FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING AT WAL-MART: 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 a 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, Wal-Mart revealed that it was adopting a computerized scheduling system, a move that has been roundly criticized by workers’ rights advocates for the impact it may have on employees’ lives. Traditionally, scheduling employee shifts at big box stores such as Wal-Mart was the domain of store managers who arranged schedules manually. They based their decisions in part on current store promotions as well as on weekly sales data from the previous year. Typically, the process required full day of effort for a store manager. Multiply that labor intensity by the number of stores in a chain and you have an expensive task with results that are marginally beneficial to the company. By using a computerized scheduling system, such as the system from Kronos that Wal-Mart adopted, a retail enterprise can produce work schedules for every store in its chain in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, store managers can devote their time to running their individual stores more effectively. The Kronos scheduling system tracks individual store sales, transactions, unit sold, and customer traffic. The system logs these metrics over 15-minutes increment for seven weeks at a time, and then measures them against the same data from the previous year. It can also integrate data such as the number of in-store customers at certain hours or the average time required...
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