Wal-Mart's new scheduling system looks to improve peak-hour staffing

Thu Aug 4, 2016 8:30pm EDT
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By Nandita Bose

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) has implemented a new system for scheduling workers at 650 U.S. stores, the company said, as it aims to improve staffing levels during peak shopping times and offer more certainty over hours for employees.

The world's largest retailer has acknowledged in the past that customer service needed to improve as it was hurting sales growth. Wal-Mart is investing $2.7 billion on pay and benefits and has led major retailers in raising minimum wages to $10 per hour. Wal-Mart's new scheduling system could prompt others to follow.

The system, called Customer First Scheduling, was launched in all of Wal-Mart's 650 small-format Neighborhood Markets in the last week of July with plans to eventually roll it out across the entire U.S. store network, although the company gave no timeframe.

"If customers are coming in at a different time we have to be there at a different time. We will not last very long if we don't do that," Mark Ibbotson, vice president of central operations, told Reuters.

"At the same time ... associates have the option to choose what hours they want and see if they are available," he said.

The electronic system can prioritize scheduling for peak shopping hours by taking into account foot traffic and sales data from every department in each store. Staff are then allocated to the remaining shifts in order of importance.

Wal-Mart began last year to try and improve customer service with faster checkouts and better-stocked shelves.

The new system also aims to give employees more certainty over shifts and should cut down on the need to schedule employees on short notice.   Continued...

A family shops at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Springdale, Arkansas June 4, 2015. Wal-Mart will hold its annual meeting June 5, 2015.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking