Working with and leading people – Case study of Walmart


Managing people is one of the most crucial aspects of any organisation’s management. The purpose of this report is to provide an understanding of various elements of managing people with a focus on Wal-Mart. It identifies the use of recruitment, selection and retention procedures used by Wal-Mart. This is achieved through an analysis of the selection process of a new supply chain manager in consideration to legal and ethical issues. The report will also analyse the key skills needed by Lee Scott to manage employees effectively. This involves the assessment of key skills and attributes needed for effective leadership as well the leadership styles required for different situations. The differences between management and leadership are also provided in the report. Lastly, the report consists of a performance management proposal which includes a flow chart, a suitable performance appraisal, and assessment of the performance process proposal. This performance management proposal ensures that the company maintains effective performance standards and builds a strong skilled team.

Walmart is the leading retail company in the world with one of the most successful retail distribution network and strategy. It is a US-based company with more than 10,700 retail units operated in 27 countries of the world. The company’s mission is to enhance living standards of customers by saving them money. This is achieved through the company’s low pricing strategy targeting low income earners. With effective technology and distribution strategy, the company is able to cut on costs and lower the prices of its products. Behind this successful strategy are associates who are engaged to execute the core strategy of managing expenses in order to offer lower prices. This requires an effective way of managing people led by the executive boss Lee Scott. In 2013, a total of $15 billion were paid out as incentives to the company’s associates.

Selection Process for a New Supply Chain Manager

The selection process of a new supply chain manager in Wal-Mart involves a few steps aimed at matching the skills, knowledge and experience of applicants with the position and then selecting the best candidate. The selection process starts with human resources planning which identifies the need for staffing in the Supply Chain Management. A job description and person specification are then drawn up to determine the requirements of the job and the features of the best candidate needed for the job (Burkholder et al, 2004). Samples of job description and person specification for the supply chain manager position are shown in the appendices.

The next step is to determine whether the position can be filled by the existing employees. If so, the position is advertised internally and if not it is advertised externally. The company should then examine the curriculum vitae of applicants. If there are suitable applicants, they should be shortlisted for interview, if not the position is re-advertised again until the right people are found. The shortlisted candidates should then be interviewed and tested to determine their suitability for the job. If still there are no suitable candidates from the interviews and tests, the position should be re-advertised again and if possible the person specification and job description may be designed. The last step is to appoint the right applicant and start training.

The job specification contains the roles and responsibilities of the person expected to take up the position. This enables the applicant to understand what he/she is expected to be doing so that it forms a basis for disciplinary action when the person fails to perform the duties assigned when he has been employed. On the other hand, the person specification indicates the essential and desirable qualities of a person. In the supply chain manager position, the essential requirements include a Masters Degree in Supply Chain Management and an experience of 2 years in Supply Chain Management. Some desirable qualities of the position include good time management, organisation skills, ability to operate under pressure, and good communication skills.

When selecting the right person for the position of supply chain management, it is necessary to consider key legal and ethical issues concerning the position. First, the person selected should aware and supportive of the company’s ethical position on green supply chain. He/she should be concerned with enhancing a sustainable environment as an integral part of the supply chain activities and operations of the organisation. Lee Scott considers that ethical supply chain management in terms of environmental stewardship is a way of promoting profits of the company in the long run. Therefore, recruitment and selection of a new supply chain manager should consider this ethical issue when selecting the right candidate for the job.

In the selection process, ethical and legal issues of equality should also be taken into consideration. First, treating employees fairly and equally from the time of selection has significant effects on the organisation (Elearn Limited, 2009). Wal-Mart’s recruitment staff should take an ethical stance when selecting the right person for the supply chain manager position.

Selection and recruitment for the position of a supply chain manager should be based on professionalism and fairness. Wal-Mart needs to use a systematic procedure to enhance fairness in its selection and recruitment process and avoid unfair discrimination. One of the procedures of enhancing fairness in the recruitment and selection of supply chain manager involves an agreed selection criteria which should be approved by HR professionals. The selection should be based on the job and person specifications without bias on gender, age, ethnicity or race. Secondly, the application system should restrain applicants from providing personal information including gender, age, and family openly. An audit should also be allowed to show the short-listing process in connection with the selection criteria identified. The best choice should be made by testing each candidate’s qualifications against the selection criteria, and then choosing the best option.

