Amidst all the noise from Talking Head Pundits caterwauling about the human resource practices of this corporation, Wal-Mart remains a pretty good place to work. In fact, the hordes of applicants desiring to work there allows the company to be selective in their hiring.
|A very empowering tool|
A crowning moment for the company came in September 2005. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while the government was dysfunctional and nonprofit relief agencies like the American Red Cross were barely functional, Wal-Mart was supplying refugees, first responders and even government officials with supplies needed to address the crisis.
Why did Wal-Mart work so well when other organizations were so lumbering? Culture....an empowerment culture which trusted its employees to do the right thing. It all began days before the storm. As Katrina bore down on the gulf coast, CEO Lee Scott established the basic guiding principle and made sure it was communicated down the line to even the floor associates:
“A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level. Make the best decision that you can with the information that’s available to you at the time."
In many communities, the Store Manager essentially turned Wal-Mart into a open warehouse of relief supplies. In Mississippi, one employee manger plowed a bulldozer thru a back wall so that medical personnel could enter and raid the pharmacy for use in a makeshift clinic in town.
We need to bring that ethic into other organizations.
Last week I had a discussion with a woman in my church. She expressed frustration with her child's school in a way illustrates why Wal-Mart has a preferable work culture. Meeting after meeting with teachers inevitably ends with the parent, teacher and sometimes child understanding what needs to be done.....but first it must be sent up the chain of command for approval. The delays are lengthy. The end result often some impenetrable explanation as to why it can't be done.
We prattle on about 'employee empowerment', yet research suggests 2/3rds of Americans feel little control over their work environment. We would do well to consider Wal-Mart culture.