- Walmart is not happy about a new smartphone app that keeps employees informed about its workplace policies. USA today says that WorkIt, created by a labor group called OUR Walmart, launched on Google Play on Nov. 14. WorkIt gives users information about company policies and their rights as Walmart workers.
- Current and former Walmart employees are on hand in chatrooms to answer workers’ questions. Artificial intelligence powered by IBM Watson runs in the background and is expected to get questions answered even faster. OUR Walmart began working on the app months ago before the launch. The group’s goal was to make information on workers’ rights more easily accessible to Walmart’s staff, who must log onto terminals some distance from their work stations.
- OUR Walmart helped organize a national protest for better working conditions and pay at Walmart stores and the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, AK, in 2012 and 2013. The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, which backed OUR Walmart, tried previously to unionize Walmart workers. OUR Walmart, a non-for-profit group, denies that it’s trying to unionize workers.
In Walmart’s case, employers must think about what was happening in the workplace that made an app necessary. Was Walmart making information about policies, benefits and workers’ rights accessible to employees?
Workers say they need a place to sit while reviewing information. The app is doing what an employer-owned and operated HRMS does. Walmart could have headed off the app’s creation by having an effective HRMS. The company also would have had some control over the information. Many Walmart employees’ workstations are far from terminals, but they could have had 24/7 access to information through an HRMS.
OUR Walmart denies having any intention of unionizing workers. But, again, employers must think about what makes workers want to unionize. Low pay and unfavorable working conditions can make a unionized workplace appealing. Companies that foster effective communications, offer competitive wages and cultivate a respectful, collaborative workplace can keep employees engaged and productive.