DCS5138 Management Information Systems
CASE STUDY 1
Flexible Scheduling Good or Bad for Employees?
With nearly 1.4 million workers domestically, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States, Wal-Mart is also the nation’s number one retailer in terms of sales, registering nearly $379 billion in sales revenue for the fiscal year ending January 31, 2008. Wal-Mart achieved its lofty status through a combination of low prices and low operational costs, enabled by superb continuous inventory replenishment system.
Now Wal-Mart is trying to lower costs further by changing its methods for scheduling the work shifts of its employees. In early 2007, ...view middle of the document...
It can also integrate data such as the number of in-store customers at certain hours or the average time required selling a television set or unloading a truck and predicting the number of workers needed at any given hour.
A typical result of this type of scheduling might call for a sparse staff early in the day, a significant increase for the midday rush, scaling back toward the end of the afternoon, and then fortifying the staff once again for an evening crowd. However, for a chain like Wal-Mart, which operates thousands of 24-hour stores and has also run into trouble previously for its labor practices, the transition to a computerized scheduling system has resulted in controversy.
For Wal-Mart, using Kronos translates to improved productivity and customer satisfaction. Management reported a 12-percent gain in labor productivity in the quarter ending January 31, 2008.
For Wal-Mart employees, known to the company as associates, the change may decrease the stability of their jobs and, possibly, create financial hardship.
The scheduling generated by Kronos can be unpredictable, requiring associates to be more flexible with their work hours. Stores may ask them to be on call in case of a rush, or to go home during a slow spell. Irregular hours, and inconsistent paychecks, make it more difficult for employees to organize their lives, form scheduling babysitters to paying bills. Alerts from the system may also enable store managers to avoid paying overtime or full-time wages by cutting back the hours of associates who are approaching the thresholds that cause extra benefits to kick in. associates are almost always people who need all the work they can get.
According to Paul Blank of the web site WakeUpWalMart.com, which is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, “What the computer is trying to optimize is the most number of part-time and least number of full-time workers at lower labor costs, with no regard for the effect that it has on workers’ lives?” Sarah Clark, speaking on behalf of Wal-Mart, insists the system’s goal is simply to improve customer service by shortening checkout lines and better meeting the needs of shoppers.
To assist in the deployment of its computerized scheduling system in all of its stores, wal0-mart requests that its associates submit “personal availability” forms. Language on the form instructs associates that “Limiting your personal availability may restrict the number of hours you are scheduled.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that some workers have indeed seen their hours cut and their shifts bounced around. Experienced associates with high pay rates have expressed concern that system enables managers to pressure them into quitting. If they are unwilling to work nights and weekends, managers have a justification for replacing them with new workers who will make much less per hour. Sarah Clark denies that the system is used in this manner.