Wal-Mart Says Thank You to Workers - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-04-2006, 08:35 AM Thread Starter
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Wal-Mart Says Thank You to Workers

Wal-Mart Says Thank You to Workers


Faced with public demonstrations of discontent by its employees, Wal-Mart Stores has developed a wide-ranging new program intended to show that it appreciates its 1.3 million workers in the United States and to encourage them to air their grievances.
As part of the effort, Wal-Mart managers at 4,000 stores will meet with 10 rank-and-file workers every week and extend an additional 10 percent discount on a single item during the holidays to all its employees, beyond the normal 10 percent employee discount.
The program, described in an internal company document, was created during a volatile six months period, starting when the company instituted a set of sweeping changes in how it managed its workers.
Over that time, Wal-Mart has sought to create a cheaper, more flexible labor force by capping wages, using more part-time employees, scheduling more workers at nights and weekends, and cracking down on unexcused days off.
The policies angered many long-time employees, who complained that the changes would reduce their pay and disrupt their families’ lives. Workers even staged small rallies in Nitro, W. Va., and Hialeah Gardens, Fla., the only such protests in recent memory.
The portion of the new outreach program called “Associates Out in Front” is described in company documents as a way for Wal-Mart to show workers “that we do appreciate you and that we have an ongoing commitment to listening to and addressing your concerns.”
The documents were provided to The New York Times by WakeUpWalMart.com, a group funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which fears that Wal-Mart will undermine unionized stores.
The program includes several new perks “as a way of saying thank you” to workers, like a special polo shirt after 20 years of service and a “premium holiday,” when Wal-Mart pays a portion of health insurance premiums for covered employees. Sarah Clark, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the program was a “a more formalized, contemporary approach” to communicating with and collecting feedback from its fast-growing work force.
But she said it was not a response to workers’ concerns about new company policies. The Associates Out in Front program, much of which is not described in the documents, she said, “is about building on something that is already very good.”
In interviews, half a dozen Wal-Mart workers said there was a growing perception within the company that managers did not respond to employees’ ideas and complaints.
Kory Uselton, a 35-year-old overnight floor cleaner at a Wal-Mart in Tyler, Tex., said his store manager offered “robotic” company-approved responses during a recent meeting when workers questioned the new attendance policy, which originally called for disciplinary action after three unauthorized absences (although it was later revised to four unexcused absences).
Asked if absence for a family emergency, like a sick child, would be authorized, Mr. Uselton recounted, the manager said, “No, it’s not.”
“Many of the associates were very upset,” Mr. Uselton said. “Management is just not listening anymore.” Some Wal-Mart employees said workers might be afraid to speak up because they have seen coworkers retaliated against — for instance, transferred to worse shifts when they voiced their complaints.
Ms. Clark said Wal-Mart already had several systems in place that allowed employees to criticize company practices. Among other things, she said, there was a toll-free hotline workers could call to report ethical lapses, a Web site on which chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. answered questions and a policy, known as the “open door,” that permitted anyone to bring complaints to officers at the highest level of the company.
Industry analysts and labor experts generally praised Wal-Mart’s new employee outreach effort, which they said appeared to imitate practices from companies known for cultivating a healthy relationship between managers and employees.
“When you look at the list of best employers,” said Richard W. Hurd, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, “you will find programs that look something like this.”
The question, he said, “is how sincere the effort is and how much change you see in workers’ lives.”
But he said the perks, like the 10 percent discount and the shirt for long-time workers, are “a very token, modest form of appreciation. It is not sufficient.”
Adrianne Shapira, a retail analyst at Goldman Sachs who tracks Wal-Mart, cautioned that, whatever the reasons for the new program, the pace of change at the company carried its own hazards.
“I think they are asking a lot of their people right now,” she said. “It’s a lot of change in a short period of time at an already hectic time of year. It has to be pretty challenging for workers.”
The Associates Out in Front program, which Wal-Mart is introducing over the holiday season, was developed by company executives about seven months ago, Ms. Clark said. It is, in part, the result of recommendations from a group called the Care Council, 700 Wal-Mart workers who advise executives on ways to improve working conditions.
Under the program, store managers are to meet each week with 10 employees who sign up to discuss concerns, suggestions and ideas for improving operations. The program also requires regional general managers to conduct monthly town-hall meetings that are open to every worker in the area.
A new management training program, called “Leaders Out in Front,” is intended to encourage hourly workers to advance their careers and help existing managers become “better ambassadors and mentors,” according to the memo.
Not all of these perks are new. During previous holiday seasons, Wal-Mart has paid health care premiums and offered an additional 10 percent discount. But they were sporadic or at store managers’ discretion, rather than offered annually across the chain, said Ms. Clark, the spokeswoman.
Other perks, like a shirt that states length of employment in five-year increments starting with 20 years of service, appear designed to build morale, but might do the opposite.
Cleo Forward, a 37-year-old support manager at a Wal-Mart in Dallas, said the new program was promising, but that it fell short in recognizing long-time workers who felt unappreciated by the changes.
“They are going to spend $15 on a Polo for you after 20 years? Give me a break,” he said. “We would rather they lift the wage caps.”
Still, Mr. Forward said, he would like to be able to resolve his problems inside the company — and viewed Associates Out in Front as step in the right direction. “Maybe the company is willing to listen,” he said. “If that is so, I am happy. I want to be part of that process.”

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-04-2006, 09:37 AM
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There will always be those who hate those who succeed.

Just like Indonesian's envy of ethnic Chinese.

Some wear their spite and envy as a badge of honor.

I think it is shameful.

Show us a picture of the compound you must live in to keep out the envious and spiteful in your country.

Many will no doubt be surprised.

Last edited by DaveN007; 12-04-2006 at 10:38 AM.
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