Wal-Mart Clarifies Enhancements to the Scheduling System

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on Wal-Mart’s new scheduling system (Wal-Mart Seeks New Flexibility In Worker Shifts--January 3, 2006). We wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some of the enhancements that we’ve made to our scheduling system in an effort to better serve our customers and associates.

  • The new system has the capacity to consider associates’ scheduling preferences and availability while scheduling to meet customer traffic.
  • Associates self-select their preferred and available hours and the scheduling system first attempts to schedule within those preferred hours and then looks to available hours.   The scheduling system will never schedule an associate outside of the hours they told us they are available.
  • Our associates are not required to have "open availability" or be "on call."
  • The scheduling system gives preference to full-time associates, that is, it gives full-time associates their preferred hours first before going to part-time associates.   This is in direct contradiction to Mr. Blank’s claim that the system fills shifts with the most number of part-time associates to reduce costs.
  • Most of our associates were already available during peak customer traffic periods, but until recently we did not have the system in place to make use of that availability and schedule Associates to match those peak traffic periods.
  • We want our associates to be able to meet the needs of their family, educational needs, or secondary job needs and do what we can to help promote balance in the work place.
  • Our main goal is to ensure that we have the correct number of associates in our stores needed to serve the customers shopping which we believe results in better customer service hour by hour.
  • The advantages are many. This process helps accommodate our associates’ preference in terms of when they want to work, while improving the shopping experience for our customers.
  • Most of our cashiers love the new scheduling program because it means that there are more registers open when more customers shop our stores, and because their schedules are now more predictable.
  • The new scheduling system will create associate schedules that meet two requirements: they will better match customer traffic demands, and their schedules will be more consistent week to week  because we can more accurately forecast customer traffic hour by hour, thus giving our associates predictability to help plan their lives away from work.
  • As with any new system, when we  tested it earlier this past fall, we worked  to ensure we were both meeting our customer requirements and creating schedules that met our Associates needs.  As with any test, that required adjustments of system, training, lots of communication with our associates so everyone both understood our goals and had an opportunity to express feedback about the advantages and disadvantages of the system enhancements.  Overall, our survey of associates during the test regarding the new system was very positive.
  • Management has seen an overall positive response from customers. Additionally, management has seen the amount of time spent on creating schedules by store managers go from 8-15 hours per week down to 15-30 minutes per week.
  • Schedules are posted three weeks in advance.