Walmart Raises Entry-Level Wages, Expands Parental Leave

Walmart Raises Entry-Level Wages, Expands Parental Leave

Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, announced on Thursday that it was raising its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11 per hour, introducing a more generous parental leave policy, and offering one-time cash bonuses based on length of service for its US workforce. CEO Doug McMillon revealed the changes in a note to employees:

[W]e’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour for Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Supply Chain, eCommerce and Home Office hourly associates effective in February. We’re also providing a one-time bonus to hourly associates that pays a larger amount the longer you’ve been with our company. Associates that don’t benefit from the new starting wage increase are eligible for the bonus and it will range from $200 to $1,000 depending on your length of service. …

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re making an important change to benefits by expanding our paid leave policy to provide full-time hourly associates with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. This expanded parental leave also applies to salaried associates and to parents who adopt. We will also contribute $5,000 to the cost of adoption.

McMillon cited the corporate tax cut passed by the US Congress in December as part of what prompted the company’s decision. Several other major US employers, including AT&T, Wells Fargo, and Boeing, have also announced plans to invest part of their tax savings in raises or bonuses, though most companies have said these savings will mainly be spent on debt repayment, dividends, and stock buybacks.

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Walmart Introduces System to Let Employees Get Paid Early

Walmart Introduces System to Let Employees Get Paid Early

Walmart has announced a new partnership with two financial technology startups, Even Responsible Finance and PayActiv, that will enable its 1.5 million US employees to access wages they have earned before payday, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Employees will be allowed eight free uses a year of Even’s Instapay tool, available through its personal finance app. The app links to the employee’s checking or prepaid account and Walmart’s payroll system. Walmart’s Chief People Officer Jacqui Canney described the partnership as an investment in employees’ financial wellbeing, as it will help protect them from having to rely on payday loans when emergency expenses arise:

The move could address a painful reality of low-income hourly workers, whose cash flow is far from predictable. Income volatility has been increasing in recent years, according to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and studies from the Federal Reserve show a lack of emergency savings among many workers. The inability to weather an unexpected car repair bill or medical expense can send a low-income worker into a debt spiral, and financially stressed workers can be less engaged and not as productive.

Walmart is the world’s largest private employer, so its HR policies have a tendency to set benchmarks that other major retailers and employers of the same talent cohorts are forced by market pressure to match. Sometimes that means pushing up the real minimum wage, and sometimes it means embracing automation and raising concerns about the displacement of low-wage jobs. In this latest move, Walmart is challenging its competitors to offer their store employees more financial flexibility, using these new payroll and personal finance technologies.

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Walmart Pilots Robot Floor Cleaners, Raising Automation Jitters

Walmart Pilots Robot Floor Cleaners, Raising Automation Jitters

Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, is testing a self-driving mechanical floor scrubber in five of its stores near its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, LinkedIn managing editor Chip Cutter noted in a recent blog post—and it’s not the only automated technology the big box giant is looking into:

The machine resembles a traditional scrubber but comes equipped with similar technology used in self-driving cars: extensive cameras, sensors, algorithms and Lidar for navigational mapping. Think of it as a Roomba crossed with a Tesla. A human must first drive the device to train it on a path; it can then operate largely independently, including when a store is open to customers. If a person or object gets in its way, it momentarily pauses and adjusts course. …

Walmart has said it wants to automate tasks that are “repeatable, predictable and manual,” giving its people more time to focus on higher-value work like customer service and selling.

Many of the menial tasks involved in retail work are ripe for automation, and Walmart is by no means the only major retailer experimenting with new technologies. Lowe’s rolled out an autonomous retail service robot called “LoweBot” in the San Francisco Bay Area last year, while Amazon continues to invest heavily in its robotic workforce. Being such a massive employer, however, Walmart can affect the entire US economy with its labor market decisions, so any changes it makes are bound to attract attention. In this case, Walmart’s move highlights concerns about the impact of automation on the workforce: What happens when the country’s largest employer no longer needs so many employees?

Yet Walmart is sensitive to this concern, Adam Pasick and Karen Hao write at Quartz, and has stressed that it is not using machines to replace employees:

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Is Walmart Raising the Minimum Wage in the US?

Is Walmart Raising the Minimum Wage in the US?

Since Walmart began a push to raise wages for its legion of store employees last year, leaders at the big box chain have attributed its solid performance to the greater investment they were making in their staff. And because Walmart is such an enormous actor in the US economy, its choices have ripple effects in the retail sector. Over at Quartz, Oliver Staley argues that while some see the company’s size as being a “malign force,” that doesn’t take into account how Walmart’s choices can be also be beneficial:

The company also has used its massive buying power to eliminate waste in packaged goods and to drive down the cost of energy-efficient light bulbs, speeding their widespread adoption. Raising wages can have an even bigger impact. Walmart employs one in 10 US retail workers, and one out of every 100 US private-sector employees. Just as the company forced competitors to hold the line on wages, increasing its pay is now pressuring rivals to match it.

