associates.

At the same time, Walmart is adding protections for employees who have no choice but to miss work.

With the change, hourly employees will be allowed five absences per every six-month period, down from nine previously. But they’ll receive six “protected PTO” days a year that can be used to cover any unplanned absence.

Workers who take all six “protected PTO” days are still eligible for the new attendance bonus. They will not, however, receive a bonus if they use any of the five additional days every six months.

Under the new policy, eligible hourly Walmart associates can earn an additional 25 percent on the quarterly cash bonuses they currently receive based on store performance. For an $11-an-hour entry-level sales associate, that could mean an extra $550.

Drew Holler, VP of associate experience for Walmart U.S., told CNN that the reduction in days off was designed to “drive accountability and raise expectations for that small set of associates that do have an attendance problem.”

The changes came after feedback from associates who wanted more flexibility in their work schedules, with some seeking rewards for consistency showing up. More than 300,000 hourly associates currently have spotless attendance records. Walmart employs some 2.1 million nationwide.

The move was also seen as a cost-effective way for Walmart to boost employee attendance as it raised its minimum wage last year to $11 in a tight job market. Other changes last year, including an expanded paid maternity and paternity leave for full-time hourly workers and revamped scheduling system, have combined to bring Walmart’s turnover in the U.S. to a five-year low.

Some worker advocacy groups had complained that the stringent six-days-off every six months unfairly punished employees dealing with illnesses or sick family members. However, United for Respect, a worker advocacy group, said in a statement that the new plan may encourage employees to come to work sick.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Walmart’s revamped days-off policies? Do you have any tips on handling unplanned absences at the store level that balance the needs of workers and the store?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Bravo Walmart, this will pay off in so many ways -- and I certainly hope that they are measuring the impact through many irrefutable lenses. "
"Absenteeism is growing and this seems like a smart way to manage it."
"I applaud this incentive from Walmart. It feels like a classic win-win-win scenario..."

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12 Comments on "Walmart to offer bonuses for good attendance"

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Mark Ryski

Incentives work, and I like Walmart’s program to incentivize employees for attendance. Ultimately, people matters are unique and need to be considered based on the specific circumstances of each employee. It’s difficult to come up with policies that will please everyone, however, those that include incentives for the desired behavior tend to be most effective.

Bob Phibbs

Concentrate on your employees and make their day and those employees will want to make your customer’s day. Absenteeism is growing and this seems like a smart way to manage it.

Laura Davis-Taylor

Yes, yes, YES! Bravo Walmart, this will pay off in so many ways…and I certainly hope that they are measuring the impact through many irrefutable lenses.

Now, how about you create another layer of incentives based on store NPS/satisfaction? Or even better, let shoppers easily rate their experience at the register by touching a happy or sad emoticon? I’d love to see each person gunning for high ratings — and be compensated accordingly. That would be a game changer for many of their stores.

Neil Saunders

The scheme makes sense and should help reduce absences, which can be a real problem for retailers. However, the best way to ensure people come to work is to make it engaging, enjoyable and rewarding – that way you secure real loyalty.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to catch them “doing the right things.” The best way to generate loyalty is to give them flexibility and choices. Walmart is showing the right signs of investing in people who will make a difference.

Art Suriano

Walmart understands their employees better than most retailers, and this is a smart program. However, in most cases with retailers, one of the main reasons employees call out is because of poor scheduling. Too many managers wait until the absolute last minute to make up their schedules and often do not listen to the needs of the employees who tell them when they can’t work because of school, another job or some other reason. Walmart should do well with this program, but if they have stores where managers are not scheduling in advance, they might find themselves better off correcting that problem and if so, will avoid employees calling out. Most store employees want hours and want to work so by listening to their scheduling needs a retailer can do themselves an excellent service by having the coverage they need when they need it and keeping their employees happy. Proper scheduling in advance is a win-win for both sides.

Min-Jee Hwang

The downside of a program like this is that PTO is already incredibly underused in the U.S., and workers, especially in minimum-wage-type jobs like these at Walmart, come into work sick, and are unable to care for family, kids, etc. While the bonuses sound nice on the surface, Walmart has to ensure it’s not actually punishing those who need to take time off and build a culture of workaholics with low productivity and a negative attitude toward their employer.

Ray Riley

It must be a lot of fun working in the Walmart headquarters. They are green lighting action item after action item, and their PR department is kept busy. Having said that, this is a great reaction on their part from employee provided feedback, and I particularly appreciated the multi-faceted approach to reducing employee turnover, which as the article stated is at a five year low. No silver bullets in retail, and much less so with 2.1 million team members.

Ricardo Belmar

Good move by Walmart to shift their system to one of positive reinforcement which will certainly help associates “feel the love” from corporate. Positive reinforcement, especially systems that allow for “spot awards” that reward great results in-store when working with a customer can go a long way to create a favorable, positive and engaging work environment that employees want to come back to every day. That’s the formula for combating absenteeism and improving the in-store experience for everyone.

Dave Bruno

I applaud this incentive from Walmart. It feels like a classic win-win-win scenario: the incentive will reward associates for better attendance, Walmart stores will be more productive and predictable, and the experience inside the stores will improve for shoppers.

Craig Sundstrom

There’s no way everyone can win with time off. Yes, people are paid for doing work, so it’s hardly Dickensian to not pay them for not being there (and it really matters little whether that comes in the form of no attendance = no pay or attendance = bonus); if people want to call that “punishment,” fine. OTOH, there are logical reasons to not encourage people who are sick to come in just for the sake of being paid.

So beyond something absurd — requiring 100% attendance and or firing people who don’t comply — every policy is going to represent some sort of compromise: everyone can recognize that and be happy … or complain about it.

Carlos Arambula

It’s a win-win. It’s not a difficult objective and I would expect some employees to achieve the bonus without any changes in their attendance behavior. The real impact will be felt after the fist bonus are awarded, when those employees who missed out on the bonus realize they could have earned it and will improve attendance in time for the next bonus round.

"Bravo Walmart, this will pay off in so many ways -- and I certainly hope that they are measuring the impact through many irrefutable lenses. "
"Absenteeism is growing and this seems like a smart way to manage it."
"I applaud this incentive from Walmart. It feels like a classic win-win-win scenario..."

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