Will Walmart’s ‘Great Workplace’ test work for its customers and associates?

Discussion
Source: Walmart
May 03, 2019
George Anderson

Walmart is experimenting with several versions of a new store management structure under its “Great Workplace” initiative. The goal of the program, which includes a reduction in the number of managers within the chain’s stores, is about making Walmart management more responsive to the needs of its customers and staff, as well.

The test, which is currently being conducted in about 100 Neighborhood Markets and smaller supercenter locations, involves reducing the number of assistant and department manager roles in stores and making a smaller number responsible for larger teams of employees.

CNBC reports that the management structure at test locations includes store managers at the top followed by “business leads” and “team leads.” Business leads make 10 percent more than what current assistant store managers earn. The starting pay for team leads is $18 an hour.

In the Great Workplace environment, associates are given more responsibility, as managers lead teams across multiple departments rather than focusing on just one.

Drew Holler, senior vice president associate experience for Walmart U.S., told The Wall Street Journal, that under the new structure associates can help customers with requests such as product returns or price corrections without going through layers of approvals.

“That is probably the game changer in this, we are pushing decisions down,” he told the Journal.

The same article reports that Great Workplace stores have seen reductions in manager counts while frontline staff has remained as-is or increased. There is no indication at this time that Walmart intends to broadly roll out the new management hierarchy across its stores.

Walmart has been investing heavily in store remodels and reconfiguring locations to accommodate grocery pickup outside stores and Pickup Towers inside. The retailer has emphasized using automation to reduce repetitive tasks while freeing up associates for customer-facing roles.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Walmart’s “Great Workplace” staffing structure will produce stores that are more responsive to the needs of customers? Will this same system prove more rewarding for store associates?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"To be quite honest, this seems like a way of cutting the number of higher-paid staff and giving some of their duties to lower-paid associates."
"It has potential for sure. If people have the ability to make a difference and then some responsibility for it, it can become a very generative and productive workplace."
"The future isn’t all bots and robots."

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13 Comments on "Will Walmart’s ‘Great Workplace’ test work for its customers and associates?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I think Walmart’s “Great Workplace” store organizational re-structure and roles update is well intended and makes sense. If executed well, I think the goal of pushing decisions down to better enable front-line employees to serve customers will be positive for both customers and employees. While much of the innovative ideas that come from Walmart lately are technology focused, it’s good to see that Walmart is also experimenting with non-technology initiatives like this one.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Nope. It may make their workers happier (but probably not). It may make them leaner over time or it may make Walmart staffing more rational. Customer needs are pretty minimal at Walmart. Get in, find my stuff, make sure my stuff is on the shelf, get out quickly. With the occasional return. None of this seems likely to impact my shopping experience.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

To be quite honest, this seems like a way of cutting the number of higher-paid staff and giving some of their duties to lower-paid associates. Putting the morality of that to one side, giving associates more power to make decisions might not be such a bad thing if it means greater responsiveness to consumers.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

The cynic in me believes that CNBC and The Wall Street Journal headlines state the reason for Walmart’s store management structure change. This allows Walmart to cut its store management staff. It is interesting to note that this is being tested in its smaller stores.

Time will tell if the store staff training and execution equals the hype about the improvements in customer service. One thing is for sure: the range of duties they are expected to perform increased.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Walmart has been a pioneer in increased training and workplace satisfaction. This initiative can only be done due to its huge investment in their people starting years ago. The future isn’t all bots and robots.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

I’ll say it again, the retail world is flat (or soon will be) as the layers of management that used to define retail are torn down. This has been happening at HQ for a while and is now in full swing at the store level. Overall, the restructuring would seem to foster cross-departmental knowledge and efficiency that will drive better customer service for Walmart.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Here’s hoping. I love their approach towards innovation, but I live 1/2 mile from a crazy busy urban one in Atlanta and every single time I go in there the wait to cash out makes driving the 6 miles to Target a great alternative. Invariably, it’s at a peak time, only 2 lanes are open and self-checkout is a minimum of 20 people deep. Doing what I do for a living, it makes me BANANAS.

Fix the most pervasive pain points and great things happen. Hiring and empowering emotionally intelligent frontline management with a heart of service is a great first step.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Yes, Laura, it sounds like a good concept but let’s get the basics right first. And how about those out-of-stocks? For my 2 cents.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Every retailer wants associates to be responsible to deliver great service. Our favorite employee axiom is: To be responsible to create great moments for customers, the associate must have the authority to make it happen. With the proper training, I think this Walmart “Great Workplace” initiative can have a very positive effect.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Allowing lower levels of staff make product return and price correction decisions without getting the approval of one or multiple layers of management should lead to greater efficiencies and improved customer experiences. I am not sure this is all that more rewarding for the employees, as some might expect extra pay because they have more authority. That said, I think it is a smart move for Walmart.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

It has potential for sure. If people have the ability to make a difference and then some responsibility for it, it can become a very generative and productive workplace (see what Chip Wilson did at Lululemon). It can start with compensation at Walmart — but that vision is only fulfilled when the culture catches up.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

It’s simple. Create a better place for employees to work and that usually means a better experience for the customer. I like the idea of trying different leadership and staffing concepts. They will land on the one that works and everyone, employees and customers, should benefit from it.

Miriam Barton
Guest
1 month 12 days ago

It has potential yes, as long as skilled people fill the leader spots. The downside is there is no longer a future in retail management for anyone seeking it; and most new employees do not care for being responsible, let alone actually learning their job, trying to be a good employee, or even pulling their own weight. The good employees will still get frustrated from carrying the weight for others as this structure is just piling on more work on the good associates. Walmart already has cut other internal positions, adding those duties to already overworked associates to cut payroll and increase profits.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"To be quite honest, this seems like a way of cutting the number of higher-paid staff and giving some of their duties to lower-paid associates."
"It has potential for sure. If people have the ability to make a difference and then some responsibility for it, it can become a very generative and productive workplace."
"The future isn’t all bots and robots."

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