As part of its strategy to adapt to pandemic times, Walmart is making some major changes to the way it runs its Supercenters: The company is introducing a new team-based operating model--and giving pay raises to tens of thousands of employees.
"During this trying and uncertain year, one thing has remained a constant: Our associates have done an incredible job serving customers and making a difference in their communities," writes Dacona Smith, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S. "They've gone above and beyond to make sure customers have access to the items they need while making health and safety a top priority."
Smith calls the new operating model "the next steps" in a series of company investments in associates' pay, benefits, training, and career opportunities. "We're investing in new roles and skills training to give us the flexibility to serve customers anytime and anywhere," says Smith. "In turn, associates will have more room for career and pay growth."
The new model, which has already been tested at Sam's Club and Walmart Neighborhood Market stores, includes the following:
- Cross-training small teams of associates, who can then better offer support during busy shifts or for associates who take time off
- New leadership roles, both at the salaried and hourly level
- A new pay structure and higher pay for team leads and about 165,000 hourly employees
The previous position of "co-manager" has now become the "store lead," who is responsible for the store when the manager is away. The "assistant manager" role has become the "coach," who is responsible for financials, merchandising, staffing, and talent for a large area of the store. And "department managers" are now known as "team leads," whose responsibilities include setting goals and priorities for small teams of associates.
The new wage ranges for hourly team lead roles will start between $18 and $21 an hour, with wages reaching up to $30 an hour in Supercenters. Additionally, Walmart announced it is raising wages for approximately 165,000 "skilled frontline hourly positions" across U.S. stores, with minimum wage for hourly associates in the deli and bakery areas increasing from $11 to $15 an hour (or higher).
Of course, there's no way to know in advance how well Walmart will execute on its new plans. But the basic blueprint sends a great message to employees, one that's founded on sound business strategy and emotional intelligence.
Let's break down the takeaways for every company.
People over tasks.
After closely examining Walmart's statement, one sentence stuck out for me. It was in relation to the company's new "team lead" position, which takes the place of the former "department manager":
These associates will lead and develop people, rather than focusing on completing tasks, giving associates a more direct connection to leadership.
Bad managers typically spend most of their time putting out fires, and use their people to do the same. They go from one crisis to another, and seem to always be behind the curve.
In contrast, great managers take more of a leadership role. They focus on developing people instead of managing tasks. They help their people to think critically, teaching principles instead of rules. Then, they give their people the freedom to make decisions, and even to make mistakes--knowing that those mistakes can be turned into major learning opportunities.
As a result, they develop people who make good decisions, and help prepare them for greater responsibility in the future.
Breadth over depth.
Check out the description of Walmart's previous role of assistant store manager versus its new role of coach:
Assistant store manager: Responsible for merchandising plans for their specific area
Coach: Responsible for financials, merchandising, staffing, and talent for a larger area
In the new role, coaches have a much broader area of responsibility. Some may see this type of increase in scope as overwhelming, but it has great potential for helping company leaders: Instead of getting trapped in silos or developing a limited perspective, such leaders are gradually trained to see the big picture. They begin to think more critically, to understand how different areas of the business relate to each other--and how to use resources in one area to solve problems in another.
(My Inc. colleague Jessica Stillman did a great job of highlighting this skill in a recent column.)
Don't just tell. Show.
Smith does a great job of praising employees for their work during the pandemic. But those words of appreciation are made more effective by Walmart's promise to increase pay for around 165,000 hourly associates across the U.S.
Sincere and specific words of praise can go a long way in keeping your employees motivated. But you know what will do an even better job?
Sincere and specific praise that's backed up--with a reward for their efforts.
So, if you're running a business or leading a team, remember: People over tasks. Breadth over depth. Don't just tell. Show.
Because for your business to succeed tomorrow, you have to take care of your people today.