Term Paper: Improving Employee Motivation at Wal_mart

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[. . .] The hierarchical structure of Wal-Mart means that orders come down from above and innovation seldom travels up the chain. This is not an environment that leads to employee empowerment and increased employee motivation.

SWOT Analysis

To understand the position of Wal-Mart, as compared to the competitors mentioned, a SWOT Analysis will be helpful. SWOT analysis will only consider Wal-Mart in terms of employee morale, rather than its financial position. In terms of strengths, Wal-Mart has several advantages over its competitors. The first is its size and its access to resources to help resolve the problems. The second is that it is already in the news media and any changes that it makes in terms of employee morale will reflect as positive media exposure.

A key weakness in terms of employee morale is the large, hierarchical structure of the company. Those that make the decisions are far removed from those that operate the store and provide customer service on the lower levels. There is little communication from the lower levels to the upper levels of the organization. This supports the establishment of a dictatorial and managerial style. This type of management style is not conducive to employee morale built on communication and a sense of ownership and personal satisfaction in the company.

Wal-Mart has an excellent opportunity to turn this bad situation into a success story that will create positive images of the company in the future. The spotlight is already on Wal-Mart and if it can find a way to improve employee morale, it will have the opportunity to improve its image in the public eye. However, this media exposure could also be its greatest threat if it fails to achieve its goals of higher employee morale. The media exposure and spotlight on Wal-Mart can be both an opportune or threat depending on how it is used.

Competitor Analysis

Now let's take a look at some of Wal-Mart's major competitors and how they are viewed in terms of employee motivation. Target is the second largest retailer after Wal-Mart. Target offers some of the same merchandise as Wal-Mart, only they base their competition on providing quality to the customers rather than cheap prices. It too, has been the target of labor practice violations. It does not have a living wage certification and it does not have labor unions (Jones, 2010).

Target faces many of the same morale problems as Wal-Mart. These problems result in low attendance and a high incidence of family problems outside of work. Target tried a unique approach and hired social workers to help improve morale. This program resulted in increased morale and reduced absenteeism by 17% (Jones, 2010).

Macy's is another large scale retailer, but it does not operate in the same discount market as Wal-Mart. However, for comparison, this retailer is in the same retail class. They have a slightly more sophisticated and high-end clientele than Target or Wal-Mart, but they are still in the general merchandise segment. In November 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported that employee morale and Macy's was so bad that employees held rallies and protests about their treatment (Channick, 2010). According to the article, a new employee morale program that brought management and the employees together in a supportive atmosphere was launched, and it is reported that the program has been successful to date.

Information was not available on overall employee morale at Kohl's, another major retail competitor. However, it appears that this lack of low morale among lower level employees is not limited to Wal-Mart. Their competitors also face the same problems, but Wal-Mart has been targeted by the media to set an example, simply because of their size. The media focus has been on Wal-Mart, but this does not diminish the scale of the problem in the industry as a whole.

Recommendations and Rationale

Assessment of Current Employee Attitudes

Currently, no solutions are in sight for Wal-Mart's problems. Part of this may be a result of the fact that the complainers make themselves known more readily than those are satisfied. Employees that are happy and content typically do not openly express themselves as readily as those that are not happy. Credible information from academic sources is difficult to obtain and much of the information appears in the mass media.

The subject of bias must be considered when evaluating the sources, and it is not known if the bias that was found in the study provides an accurate opinion of Wal-Mart, or whether the fact that they have grown significantly for the past decade is evidence enough that the problems are not as bad as they seem. Nonetheless, it was found that low employee morale was a problem for all major competitors in the retail industry. This problem is systemic and needs to be resolved in order for profitability and growth to continue. Using Wal-Mart is a case study is an excellent way to resolve these issues for the industry as a whole.

Strategic Steps to Improve Employee Motivation

Communication was found to be a strengthener of employee motivation (Chiang, Jang, & Canter, et al., 2008). The study found that other motivational components are more effective when communication is positive between the parties. Employee motivation is the key to productivity within organizations. Expectancy theory states that people's expectations will lead to a given behavior and will result in desired outcomes. Employee motivation is a result of employee expectations (Mathibe, 2008). The expectancy of being rewarded, employee training, employee empowerment, employee involvement in decision-making, and high-level dyadic relationships were found to contribute to positive employee motivation outcomes (Fernandez & Pitts, 2011). Recognition can increase employee motivation, but only if it is administered in an equitable fashion and is not perceived to show favoritism (Pratheepkanth, 2011).

The literature revealed several methods for increasing employee motivation. Recognition, and increasing an employee's expectation of involvement in decision-making in the organization were found to be helpful. Case studies of competitors also revealed several methods for improving employee motivation including the use of social workers and improved communication on all levels of the organization.

Marketing Employee Motivation

Expectancy was found a play a key role in the perceptions of workers about their jobs. Systemic change in the organization can only happen if the perceptions of the employee improve. The company must do a marketing campaign to convince employees of the new employee relations strategy. They must perform the same steps as any other marketing campaign. They must determine the employee needs and wishes, as well as how to best reach the target market, which in this case is their own employees.

Wal-Mart has many options for resolving their employee motivation problems. If several strategies of work for their competitors and might be the solution for them as well. Macy's strategy of hiring social workers to take care of employee needs and to monitor employee satisfaction resulted in lower absenteeism rates and higher production. This may be a strategy that Wal-Mart wishes to utilize as well.

There is already talk at Wal-Mart about forming a union. This means that employees would have representatives who could fight for their needs. Another strategy might be to add a new department to human resources that is specifically designed with the task of improving employee relations in mind. This department would serve as an employee liaison and can serve as a communication link between lower level employees and management.

Communication between lower employees and upper level executives was the key issue found in employee dissatisfaction. The complexity of the corporate structure makes it difficult to maintain and improve communication on this level. The strategies suggested would give employees a way to provide feedback to corporate executives. Upper management take into consideration, the concerns of the employees and must realize that they depend on a staff that is not focused on their own complaints, but on providing excellent customer service. They need to establish a method for improving communication and they must make certain that the employees know they are listening to them.


This research supports the hypothesis that change must permeate all levels of the organization. Wal-Mart has enforced initiatives that included many different were systems and promotional opportunities in the past. However, they were largely ineffective in resolving the dilemma and did not produce the expected results. Sam Walton had the right idea, but in reality, his attempt at getting to know individual employees was superficial and did not address the real problems with employee motivation.

This research suggests that a larger effort needs to be undertaken in forming a two way communication network between employees and upper executives. This new communication strategy must cut through the bureaucratic layers of the organization and provide a direct line between top executives and lower level employees. At the current time, there are too many bureaucratic layers for policies at the top to result in little more than words. A real attempt needs to be made to establish a direct… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Improving Employee Motivation at Wal_mart.  (2011, July 14).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/improving-employee-motivation-wal-mart/1513285

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