From a small retail store in Arkansas to a renowned giant retailer globally, there is no doubt Wal-Mart is at the peak of its success. It has been the choice of every consumer in the market owing to its cheap prices. In deed, this is secret behind its success for the past decades-setting prices lower in comparison to its competitors to attract more price conscious consumers. Due to this unique strategy, Wal-Mart has been able to acquire impressive growth and become one among the multinational companies worldwide. Nevertheless, it has not evaded the eye of the critics on a number of issues. This paper highlights a number of generational issues touching on work-life policy, leadership impact on work-life, well as ethics, social responsibility and work place spirituality.
In this time and era of democracy and respect for human rights, employers have to be on the watch out for any disclaim among their employees. Failure to which they are bound to spend more funds in lawsuits meant to address a neglect of generational issues. Most important of all, an employer should strive to strike a balance between the work and life of its employees. Wal-Mart stores have been highly criticized for failing to give heed to this balance. This has led to a high turnover every year approximated at almost fifty percent.
Does this mean that nothing good can come out of Wal-Mart except a trail of disclaim? This paper will unravel both sides of the coin by examining the pros and cons one reaps from being an employer in this global chain of stores. Beginning with the pros, Wal-Mart is virtually in every small town especially in the US. This makes it easy for one to seek employment in the nearest store in the neighborhood. As a result, the employee will have a relatively more time with the family than one works a number of states away form their families (Freeman, & Ticknor, 2003).
The company also offers an upward mobility scheme that can see an employee enter it as a gateman and leave as a manager of a number of stores. This is courtesy of the company's skills improvement programs on its employees. Sam Walton, the brainchild of Wal-Mart had devised a mechanism to make the company's employees feel part of its success by referring to them as associates. This has created a sense of belonging and involvement for the employees. Walton also tried to create a positive and cheerful atmosphere in the company by introducing profit sharing and stock options for it employees. This plan is aimed at motivating the employees to take interest in the working of the company. Another unique feature of Wal-Mart was its intolerance to overtime working and over burdening (Freeman, & Ticknor, 2003).
The above benefits may exist in some of the stores but glory of this global business giant is not altogether unmarred. Its work-life policies have been on the spotlight for all the bad reasons. In a nut-crack, Wal-Mart expects its employees to be at beck and call. For instance, workers at a store in West Virginia were of late in threatened of being fired if they could not commit to work in any shift between 7.00 a.m and 11 p.m, seven days a week! In addition to this inhumane policy, there is evidence that Wal-Mart experience a deep disrespect from the company (Associated Press State & Local Wire, 2008).
A classical example is when the company decides to sack its employee. It makes him or her believe that they did something seriously wrong by calling them to the front office on the loudspeaker. These practices have led to a turnover of 600,000 to 700000 employees costing the company a whooping $1.4 billion annually. What is more, even the once self-proclaimed policy of upward mobility envisioned by Sam Walton has little or no place in the modern Wal-Mart stores. The leadership at Wal-Mart leaves a lot to be desired. The company runs a centralized management system where employees have little influence over their work-life. At its headquarters in Bentonville, high-level managers exercise huge amount of control over the employment practice in stores across the country. Through an 'invincible hand', these top executives govern both the broad employment practices and minute details of employees' wo0rk schedules. The top managers centralize information when sales arise and fall and pressurize local managers to continually adjust work schedules and hire and fire employees. This leads to most of the store managers overburdening junior employees by imposing beastly working hours (Wal-Mart Stores, 2008).
If the local managers have such little power to influence their working conditions of their employees but overburden them in an effort to impress the seniors, how can the employees change their situation themselves? This unfriendly leadership leads to most of its workers feeling demoralized and having no shoulder to lean on to in the wake of a breach of the agreement on the working conditions. The only remedy for these tough working conditions is a worker's union. Interestingly enough, Wal-Mart is a union-free state! Unions provide workers with job security, good benefits, higher wages and a voice on the job (American Rights at Work Report, 2008).
The company has gone to great lengths to prevent and quash any union efforts. One wonders why such a big company would go to the depths of providing its managers with a handbook to ensure its employees stayed union free. The usual scapegoat is the company's self-proclaimed 'open-door policy' of addressing issues. This approach is grounded on the company's pioneer Sam Walton policy of anti-union. This strategy advocates for identifying factions of malcontented employees and addressing their grievances before they resort to unionization. Unfortunately, such strategies only resolve small internal issues not those deeply embedded in Wal-Mart policies and culture. Despite a tainted reputation that has been characteristic of Wal-Mart, the company has nevertheless, and embarked on corporate social responsibility endeavors, a move that has been viewed by skeptics as an effort to improve their public relation. For instance, in Wal-Mart China, the company has done a lot to improve the livelihood of the local communities. Its initiatives fall into five categories: feedback to the community, sustainability, disaster relief, care for children and support for education (Wal-Mart China, 2009).
In its new policy of going green, the company aims at reducing impact on the environment by integrating environment friendliness and social standards in its global sourcing system in order to build a supply chain that is beneficial to the company, its suppliers and the communities served. For example, the company is working with suppliers to produce more environment friendly products and reduce packaging. On its part, Wal-Mart is actively working to save water and electricity. In addition, the company and its foundation are providing financial support for many public interest and charitable programs by providing educational opportunities and workforce development (Werther & Chandler, 2010).
Much as skeptics and pessimists may find flaws in the policies adopted by the multi-national Wal-Mart, it is very crucial to give credit to whomever it deserves. This company offers a wide range of employment opportunities to the locals ranging from high school graduates to specialized technicians. In the wake of the twenty first century, the company should however, drop its high-handed policy on key generational issues touching on the social, political and economic welfare of its employees. Its pioneer proprietor Sam Walton may have envisaged a sound union-free policy at his time but times and situations change and when they do, they call for holistic change. In this case, the issue of joining unions should not be a profanity but rather should be given a hearing at least for once.
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