Wal-Mart, that bastion of progressive, worker-friendly policies and procedures (not), just took its innovative ways to a new level by announcing that in-store staffing will now be based on actual store traffic.
So, all those happy-go-lucky Wal-Mart employees who have suffered for years because of low wages, little or no health benefits and abusive management, now have to re-structure their personal lives around the ebb and flow of local store traffic.
So, instead of knowing that, say, I have to work 9am-5pm from Monday through Friday (and structure my personal schedule accordingly), I now have to realize that, if store traffic ebbs, I may be sent home at 11am and not asked to return until 5pm. Or, I may not be called in at all. Or, I may have to work extra shifts and extra hours because of increased store traffic. What a way to live!
This new approach is right in line with Wal-Mart’s maniacal focus on maximizing profits each and every quarter in each and every store. They are a textbook example of the big business that will do whatever it takes to grow the top and bottom lines. Their abuse and bullying of employees, steamrolling local mom-and-pop competitors out of business and squeezing every last penny from vendors and suppliers is legendary.
Say what you will about Wal-Mart but their new in-store staffing strategy is perfectly consistent from an image and reputation standpoint. As a certain U.S. President once said, "You can love me or hate me. But, you know where I stand." The same can be said for Wal-Mart. Love them or hate them, those guys sure know how to maximize profits and will do whatever it takes.
Will Wal-Mart’s new bizarro flex-time work program become a model for others? Will we drive up to a McDonald’s at an off-peak hour and have to wait because there’s only one employee working at the time? What about checking in at an airport terminal at, say, 5am? That’s an off-peak hour. Will Southwest ticket agents still be at home, waiting for the big morning rush hour crush? And, what about me? Should I only return voice and e-mails during peak business hours? Would that maximize my productivity?
While Wal-Mart’s productivity program is a big winner for the organization, it has to be a nightmare for employees and their families. Will little Johnny have to get used to mom not showing up after school because, oops, that’s when the store traffic picks up? And will Little Mary’s starring role in the grammar school play be seen by everyone but dad, because his Wal-Mart store has increased traffic flow at 5pm?
I hope the in-store staffing program fails. But, knowing how many people are out of work and willing to do almost anything for a job, I’m sure Wal-Mart will find replacements for any workers who find this latest insult way over the line.