Walmart Assures Employees as it Highlights Tech Investments


On Friday, Walmart Stores Inc. executives reassured their workers that they are still integral to the success of the company as they touted the investments they have made in online sales as well as other technology for competing with their biggest rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. Walmart is using ecommerce successfully for giving their sales a boost, but they don’t want to alienate their workforce who have helped them in driving gains by providing improved customer service and shown higher morale after the base pay was increased to $10 an hour. Doug McMillon, their chief executive said that they would use technology for competition, but their victory would be with the people.

He spoke at the annual shareholder meeting where all the board member nominations made by the company were approved. He stated that they would be empowered by tech, but led by the people. The acknowledgment of the retail workforce and store employees is a change from past years when the company had been more focused on making shareholder presentations around the technology they were incorporating for closing the online gap with Amazon and for beating out other rivals. The shift has occurred mostly because labor groups had complained that Wal-Mart needed to do more for the workers.

These complaints arose despite the fact that the company had invested about $2.7 billion in employee wages and training in 2015 and had increased the base rate to $10 in 2016. McMillon made his comments at the end of the three-day media event during which various initiatives were announced by the company including a test program that can be used by store workers for delivering packages ordered on the website of the retailer as well as the use of blockchain technology for ensuring safety in Walmart’s food supply chain.

The investments Walmart has made in technology has helped the company in increasing its online sales in the first quarter by 63 percent. This is considerably as compared to the fourth quarter where growth had been 29 percent and the third quarter’s 20 percent. Furthermore, Walmart’s results have also managed to outshine its competitors such as Target Corp, apparel retailers and also department-store chains. 14,000 people attended the shareholder meeting held in Bentonville, 30 miles away from their headquarters. This included shareholders and workers from 27 countries. The show was hosted by Blake Shelton and also included the appearance of pop stars like Rachel Platten, Mary J. Bilge and Gwen Stefani.

11 board members had been nominated and were approved by Walmart shareholders. Four shareholder proposals were put forward, but none received a positive response. For a number of years, renowned proxy advisory firms have stated that shareholders should vote for an independent chairman of the board who doesn’t have any ties to the founding family or management. This was mostly due to the bribery allegations revealed years ago that exposed the oversight failures of the board. The Walton family controls about 51% of the Walmart stock and the current chairman is married to founder Sam Walton’s granddaughter.           

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