Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My thoughts on the new Wal-Mart schedule

This question was one of the ones asked in the interview request from thewritingonthewal.net. I thought it was just too long to post with the rest, so I'm doing it as a separate post.

7. What do you think of the new computerized scheduling system?


Objectively, it looks like it should work. Which is why Bentonville and the high-priced consultants who came up with it are so positive on it.

When I was a supervisor, I would do the schedule when someone was one vacation and it would take hours to schedule all the cashiers, cart pushers, door greeters and everyone else on the front end. Think about doing that for all the sales associates -- hours and hours of work - time that should be spent doing something else other than making out a schedule each week.

Allegedly, Target's computer does all the stores for the entire company in six hours. Yes. And Target is only open from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. Wal-Mart is much, much more complicated.

Logistically, the whole scheduling process probably won't work smoothly, at least not right off the bat, because of a myriad of practical concerns that people who have never spent time actually managing a store have no concept of.

I know that thewritingonthewal.net, among others, has taken Wal-Mart to task over the schedules, particularly over the "availability" issue.

Availability is when you're "available" to work. And there are a bunch of associates making a lot of noise in the press about the new schedules and how they have been "forced" to change their availability.

Let me just say that I personally have never had this happen, and during the three two-hour-long meetings my store had about this, every management team member was very clear about this: "You can keep your availability the way it is. However, we cannot and will not guarantee you the same number of hours." We were also told that we will have to fill out sheets with our "available hours" and our "preferred hours," although I've not yet seen either sheet.

Every sales floor associate was also offered cashier training if they wanted extra hours to reach a full 40 hours a week. Our store is so under-staffed that everyone gets 40 hours a week anyway.

Personally, AND I WANT TO STRESS THAT THIS IS JUST MY OPINION, (and I feel dirty, because it is a very Republican opinion), I feel that if you really need a job that only lets you work certain hours, you need to go out and find that job. I don't see where Wal-Mart is obligated to give it to you. BUT THIS IS JUST MY OPINION.

There are other issues at play though, particularly at stores with lots of associate turnover and job-swapping and with a stupid personnel manager.

The short version of the main problem is something called "job codes." For instance, we've got a man who went from being a cashier on the front registers to being what's called the "Pharmacy OTC" or pharmacy over-the-counter technician -- or basically the pharmacy cashier. But nobody did anything to change his job code in the computer. Whatever manager does his schedule knows his name and just schedules him to work during the hours the pharmacy is open.

The computer in Bentonville doesn't know this man from Adam. All it is going to see is a cashier who can work from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. and start assigning hours. And not even for the correct job. He might be scheduled to work at 7 a.m. - when the Pharmacy is not open. And he might be scheduled to work for the noon - 9 p.m. shift -- when they need a Pharmacy cashier at 8 a.m.

It's like that all over the store. Produce associates who switch to softlines. Cashiers who move to sales associate spots. Right now they're supposedly "fixing" all our job codes so that the computer can schedule.

And none of it is going to make any difference if there aren't enough people to work at the stores. Every Saturday and every Sunday you see every CSM and every assistant manager on a register at our store, plus all the other register-trained associates, while one co-manager goes nuts trying to run the front end.

22 comments:

ProHRguy said...

Sounds like a program called "Workbrain." If im right, you are in for about 2 weeks of real pain as an associate, and another 3 if your actually INVOLVED in the scheduling. Least thats how it went down at my store when i was assigned to convert a staff of 170 to this new system. After that, things will actually go pretty smooth though. Also, if you are understaffed, it will actually work better for you, but do expect some odd split-shifting from time to time. A far cry from old single shift console schedulers like "PeoplePlanner"

In the end, management has the power to override the computer on the store level if need be. From there it just comes down to how willing store management/HR is to work with the team members.

Shel said...

Our store is under staffed as well, but unlike your store, they don't give you extra hours. We have had three people leave in the last month from the fashion department. They have not made any attempts to hire any one new nor have they adjusted the schedule so the shifts would be covered. They give us 12-15 hours a week and if the department goes without an associate in it for three days, so be it.

Anonymous said...

I work at Walmart and our store scheduling system is a joke when they first told us about the system all the front end staff had to done a new availabilty schedule. We was told that we had to put down exactly what hours we was available to get our hours because that is all the hours we would be get RIGHT? WRONG since we have start the electronic scheduling I have never had the hours or days off that I request and every schedule I have to talk with management about them putting me on hours that I am not available. This has been going on for about 3 months. I hate to see what happens when vacations start. We are either overstaffed or understaff.
Walmart need to take in mind that most of their employees had other jobs or are students, I have seen a lot of good employees leave because of scheduling conflict and Walmart could care less.

