Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Walmart moving more workers to full-time status

- BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

Walmart is moving more of its workers full time as the nation’s largest private employer looks for more ways to attract and retain employees.

The company said it plans to have two-thirds of its

U.S. store hourly jobs be full time with more consistent work schedules by Jan. 31, the end of its current fiscal year. That’s up from 53% five years ago, the company said.

With the move, Walmart will have 740,000 of its 1.2 million U.S. Walmart hourly store employees working full time by early next year. That would mean it will have about 110,00 more fulltime workers than it did five years ago. Walmart employs roughly 1.5 million workers in the U.S. including those at Sam’s Club, distributi­on centers and in corporate and managerial jobs.

Drew Holler, Walmart’s senior vice president of U.S. people operations, said that workers are demanding fulltime jobs, which have better health and dental benefits.

Holler also noted that fulltime work offers the Bentonvill­e, Ark.-based retailer a competitiv­e edge as it’s able to retain and attract better employees in a fiercely competitiv­e environmen­t. The moves also come as the exploding pickup and delivery businesses are calling for more full-time jobs as Walmart’s stores operate both as fulfillmen­t centers and retail spaces.

“We know offering more full-time opportunit­ies along with skills training and equipping associates with tools to make work easier will help us continue to attract and retain top talent,” Holler wrote in a corporate blog.

Walmart’s increasing focus on full-time jobs also comes as it’s creating a team-based structure in its stores where groups of eight to 12 employees work together in an area like toys or clothing and get cross-trained.

Walmart considers any employee working 34 hours or more a week full time, although anyone working 30 hours a week or more is eligible for health coverage. With team scheduling, Walmart workers will have consistent 39- to 40-hour schedules, the retailer said.

But Walmart has been criticized by labor-backed groups and its own workers for lagging behind retailers like Target, Amazon and Costco.

Costco just raised its minimum hourly wage to $16, while the starting pay at Target and Amazon is $15 per hour. Walmart last raised its entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 in early 2018, though it’s been raising starting wages for certain jobs. Holler says Walmart is focusing more on creating clear pathways with better training so workers can move up the ladder.

Holler said that the fulltime staffing approach that has been successful in Walmart’s distributi­on centers and fulfillmen­t centers, where more than 80% of its workers are full-timers.

Mark Mathews, vice president of research developmen­t and industry analysis at the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, said that a decade ago there was a move among retailers toward parttime workers. In fact, 31% of retail and wholesale workers, excluding warehouse workers, were part time in 2010, according to his analysis of government figures.

But in recent years, that number has been declining as the popularity of online shopping has lessened the need to staff workers at odd hours. In 2017, the percentage of part-time workers dropped to 27%, but then rose to 29% last year because of the pandemic.

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