Is Walmart the Toughest HR Gig on the Planet?

Let me give you a couple things to ponder about Walmart:

-1% of Americans work at a Walmart

-$.36 = amount of profit per $10 spent at Walmart

-600,000 +/- (Number of new employees hired by Walmart annually)

-$15,000,000,000 (Yes that’s Billion) in operating profit.

-$10,000 (the amount of salary increase if Walmart spent every cent they made in profit and divided it equally amongst all of its employees)

So, What does this all mean?   It means that working in HR at Walmart might be the single toughest job in HR in the entire world.

Most Americans would believe that Walmart employees, the normal rank and file – store level employees, are underpaid – on average a full time associate probably makes about $20,000 per year.  Not to great of a living wage.  So, let’s play G*d/CEO and now you’re in charge.  We are going to give you all $15B in profit and let you go out and pay everyone more.  Do you really think going from $20K to $30K is going to change lives – pull someone out of poverty, move them into the suburbs?  No – it won’t.  By the way – Walmart isn’t a non-profit – so thanks for the raise, but the Board just fired you, because you don’t know how to run a company!

I not here to praise Walmart as the savior of our society – they do plenty wrong – like most big businesses who are trying to make shareholders happy.  I’m here to try and get some HR Pros to take another look and have some respect for some peers (of which I really don’t know any Walmart HR Pros – I just believe it’s on tough job!) who are making it happen each and every day, on a scale not one of us can imagine!  Let’s face it, working in HR shops at Zappos, Apple, Google, etc. aren’t really that tough. Yeah, I said it. Sure it was tough work getting on top, and it’s work each day staying on top – but trying being on the bottom for a while – try working for a corporation that is so tight on profit margins that you only have 3 cents of every dollar you bring in to do anything extra for employees – and when you decide to do something extra – multiply that figure by 1.5M!  “Hey, we want to give away a Thanksgiving Turkey to all of our employees”, equals a $25.5M grocery bill!   Makes your $4K budget for a holiday party look pretty good doesn’t it!

I love listening to the great HR Pros from the “Best Companies To Work For” – so much excitement and passion for their organizations. But, what I really like to hear – is how HR Shops in the not so great companies to work for pull it off, especially those of giant companies.   It really stops being HR as 99% of us know it.  It becomes an entire operation onto itself.  Walmart can make a benefit change, a design change, a selection assessment change – and entire industries are moved because of it.  We (the collective HR lot of us) decide we want to increase copays by $5 per office visit and it doesn’t even register as a change.

Love’em or Hate’em HR at Walmart is something that fascinates me.  We all get to listen to best practices of our peers and steal the best ideas and make them our own.  Walmart HR has no peers – everything they do is industry best practice, because no one is in their league from an employment standpoint in private industry.  When’s the last time they won an award in HR?

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