Walmart is working to shift more of its hourly store associates to full-time status.
Plans call for two-thirds of Walmart U.S.’ hourly store roles to be full-time by the close of its 2022 fiscal year at the end of January, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant said Wednesday.
Announcing the move in a blog post, Drew Holler, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. people operations said the transition will represent “meaningful investments in our associates’ pay, hours and stability.” He noted that about 53% of Walmart’s U.S. hourly store workforce held full-time posts in 2016 and, with the planned shift, the company’s stores will have approximately 100,000 more full-time positions versus five years ago.
“By the end of the current fiscal year, we expect two-thirds of our Walmart U.S. hourly store roles will be full-time, with consistent schedules from week to week. We believe full-time schedules complement the other ways we are preparing for the future of retail,” Holler said in the blog.
“We are following the full-time staffing approach that has been successful in our distribution centers and fulfillment centers, where more than 80% of our current associates are full-time,” he added. “We were on this journey well before the pandemic began.”
A linchpin of the plan is to give store associates more predictable schedules, with the same hours on the same days each week, to provide a better work/life balance.
“For example, an associate who works in the deli could go into work each day knowing they’ll be off in time to pick up their kids from school,” Holler explained. “This approach has other benefits, too. Associates will be scheduled to work alongside their teammates and their leader on every shift. This is one way we’re building on the team-based structure we introduced in stores last year. Having these small teams of eight to 12 associates work together will lead to a more connected, productive and enjoyable work environment. Associates are cross-trained within their team’s area of the store, and they get real-time, one-on-one feedback and mentorship from their leader. All of this helps them build careers with Walmart, if they choose. And all of this ultimately results in even better customer service.”
Besides raising Walmart’s standing as a career-building destination, the sharper focus on steady schedules, skills training and new pathways for growth in the retail business will help Walmart better attract and retain top talent, according to Holler.
“Having full-time associates has never been more important than it is right now,” he said. “Our growing pickup and delivery business calls for us to create more full-time job opportunities as our stores increasingly operate as both fulfillment centers and retail spaces.”
Walmart also has stepped up support of store associates in the past year, including as part of its COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. For example, Holler said, the company instituted a COVID emergency leave policy and paid time away from work to get vaccinated, partnered with Thrive ZP to provide enhanced well-being options, continued its Live Better U program that offers associates a college degree for $1 a day, and backed veteran hiring and equity in education initiatives.
“We know our associates will always be the biggest difference-makers in our business, so we will continue to evaluate how we structure the store to best serve customers and also balance the needs of our associates,” said Holler. “We’re committed to offering good jobs that provide access, stability and opportunity. These latest changes are more of the ways we’re investing in careers, not just jobs.”
United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW), the nation’s largest retail union with over 1.3 million members, noted that frontline workers like Walmart store associates merit full-time employment, pay and benefits.
“No matter where essential workers work, they have earned and deserve a full-time job that provides the good pay, health care and protections they need to provide for their family,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement on Wednesday. “Whether it is Walmart or any other company, every CEO in the industry has a responsibility to do more to protect our essential workers in retail stores and supermarkets, who have been helping our families put food on the table and access the critical supplies we need during this pandemic.”
At Walmart’s 2021 Investment Community Meeting, held virtually this year, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon noted that the company also is boosting its investment in employee wages, which will lift associates’ average hourly pay to over $15 an hour. Plans call for the retailer to raise wages for another 425,000 frontline associates following hikes for 165,000 associates in the fall.
“These are investments in people that are important to our future because they provide a great pickup, delivery and in-store experience for our customers. These investments are part of a strategy we pursued since I started in this role,” McMillon said at the meeting, held Feb. 18. “We’ve increased our starting wages by more than 50% since 2015. Once these increases are implemented, approximately half of our U.S. hourly associates — about 730,000 people — will earn at least $15 an hour. Our average wage in the U.S. will be at least $15.25 per hour. Our supply chain associates are already earning $15 or more, and we’ve made additional wage investments in Sam’s Club over the last few years.”
Investment in internal education programs and access to affordable degrees also are key to Walmart’s efforts to provide career opportunities, McMillon added.
“Because of technology, the future of work will be different, and we want to prepare our associates for that journey,” he told investors. “We believe we should do more than provide just an hourly wage. Bonuses for some roles, our 401k match, stock ownership plan, affordable health care and other components are smart investments. We’ll make these investments in our supply chain and people, while also staying on track to modernize our technology. To pay for all that, we will keep growing sales, expand our general merchandise business and scale mutually reinforcing and profitable businesses.”