Walmart Announces Pay Raises For 165,000 Hourly Workers As It Eliminates Their Quarterly Bonuses

Walmart announced sweeping changes to staffing in its U.S. stores, which include restructuring the leadership roles at its Supercenters and raising pay for some of its salaried and hourly employees, according to a company press release on Thursday.

The retail giant announced the following new positions: store lead (formerly co-manager), coach (formerly assistant manager) and team lead (formerly department manager). Walmart said its new "team-based operating model" is similar to one implemented Sam’s Club over the past year and in Neighborhood Market stores this year. According to Walmart, the move will increase cross-training opportunities for employees.

Across the store, we’re creating small teams of associates who will be cross-trained and given ownership of the work and their area for everything from in-stock to visual standards. This means they’ll gain more skills and be able to support associates who want to take time off or just need extra help during a busy shift. For example, associates who prepare fresh food will be trained to maintain pricing and standards in their area – giving them broader skill sets that allow them to help customers and grow their own careers.

Additionally, Walmart will raise wages for its salaried digital, asset protection and auto care center assistant manager employees. The new wage for the hourly team lead roles start at between $18 and $21 an hour and can go up to $30 an hour in Supercenters. Minimum wages for hourly associates in the deli and bakery areas are going up from $11 an hour to $15 an hour or higher. Pay will also be raised for several hourly auto care center roles with most getting an increase of $1 or more per hour.

In total, about 165,000 hourly staffers will see a raise, Walmart said in a memo outlining the move, but the program will also trim the ranks of leaders per store, and could prompt some to leave. That said, the company clarifies that all current employees will continue to be able to work at Walmart, even if they are not selected for one of the new roles.

“For example, associates who prepare fresh food will be trained to maintain pricing and standards in their area – giving them broader skill sets that allow them to help customers and grow their own careers,” the release said.

As Bloomberg  notes, the changes are part of a broader rethinking of how to most efficiently deploy Walmart’s 1.5 million-person U.S. workforce in a more digital age. The pandemic, which has spurred demand for groceries and household essentials, shocked supply chains and boosted e-commerce, has tested workers’ patience, with some shoppers railing about missing items and others refusing to adhere to mask-wearing mandates. "Once-mundane tasks, like store cleaning, have become critical."

For affected employees, the pay raises will be implemented in October, taking the place of an annual increase typically received in February or April. Of course, there is a catch, because while WalMart is hiking base wages it will also eliminate quarterly bonuses for most workers: for workers in these hourly roles, the increase will take the place of Walmart’s regular quarterly bonus and become part of their base pay going forward.

"These associates will continue to be eligible to receive quarterly bonuses for Q3 and Q4 of this year. When we’ve asked associates, the overwhelming majority say their hourly wages are the most important part of their pay, well ahead of quarterly bonuses,” Walmart said in its release.

Furthermore, not everyone will benefit: U.S. Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith declined to estimate how many associates won’t be selected for one of the new roles, but said they can remain in a “similar position” and their current pay won’t be adjusted until October 2021.

"I don’t anticipate us having a large problem" of losing staff because of the changes, Smith said.