Greg said...

I've got absolutely nothing to do with Walmart, but I've got plenty of experience with manpower scheduling programs, like Blue Pumpkin, Totalview, etc. There are several industries (particularly call centers) where a business could not operate without them. Such programs are really good at scheduling people when they are needed, but you have to be vigilant about making sure the system knows when you are available and when you PREFER to work. The key principle to keep in mind is that the only person who gets the exact schedule they want (both days off and hours) is the first person in line. Everyone else gets scheduled around everyone in front of them.

For example, which is more important to you, having a weekend off (or any particular day) or starting at a particular time? If you would really like to work 8:30a-5:00p, but that's not available, would you rather start earlier, later, or as close to that time as possible? The more information like that you can provide, the less chance you'll get a schedule you just can't work.

There's often a lot of pain at first as people get used to how the system works, but if you take the time to figure out why you got the schedule you did, it will really pay off. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Not that many of you will know what I'm talking about, but I love People Planner!!!

Library Rat said...

I'm curious, why is it a "Republican" opinion that if you want to work certain hours, then you need to go find the job that gives them to you? Doesn't it just make sense?

yellowdog granny said...

I worked for a business that was a temporary book store..and schedule's were the hardest thing I have ever done..especially in San Francisco..where I have never met so many people that only could work 10-6...we were open from 8am to midnight for a time...but they sure did want their 3-10 minute cigarette break...I worked all over the country and never had such a problem as I had in San Francisco..hippies should not breed...

Anonymous said...

"Personally, AND I WANT TO STRESS THAT THIS IS JUST MY OPINION, (and I feel dirty, because it is a very Republican opinion), I feel that if you really need a job that only lets you work certain hours, you need to go out and find that job. I don't see where Wal-Mart is obligated to give it to you."

This is hardly a Republican opinion. I'm as liberal as they come, and nothing bugs me more than people expecting their jobs to be customized to their individual needs/wants/fears/desires. If you feel so strongly that your needs be met, then you need to find the job that needs you during the hours you're available, and one that can accommodate all of your little quirks.

Anonymous said...

have you seen this yet?
it's supposed to be like a digg for corporations...

but it does have articles and press releases, and is attempting to inform the masses - which you could add too...in between jobs and all :)

http://dotherightthing.com/companies/wal-mart

prohrguy said...

i miss people planner :(

Anonymous said...

We have been using the new computerized scheduling on our front end for over three months now. I agree completely with scheduling cashiers to meet sales/customer flow. And, yes, you should work when your employer needs you to work- not when you would like to work. If the two aren't compatable, then it's time to find something else that is.
In a perfect world, the computerized scheduling would schedule more cashiers when the store busy, the cashiers would be scheduled to work their "preferred shifts," would be scheduled for the amount of hours they want to work in a week,... etc.

Too bad it's not a perfect world. In my store, the cashiers are overscheduled early in the morning when we are not that busy. These cashiers go home in the middle of the afternoon when we are busy, and there are no cashiers scheduled to replace them. Very few of the shifts generated by the almighty computer are full, eight hour shifts (not including the lunch). This means that the full timers rarely see forty hours. Lose a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there and it'll add up by the end of the month, especially if you have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. The cashiers are rarely scheduled even close to their "preferred shifts" as promised. Those who are up with the sun and would rather have early shifts aren't scheduled to start until the afternoon. The night owls report for duty, yawning and bleary-eyed, at six in the morning. If they limit their availability, they won't get their hours. Those cashiers with open availability are scheduled first. The computer then goes back and fills in the remaining shifts with limited availability cashiers.

The computer does not care if you work 3p-11p one night and then have to come in at 6a the next morning. The computer does not care if your shifts range from a 5am start time to a 12pm end time in the same week or in two days. Good luck trying to get regular sleep.
So now, you're tired, you're cranky, and you're more broke than before. It would be hard to get a second job because you would have to limit your availability and thus would get even fewer hours...
This is not the situation you signed on for. You're unhappy with this new change, on top of all the other changes in the company you've recently faced, and you start to reassess whether or not this is where you want to be. Your employer doesn't care if you quit; they claim to receive dozens of applications for every job opening they have. Bummer. You used like your job.

