A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Mar 18, 2022

The Reason Walmart Wants To Hire 50,000 Workers - By the End of Next Month

At a time when most retailers cut back on hiring, Walmart is trying to add 50,000 full-time, long term employees who, it hopes, will see the company as a place they can build a fruitful career. 

Walmart and others recognize that as demographics and tech skills give workers more opportunities, such companies need reposition themselves as good employers, not just last-chance sources of low-pay, dead-end jobs. JL 

Sarah Nassauer reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The retail chain is seeking around 50,000 workers in the U.S. in the current quarter at a time of year when retailers pull back on hiring following the holiday shopping season. The hiring push comes as Walmart is working to revamp its hiring and human-resources strategy and image to give priority to workers’ mental health and digital skills. The goal is to make Walmart a place where people feel they can build a long-term career, (rather than) places to get an entry-level, low-paying job.

Walmart Inc. WMT +0.07% wants to hire tens of thousands of workers by the end of April as the country’s largest private employer pushes to expand its retail and other businesses in the midst of a tight labor market.

The retail chain is seeking around 50,000 workers in the U.S. in the current quarter, the company said, at a time of year when many retailers pull back on hiring following the holiday shopping season. Many of those workers will fill store roles, but Walmart also aims to add staff in new business areas such as health and wellness and advertising, said Donna Morris, the company’s chief people officer.

Walmart has around 1.6 million U.S. employees and 2.3 million globally.

The hiring push comes as Walmart is working to revamp its hiring and human-resources strategy and image to give priority to workers’ mental health and digital skills. The goal is to make Walmart a place where people feel they can build a long-term career, said Ms. Morris.

“People are reassessing their lives, and we want to be in consideration when people are determining where they want to go and where they want to stay,” she said.

Retailers including Walmart have been seen as places to get an entry-level, low-paying job, according to research from consultants that Walmart executives have cited as a challenge for the industry.

Walmart added roughly 100,000 employees to its world-wide workforce in the year ended in January. The company said it hired 5,500 pharmacists and pharmacy managers in the U.S. last year, the most in company history, to help augment its healthcare-services business while pharmacies doubled as Covid-19 vaccination hubs. It hired 4,500 truck drivers to help ease supply-chain snarls and support a growing e-commerce business, also a company annual record. Walmart’s technology organization increased its head count by about 26%.

Walmart hired large numbers of hourly workers for stores and warehouses throughout the pandemic to keep shelves stocked and meet rising demand for household goods. Some of those large hiring pushes were because “we had people out, we had a workforce that needed to be augmented,” said Ms. Morris. The current hiring push is also about filling other roles in the organization, she said.

A range of companies, from retailers and warehouse operators to restaurants and factories, have struggled to hire enough workers over the past year. Job openings remain near record highs, according to data from the U.S. Labor Department. There were 11.3 million job openings in January, down slightly from a record high of 11.4 million during the previous month. Late last year workers were quitting their jobs at the highest rate dating back to 2000, the Labor Department said.

The National Retail Federation said Tuesday it expects retail sales to grow at a steady pace this year, creating more demand for workers. Retail sales are forecast to increase between 6% and 8% to more than $4.86 trillion in 2022, excluding gasoline, automobiles and restaurant sales, the NRF said.

To lure workers Walmart, Target Corp. , Costco Wholesale Corp. , Amazon.com Inc. and others are raising wages, and in some cases, offering new perks.

Walmart last summer changed its employee education support program to fully cover tuition and books at some colleges, a move the company said helped increase the number of employees using the benefit by 44%.

In September it raised minimum starting wages to $12 per hour and now says starting wages have gone up to $30 in some regions for some roles. Its average wage is around $16.40. Walmart also reduced the time it takes an hourly worker to be hired to about 24 hours, down from a few weeks, an increasingly common focus for employers hiring large numbers of workers. It also started offering telehealth medical and mental-health services to employees free.

Target said last month that it wants to be “a wage leader in every market where it operates,” including raising starting wages to between $15 and $24 per hour.

Amazon, which has added workers at a rapid pace during the pandemic, aimed to hire 150,000 employees last quarter during the holiday shopping season and actually hired about 140,000 workers, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said on an earnings conference call last month. The company sees its labor challenges diminishing as the new year starts, he said. Amazon, which has around 1.6 million global employees, has boosted its starting pay for workers to an average of $18 an hour and offered sign-on bonuses of as much as $3,000 in some areas.

Those enhanced perks aren’t denting profits at large retailers, which have mostly fared well during the pandemic, enjoying large sales boosts as shoppers continue to spend heavily on household goods. In some cases companies are offsetting labor costs by ending other perks. Walmart stopped offering a quarterly bonus after raising wages last year and earlier this year said it would end its Covid-19 paid sick-leave benefit.

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