1. As started Wal-Mart has established a culture of decentralized decision-making which has contributed to its successes. In this type of environment how can Human Resource professionals assist and guide first and second line managers to make effective promotional selection decisions? The success of the decentralized environment at Wal-mart is legendary. But the high levels achievements this system brought in terms of process efficiency in areas like logistics and purchase could not be translated in the Human Resource Management due to the fact that HR is more of a science than an art.
It requires certain skills and knowledge that needs to be acquired. In today’s age of ever increasing employee- employer legal tangles, Wal-mart has to take care of the bare minimum standards in HR policies rather than trusting the discretionary powers of the line managers. If Wal-mart is looking to reduce costs by avoiding the services of a formal HR department manned by qualified HR professionals, it does not seem to be working when compared to competitors like Costco who does have a professional HR Management team and still ends up spending much lesser on operational expenses than Wal-mart.
So Wal-mart can improve the situation, staying within the decentralized environment, by creating an HR department, with a focus on consulting, education and support. The HR team could then equip the line managers with the necessary skills and provide broad guidelines to take recruitment, appraisals and promotional decisions. It would be best if the members from the department could give hands-on assistance initially for the first round of decisions so that the managers get a feel of the tools and procedures. The role of HR could primarily be that of coaching and facilitating than one of direct decision making.
The first and second line managers at Wal-mart are likely to have gained considerable people management skills from years of experience and the new HR team would have to recognize the fact that they need tender moulding rather a complete over-haul. HR needs to acts as a sort of internal consultants. 2. If you were selected to recommend improvement regarding the selection procedures at Wal-Mart with the goal to avoid possible future discrimination charges, how would you proceed? I would immediately understand that the discrimination, especially because Wal-mart has decentralized system, is not intentional.
When line managers are given the responsibility of promoting their workers, there is bound to be some personal preferences and prejudices affecting their decision making. The current system obviously lacks clarity and transparency. The discrimination charges are but one of the many problems that are likely to happen if Wal-mart continues this way. The first step in the process of improving the gender bias issue, would be to set up an HR task force to take a survey to find out the gender ratio at each workplace.
This would give them a rough idea about the target they need to achieve to solve the allegation. I feel that the whole seriousness of the discrimination charges itself would get diluted if the management can prove that an unbiased system is in place for the functions of promoting. Then the team would need to setup a system of procedures for promotional decision making process. This should include 1. Announcing the vacancy of position and invitation for applications giving the qualification criteria ( education, experience, responsibilities ) for selection.
That the position is an equal opportunity one for both sexes should be explicitly mentioned. 2. An easy and accessible method to receive the application 3. Short-listing and forwarding to the HR department with remarks from the line manager on each applicant. 4. Then the HR personnel could come down to personally interview the candidates and after giving the due consideration to the line managers comments. Once this method is followed the employees would start trusting the management with the decisions and instances like the discriminations charge would not repeat. 3.
How would you explain to the company`s first and second line managers specifically your approach would not only be a benefits fir the organization but the managerial staff overall? I feel that the Line managers are better off with the sole responsibility of taking the staff-promotion decisions removed from their shoulders. The reason is that, no matter how good their decisions to choose one staff over the others for promotion are, there is bound to be protests from the rest of them simply because there is no system of procedures and it looks like a completely personal action.
Once the HR department with a team of professionals are introduced in the company to provide the training, the tools, procedures and guidelines to assist the line managers the average employee would start trusting the decisions as fair one. Using a centralized team of a few select HR professionals as internal consultants would prove beneficial for the organization while keeping the increase in costs marginal as opposed to appointing a full blown HR department in each work place.
It all likelihood, initially some of the line managers might feel ripped off their powers but if they are all provided with training sessions to learn the science of HR management they will start appreciating this change as a win-win system. The line managers should be made to understand that their opinions count significantly in the final decision as far as promotions are concerned but if the workers feel that the decision is made by a professional they are less likely to doubt its fairness. And this will benefit the general atmosphere in the workplaces boosting employee morale and operational efficiency.