Anonymous said...

We still have people planner at Publix! Good times!

Chunes said...

I don't like the new system. The anonymous poster two posts above me described why exactly.

Plus, and please tell me if I'm wrong, but it shouldn't be that difficult to make sure there is actually ANY COVERAGE AT ALL in a given area. Yesterday, there was absolutely no coverage for people greeters from 4PM to 6PM. This was SCHEDULED coverage, not actual coverage. Considering we have ten people greeters, that is ridiculous. Also yesterday, there was literally no one scheduled to run customer service for an hour. I guess they expected us to shut it down, eh?

What the schedule doesn't take into account is that you lose 3 cashiers to cover customer service, another 2 to cover doors, and 8 called in. So you always have the poor people from garden, domestics, electronics, apparel, HBA, cosmetics and the CSMs on registers all day to fill in. Management in my store NEVER gets on registers. They suck.

Ol' Lady said...

You always talk about your store being under staffed...I can't understand why...people are always whining that there are no jobs...if I need to keep a roof over my head and feed my kids...I'll work any where and hours and be grateful for the job. people are spoiled lazy complainers. juat my opinion :)

Yavian said...

I work at Sam's Club and I do believe we now share this same system. The good thing about my area (Tire Battery Center) is that our team leader goes in and overrides the scheduling by hand. I have yet to run into a scheduling problem and I get scheduled for "all" the hours I am "available". (Full time student, crap availability)

Anonymous said...

I keep reading comments saying people should get a job that has the hours that you are available. Well, that is what I did. I was hired for a specific shift. The same hours and days every week. I worked it for 10 years and now I am told to change my availbility or lose hours. That is the issue here. We are talking about people who have worked the same schedule for 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more. If new people are hired in knowing they must work any time/ any day that is their choice. Back when I was hired that was not the case.

snood said...

I work at the company your current VP of HR worked at. She was sick of unions demanding that the company treat employees like humans. It looks like in her new job she is getting to implement all of those plans that the union thwarted. I'm sure that this is just the beginning.

Anonymous said...

A company will hire you based on their needs. If you fit that criteria, then you get the job. That's what Wal-Mart is doing. They base it on its customer's needs. I understand that the scheduling system may not be "perfect" right now for every store, but things like this take time to work out all the bugs. If you've been at Wal-Mart for 10+ years, good for you, that's great. I don't think that just because you have been there longer than someone you should be able to work 8-5 M-F or have some shift that is tailored to when you feel like working. Many new hires come in willing to work any shift, and that's really what Wal-Mart needs to service the customer. I understand that there are those with the second job or school, and there are shifts in the stores that could accomidate you (within reason). The thing is, people don't like change, period. So, when changes happen, all they can do is complain.

Amanda said...

that one annonymous person explained it so well.. so much better than i could have. haha. i'm a CSM, and i seriously used to love my job, but now i come to work afraid of how many cashiers that we'll have for the night. i usually end up running the front end by myself for hours because the other CSM has to get on a register, and i usually get so stressed out that i almost have breakdowns every night.. and on top of that, there are customers complaining because of the lines and demanding our store manager's home phone number.

good times at walmart.

Anonymous said...

Store 2597 Is very short handed in the deli well were 8 girls short and they are now 6 due to the fact they won't hire more people. I have been there since april and I HAVE WORKED OVER TIME and still we only had three girls until noon and our store is busy. I wish the head quarters would do something. Every time I ask management about more hours they cut mine. So I quite asking.

Anonymous said...

Most store's won't let you work just one shift many are cutting hours instead of giving. This makes working hard for the store. In the current store I work in there are shifts, that no one will work even if they come in with open availablity they change it so they don't have work the shifts that are needed. Deli is one of the worse places to work because no one wants to still until midnight at the store I work at. Someday I hope that Dubois head quarters changes the computerized scheduling so that a Deli worker doesn't have to stay until midnight At store 2597 thank you for listening to me.

Anonymous said...

I just learned of this recently when I was told by personnel after applying at my local store that it was required that I be available 24/7 and that my hours would constantly change. This would disrupt employees' sleep patterns and their personal lives, in general. Especially if they have children, are taking college classes, etc.There are people who need to work certain shifts for good reasons. It seems to me this is another example of a giant corporation treating its employees like inanimate cogs in its machine instead of people.