Just a few weeks after Walmart’s U.S. CEO John Furner spoke at the NRF Big Show about how his company is seeking to create jobs that “people aspire to move into,” the retail giant is testing a pay wage increase in approximately 500 stores. Walmart has raised starting hourly pay for team associates, a newly created role, from $11 to $12. The company said some of these new hires will help stock shelves and work as cashiers and deli workers.
The goal is to transition from a department model focused on narrow tasks to a more inclusive team approach, according to Walmart spokesperson Jami Lamontagne.
The new model’s ultimate goal is to give lower-level workers in these 500 Walmart locations more responsibilities. The changes also incorporate axing longer-term roles like assistant manager and customer-service manager, replacing them with jobs such as academy trainer, team lead, coach and store lead.
Walmart already has taken steps to make its store employees’ roles more dynamic and less redundant, for example by employing “customer hosts” at the front of the store to personally process shopper returns in select stores. These hosts are equipped with technology to manage refunds, including providing customers with cash.
Last May, Walmart began testing a new employee framework in 75 Neighborhood Market stores and 50 supercenters, to measure how it compares to the present store management structure. As part of the framework, Walmart tested whether it could employ fewer midlevel store managers with responsibility for overseeing employees. These managers would see both their responsibilities and pay increase.
The retail giant also has rolled out “SWAT teams,” consisting of small groups of store remodeling specialists, in 500 stores over the past year. There are currently 1,000 SWAT team members, and that number is expected to rise to 1,400 by the end of 2020 as they expand from Atlanta and Dallas to a total of 15 markets. These teams work at night to handle jobs such as building fixtures and moving counters so new floors can be installed, according to Bloomberg. This frees up time for associates on the floor to handle day-to-day operations, minimizing disruptions during operating hours.
Wages have been a major concern for Walmart for years, but the company has made a more concerted effort in recent years to improve working conditions for its employees. Walmart raised its starting pay to from $9 an hour to $11 an hour in early 2018. However, that number still lags among the retailer’s competitors. In 2017, Target announced a plan to raise starting hourly wages to $15 by the end of 2020. Target’s starting wage is currently at $13 per hour. Amazon, jumping out ahead of the pack, raised the minimum wage for hourly workers to $15 in late 2018.