Knowledge@Wharton: Jeffrey Stoltman on Walmart's greeter policy changes

Walmart has enjoyed a reputation as an inclusive employer for people with disabilities – but that reputation took a hit with a recent change in its job profile for so-called “people greeters” at its stores. The altered position has had the effect of excluding people with disabilities and elderly people, mainly because it involves more physical labor. The retailer has been using that revised job description in pilots since 2015 to hire and fire greeters. The issue has provoked outrage in many quarters in recent days after a Facebook post two weeks ago by the mother of one of the affected employees gained notice. Walmart has “clearly bungled in terms of the communication and transition,” said Jeffrey Stoltman, director of entrepreneurship and innovative programs and a professor of marketing at the Mike Ilitch School of Business. “They just had no sensitivity and no awareness as to how it would affect the actual individuals who had been in these positions — sometimes for close to two decades — who were identified at a local level by the people who shop and frequent Walmart.” The company seems to have rushed with its plan to discard the greeter role with little thought about how it would impact its brand at the community and corporate levels as one that stands by certain cultural values and corporate social responsibility, Stoltman added. “Somebody in the HR department and somebody in the PR and communications department needed to get together way before they started rolling this thing out and think about the implications,” he said. Elderly greeters who cannot meet the new job specifications for customer hosts are also affected, he pointed out. “When Walmart made this specific decision, absurd as it is, it lost the opportunity to stay on the signal, which is that it is inclusive,” said Stoltman.

Full story in Knowledge@Wharton.

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