Wal-Mart emphasizes paths to promotion

Julie Murphy, Northeast regional vice president of Wal-Mart, speaks to employees at the S. Phila. store.
Julie Murphy, Northeast regional vice president of Wal-Mart, speaks to employees at the S. Phila. store. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 31, 2013

Malana Hayes, 27, has worked in retail for at least a decade, she said, including a stint at an upscale boutique at the King of Prussia mall, where she was assistant manager.

On Tuesday, Wal-Mart promoted her - from a temp working in the men's department to a full-time associate in the deli of the South Philadelphia store.

"It's a blessing," said Hayes, of Darby Borough, a mother of three.

Wal-Mart executives have been fanning out across the country, calling in reporters and TV crews to witness promotions of store staff.

The message, as regional senior vice president Julie Murphy told workers gathered in the produce department at the Walmart on Columbus Boulevard, is, "the sky's the limit."

Wal-Mart needs the positive press.

News outlets last week detailed a report from Wal-Mart chief executive Bill Simon, who pointed out that 475,000 of Wal-Mart's one million hourly full-time store employees earn more than $25,000 a year.

That statistic came under the heading of "Great job opportunities," part of Simon's presentation at the Goldman Sachs 2013 Global Retailing Conference in September.

Not included was the corollary - that 525,000 full-time hourly store employees earn less than $25,000.

None of that came up at the meeting in South Philadelphia. Each store holds three employee meetings a day and all include the corporate cheer - letters in the brand name shouted at top volume and a little derriere wiggle in the middle to denote the hyphen in Wal-Mart.

"We promote 160,000 associates every year," Murphy told the group to cheers and applause. Three of every four individuals involved in store leadership started as hourly workers, she said.

Nearly half of the 160,000 - 40 percent - are promoted within their first year, with 430 moving up every day companywide, she said.

Five of the six promoted at the Columbus Boulevard event had worked at the store for less than eight months. Several advanced from temporary part-time to permanent part-time.

Murphy told them her story - she started 28 years ago as an hourly management trainee and now oversees 435 stores in nine states from regional headquarters in Horsham.

The event was hailed as an announcement of Wal-Mart's commitment to promote 25,000 people by the end of the year - although the company would have done that anyway.

Murphy declined to say what employee turnover is at the company and manager Frank Pellicore wouldn't elaborate on the statistics at the South Philadelphia store, which employs 450 full-time and about half as many more part-time.

Hayes started as a temporary employee in April. Murphy said Hayes was an example of someone who gets a foot in the door and advances.

Whether Hayes will become part of the group that earns more than $25,000 remains to be seen. She now earns $8.20 an hour, she said, and relies on public assistance for health insurance.

She would have to earn $12.02 an hour to top $25,000 a year, assuming a 40-hour work week for 52 weeks. Hayes said she doesn't know what her raise will be.

In her other retail jobs, Hayes didn't begin work shouting her store's name, complete with the wiggle.

"It's funny," she said. "It does get you rowdy and ready for the day."


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

www.inquirer.com/jobbing

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