Competitive Advantage (Wal-mart)

Topics: Wal-Mart, Human resource management, Sam Walton Pages: 8 (2500 words) Published: June 28, 2006
For most companies, identifying what a learning organization should be and actually becoming one is tricky at best, impossible at worst. One way that manager's and companies can promote the concept of being a learning organization is to assess whether the company is in need of a short-term fix or whether it is more focused on long-term results. Organizational learning is a long-term activity that will build competitive advantage over time and requires sustained management attention, commitment, and effort. Learning organizations maximize their competitive positions during strong economic times and they prudently train their employees and prepare for change even in turbulent times. As a result, learning organizations and learning managers are usually envied by their competitors who are still struggling to stay competitive, but are not willing to do what it takes to improve overall company and employee performance.

Walk into your local Wal-Mart around 8 a.m. and you might hear something a little strange. "Give me a W, give me an A. . ." What is that you wonder? That's the Wal-Mart cheer; yes Wal-Mart has a cheer. Sam Walton, Wal-Mart's founder, was visiting a tennis ball factory in Korea and he saw the workers do a company cheer and exercises together every morning. He brought this idea back home to the Wal-Mart associates who continue to practice it today. These rites and rituals practiced by Wal-Mart employees is only one example of many elements of organizational culture that Sam Walton worked to instill in the associates that work for his company. Corporate culture is the system of shared actions, values, and beliefs that develops within an organization and guides the behavior of its members. It is also the formal and informal behaviors that a company and its employees adopt as their way of doing business. Many of Sam Walton's beliefs model these definitions of corporate culture, which is the part of the culture that appeals to me (Berg, 2001).

Sam's philosophy that associates treat customers the way management treats associates is an example of the second aspect of corporate culture, internal integration. Internal integration deals with employees feeling a sense of collective identity within the company. Sam went to great lengths to make sure that his associates were happy and that any ideas and concerns associates had could be taken to management and Wal-Mart still follows this philosophy today (Berg, 2001).

Not only is a strong corporate culture good for business by increasing customer satisfaction, it also can help to decrease turnover and save on human resources expenditures. Internal integration should start the minute a new employee enters a company. Training of new employees should include some way of helping them to understand the company's culture. The new hire training program currently in use at Wal-Mart stores includes videos and other information about the founding of the company as well as other general and specific information about the company's culture as well as expectations related to this culture. This is important because a company's culture is not always easily apparent to newcomers and this is what keeps Wal-mart's culture strong (Berg, 2001).

The first primary characteristic, which Wal-mart embodies, is innovation and risk taking. Wal-Mart has many policies in place to ensure that employee ideas and concerns can be openly expressed to management. Sam felt it was important that associates feel like they can go to management at any time to express any problems or ideas they may have. Another important characteristic of the Wal-Mart's culture is the use of team orientation. Wal-Mart uses different types of teams to accomplish different purposes, from natural work teams made up of associates who work together in the same area and usually share the same manager and work goals to problem solving teams put together to solve a specific problem that disband immediately after the problem is...


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Featherstone, L. (2004, December 19). Down and Out in Discount America, Progressive Politics, The Nation. January 3, 2005 issue. From http://w-3productions.com/weblog/archives/2004/12/down_and_out_in.html
Merlin, M. (2004). Case Study: Wal-Mart Misunderstood, A Closer Analysis Reveals the Impact of Negative Publicity Isn 't Necessarily What Outsiders Think It Is, The Gauge. Retrieved on August 6, 2005. From http://www.thegauge.com/Vol17No4/v17n4walmart.htm
Shuit, D. P. (2004, February). Workforce Management, People Problems on Every Aisle. pp. 27-34. Retrieved on August 4, 2005. From http://www.workforce.com/section/09/feature/23/62/39/
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