Walmart Executive Highlights Adjustments to Pandemic

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. November 20, 2020
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a Walmart store

​Almost overnight, the pandemic changed priorities for companies around the globe. Eduardo B. de la Garza, chief people officer and senior vice president for Walmart Mexico and Central America, discussed the company's adjustments to the pandemic with Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, at the SHRM Global Mobility and Immigration Symposium on Nov. 17.

Given the current global health and economic crisis, Taylor asked, what's changed the most in workplace dynamics?

"This pandemic has changed everything," de la Garza said.

Talent Acquisition

The skills gap isn't going to be fixed overnight, Taylor noted, so what are the greatest challenges to overcome in the short term?

De la Garza responded that high turnover is the greatest challenge. He noted that at Walmart Mexico and Central America, which has approximately 250,000 employees, 8,000 to 10,000 are hired each month to handle the turnover. Walmart Mexico and Central America is moving to online recruiting through LinkedIn and Facebook. Nearly 100,000 interactions on the Internet have reflected an interest by people who want to work at the company, and the company is also using chatbots.

The company is looking at who is a good match, he said. Walmart Mexico and Central America doesn't want employees with just retail experience, but with collaboration and agile thinking skills, as well.

Onsite and Remote Work

"How has Walmart pivoted to protect the safety and well-being of workers?" Taylor asked.

De la Garza said the company has focused on three elements: physical, emotional and economic protection.

Vulnerable workers—workers with medical conditions or older workers—have been allowed to go home with full salary and benefits. This has impacted more than 20,000 workers and was done before the government recommended it.

Another step the company has taken is paying wages weekly rather than every other week.

The company has hired a chief medical officer to review what the company has done to make the workplace safe and to make recommendations for improvement.

Town halls used to be held once or twice a year but now are monthly. And managers and executives are listening to what employees say in meetings over Zoom calls. "Everyone is taking notes," de la Garza said, and managers and executives are expected to provide employees with answers to their questions within a week.

New Opportunities

De la Garza also reflected on new opportunities for employers and employees in these times and what both need to do to be more agile.

E-commerce is growing, and the company is moving in that direction, he noted. Some positions remain 100 percent at the worksite because the company and customers need that, but other positions are a hybrid: remote and onsite. Some are 100 percent virtual.

The company's back-to-the-office model is to some extent a work in progress due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

"It's amazing the commonality of the challenges we're facing," de la Garza said, noting that he is getting input from colleagues around the globe. 

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