Walmart also raised salaries for entry-level managers in response to the Obama administration’s now-defunct overtime rule last year, but at the bottom of the pay scale, seemingly small increases, say from $10 to $11 an hour, can make a big difference in the lives of the working poor. Walmart is such a huge employer, Staley points out, that its pay practices effectively set a benchmark for the rest of the retail industry, pressuring other retail giants like Target to commit to adopting a $15 minimum wage by 2020:

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Some Companies Take New Approaches to Holiday Hiring

Some Companies Take New Approaches to Holiday Hiring

In light of the competitive US labor market, the coming holiday season has employers hiring early and often to meet their needs for people power, with warehouse and logistics jobs accounting for a large portion of the seasonal spike as online shopping continues to outpace in-store sales and retailers expand their e-commerce operations to suit shifting consumer demand. Not everyone is preparing for the holidays with a massive recruiting drive, however. Walmart, for example, is eschewing the traditional hiring spree this year and instead giving more work to its existing employees, Abha Bhattarai reported at the Washington Post earlier this week:

“These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, and newly created positions such as personal shoppers and pickup associates,” Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our associates have the passion to do even more this year.”

Walmart employees and labor advocacy groups say the move could help address long-standing complaints among workers who say they are underemployed. Many part-time employees, they said, would like full-time work. Walmart considers 34 hours a week full time, when workers receive more benefits. …

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Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook’s enterprise social network, Workplace, has scored a major new customer in Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. The retail giant has already been testing the product, and will continue to phase the platform in among its other internal communication tools, though it’s not yet clear if or when Workplace will be available to all of the company’s employees.

Workplace by Facebook was launched less than a year ago, but with more than 14,000 companies using the service—including Delta Air Lines, Booking.com, Canadian Tire, Lyft, and Starbucks—it is already a serious competitor in an increasingly crowded field of enterprise communications and collaboration offerings. (Facebook hasn’t announced how many active daily users Workplace has.)

Since its inception, one of Workplace’s main selling points has been Facebook’s omnipresence as a social media platform. Most workers, and especially most millennials, are already likely to be familiar with the look, feel, and functionality of the Facebook-like Workplace, so organizations should have an easier time getting their workforces to adopt and actually use the platform without much of a learning curve.

According to a Walmart spokesperson, per Fast Company‘s Emily Price, that ease-of-use is precisely why the retail giant was drawn to the product, and they’ve already been pleased with how the service has improved communication where they have rolled it out. For instance, leaders at the company have been using the Live video feature to conduct more visually compelling all-hands meetings, and associates have been sharing photos of their best in-store display ideas. In addition, the platform became a vital asset to both Walmart and Delta during Hurricane Harvey, as Price explains:

“We were able to use the Live capability to share our current weather updates and what was happening with people that were in the field from our Emergency Operation Center. We also were using it to gather kind of information about what was happening on the ground very quickly. Part of that was because of the ease of use with the mobile [experience,” Walmart’s Dan Kneeshaw explained.]

And they weren’t the only company to use Workplace after the hurricane. Delta, for instance, used Facebook to help check in with its employees using a new feature called Safety Officer, a variation of Facebook’s Safety Check feature.

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Target to Adopt $15 Minimum Wage by 2020

Target to Adopt $15 Minimum Wage by 2020

Target announced on Monday that it would raise the minimum hourly wage for store employees to $11 next month, with an aim to raise its pay floor to $15 an hour by the end of 2020. The move reflects the retail giant’s efforts to turn around its sales performance and compete for talent in a tight market with high turnover, Fortune’s Phil Wahba reports:

“Making this investment in our Target team will allow us to continue to recruit and retain strong team members to serve our guests,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told reporters on a media call last week. Target said the raises would affect “thousands” of workers but remained vague on specifics. The company employs some 323,000 people year round and this year, is ramping up its holiday period hiring with 100,000 seasonal staff for the run up to Christmas, a 43% increase over last year. The higher wages will apply to seasonal workers as well.

In its most recent quarter, Target said comparable sales rose 1.3%, better than expected, and shopper store visits rose 2.1% even as e-commerce grew 32%, suggesting its strategy of blending stores and digital sales is working. Target has invested heavily in new store areas for pickup of online orders, parts of the store that require dedicated staff, as does the section of the store that fills online orders with that store’s inventory. Target has also assigned dedicated staff for its apparel and beauty areas so they can give better informed advice to shoppers, part of its efforts to improve the shopping experience in its stores.

These moves reflect broader trends in the big-box retail market, with industry leader Walmart making similar moves. Walmart has also been investing heavily in online shopping, acquiring the e-tail startup Jet.com last summer and hiring Jet CEO Marc Lore to run its entire e-commerce operation. It likewise aims to leverage its army of store employees to improve efficiency and customer service in its e-commerce business, and has credited its strong performance in recent years to investments it has made in its workforce.

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