Walmart rolls out new employee scheduling app

Walmart is giving employees more power to pick and maintain their work hours.

The country’s largest employer is rolling out a new scheduling system to its 1 million employees at roughly 5,000 stores across the country. The new tool — called My Walmart Schedule — is a smartphone application that gives workers the ability to view schedules, swap shifts with coworkers and pick up unfilled shifts without manager intervention.

The retailer says the app will be rolled out to all stores by the end of November.

My Walmart Schedule also looks at the busiest shopping times and compares that to associates’ availability. Then the system predicts how many employees Walmart will need during a specific time and puts together a schedule based on that information.

Justin Rushing, director of corporate communications at Walmart, says the app gives employees more flexibility, while also freeing up managers from spending too much time monitoring schedules. Workers can trade shifts without having to get approval from a manager, giving them more time to focus on sales, Rushing says. Before implementing the new scheduling system, Rushing says, bosses sometimes spent several hours editing schedules.

“It’s a whole new level of flexibility that they now have complete control over,” he says. “For the management team, the system is accurately predicting when and where we need people in the stores.”

The app also includes a feature called “core hours” that is currently only available in 2,000 Walmart stores. Core hours gives retail workers the ability to select a set schedule for themselves for a 13-week period. Rushing says this feature gives workers the regularity of being able to work the same schedule on a week-to-week basis, but also means they will get more consistency in their paychecks.

Walmart2.jpg
Ana Aquino scans customer purchases at a check-out counter inside a Wal-Mart store in Kearny, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, May 14, 2009. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, reported first-quarter profit and sales were little changed as purchases of groceries and $4 medicines countered a drop in international revenue. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

“The idea behind core hours is to give our associates more consistency flexibility and stability in their schedules,” he says. “It’s just as important as wages, and schedules are a huge piece of that.”

Walmart employees and executives told The Wall Street Journal that so far the new scheduling tool has been a positive change. But some employees told the publication that using the app, without the core scheduling option, which is not currently available in all stores, is difficult for some employees who are normally assigned shifts during their preferred time.

Rushing says the scheduling app is just one part of a companywide initiative to improve benefits for its employees. Walmart has made several strides this year. In January, the company expanded its paid parental leave benefits to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. It also added an adoption benefit, available to both full-time hourly and salaried associates, which totals $5,000 per child and can be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.

The company also has explored new smartphone apps and other technology to reduce financial strain on workers. Last year, Walmart instituted Even, an advance payday app that allows employees to get access to a portion of their wages prior to payday. In September, the retailer said more than 250,000 Walmart employees — just under 20% of its workforce — are using Even.

Rushing says making sure employees have a flexible schedule is just as important as other benefits the company offers. It’s unrealistic to assume that employees are available 24/7, he adds, and My Walmart Schedule is one way to respect workers’ time.

“This really helps us solve one of the biggest needs we’ve heard from our people,” Rushing says, adding that Walmart has increased its focus on wages, benefits and training for the past several years. “Scheduling is another piece of that puzzle to providing a meaningful work experience. It’s a really complicated thing to do.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.