Technology Over Human Capital
Even with the increasing positive changes Walmart is making for its employees, the company is investing in increasing its automation side of business including installing more self-checkout equipment and increasing its investments in its grocery-delivery business. The company spent nearly $4 billion acquiring e-commerce companies with thousands of workers. Walmart is also considering using personal shoppers to fill bags with online requested groceries which will be placed in crowdsourced driver's automobiles and delivered to customer's homes. Additionally, Handy, an online marketplace for home services, will assemble furniture and mount appliances and televisions for customers as requested.
Crowdsourced workers, also known as gig workers, choose the work they want to do or are proficient at, set their hours, provide their own tools, and are in essence, independent contractors. That means that Walmart is not responsible for paying employee's taxes and social security, or responsible for worker's compensation, vacation, sick time, or health insurance. The gig worker handles all of that and Walmart has an incredibly large pool of service providers to choose from for a variety of services. In addition to hiring contractor workers, the company is also experimenting with robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual and augmented reality to improve quality and efficiency for shoppers and reduce labor overhead. Many companies like Amazon, Target, and companies relying on data handlers have made the move to use AI to tackle these routine tasks with less mistakes than humans make. Essential Changes
With the acquisitions of technologically advanced companies to assist with automation and AI, Walmart is faced with providing health care coverage for even more employees. One of the changes the company will be implementing to cope with the additional coverage costs for hourly workers is known as consumer-driven plans, where workers cover all their medical expenses out of pocket, up to a high deductible limit. Walmart will provide a medical-expense account to which the company contributes money to help offset these costs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
, people between the ages of 16 to 24 account for 23% of retail workers. Unfortunately, not all within this age group will won't to, or can, adapt to the automated changes on the horizon for Walmart. And Uber and Lyft isn't an option due to the age restrictions of 21 to apply. While many believe this to be detrimental to this demographic of the retail workforce, some experts believe that Walmart may actually be creating a leaner, better-compensated foundation of employees who are augmented by gig workers and sophisticated automation processes.