There are also some laws that may have an impact on the selection process. For instance, the Disability Discrimination Law in UK prevents employers with more than 20 employers from discriminating against disabled people in employment. Therefore, if a disabled person applies for the position of supply chain manager and emerges as the best candidate based on the selection criteria, he/she should be chosen for the position. Section 39 of the Equality Act 2010 also provides guidelines on employment and suggests that an employer should not discriminate against an employee when deciding to whom to offer employment. In this case, Wal-Mart should comply with the law by offering the position to someone who deserves it without discriminating against him/her.

Leadership skills needed by Lee Scott to manage employees

Lee Scott should have key leadership skills in order to manage employees effectively. Leadership and management are two important factors in enhancing motivated workforce and achievement or of organisational objectives. Leadership and management are two different concepts. A manager is concerned with planning and goal delivery while a leader is concerned with setting a vision and inspiring others to work towards that vision. The table below shows a summary of the differences between a leader and a manager.

Manager Leader
Managers execute strategic, tactical, and operational plans Leaders inspire a shared vision and create an image of the organisation
A manager is concerned with process, system and organisational structures; maintain status quo and creates a stable and real environment A leader challenges processes and the status quo; innovate and take risks to improve the organisation.
Managers motivate, delegate, resolve conflicts and encourage team building Leaders set example, act as role model and enhance teamwork through persuasion
A manager coordinates and monitors activities A leader encourages involvement and participation
A manager also negotiates and communicates A leader envisions and inspires

There are various examples of how Lee Scott should lead the team. As a leader he should have good leadership qualities in order to enhance team cohesion and commitment. This leads to higher performance. The three examples of ways that Lee Scott may use to lead teams are project leadership, functional leadership and team leadership (Ortmeier & Meese, 2010). Lee Scott should be able to motivate and inspire, establish direction and encourage collaboration within the team. He should also communicate the company’s vision and strategies through written and/or oral communication. This communication should be both vertical and horizontal. Problem Solving should also be a key quality of the leader. He should be able to analyse problems and identify possible solutions at the right time.

Renis Likert identified key leadership styles. He suggested that a leader may be autocratic, authoritative, participative or democratic (Kippenberger, 2002). An autocratic leader does not trust his/her subordinates. He/she does not delegate duties. Authoritative leaders are also good in threats and poor in persuasion and communicate. They never encourage teamwork. Authoritative leaders trust subordinates to a very small extent. They motivate through rewards but never delegate duties. A participative leader has trust on the subordinates and listens to them although they maintain some level of control over decisions. They also reward employees and take opinions from subordinates. Lastly, a democratic leader completely trusts and puts full confidence on his/her subordinates (Kippenberger, 2002). He/she also encourages decision making from subordinates and enhances ideas’ and opinions’ sharing and participation among subordinates.

Lee Scott should exercise the democratic style because it encourages participation from employees; hence the company will be able to achieve its objectives collectively including the Green Supply Chain Management. When subordinate employees in the supply chain department are given freedom to make decisions, the environmental sustainability goal will be integrated in the supply chain activities performed by the subordinates. This ensures that the go-green objective is achieved in the organisation. This way, Lee Scott will have used his leadership skills to achieve high performance in the organisation through the supply chain.

Lee Scott should also use appropriate motivation techniques in order to enable his team to achieve organisational goals and objectives. One of the theories explaining motivation techniques is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow identified several types of needs which employees seek to meet at their workplace which are physical, social, and psychological. Maslow arranged such needs in an hierarchy from those that should be accomplished first to those that should be accomplished last. First, organisations should meet the biological needs of their employees. Other needs include safety, affiliation, esteem, knowledge, aesthetic, transcendence, freedom and self-actualisation needs.

Lee Scott should motivate his employees by first ensuring that they have all the biological needs including sunlight, food, water, rest and oxygen. Rest can be provided by giving employees a few hours of work per week. When this is achieved, he should further focus on meeting the safety needs including security, tranquility, shelter and order. This can be achieved through a safe and healthy working environment as well as good terms and conditions of work including a balanced work-family life. Esteem needs can then be provided by building confidence and trust in employees and allowing them to make crucial decisions in the organisation including decisions on the sustainability of supply chain management. Knowledge can be built through training and development.

Another theory of motivation is Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory. This theory suggests that employees are motivated or demotivated depending on their expectations of how their valence (strength of desire to achieve something) is likely to be achieved by the management (Latham, 2012). Lee Scott should ensure that the desires of the employees are met – e.g. the desire to develop their career and realize their career objectives. This can be achieved through learning, training and development.

Importance of Team Working within the Supply Chain Function

Team work is an effective mechanism of enhancing cohesiveness and collaboration in the supply chain function in order to achieve organisational goals. High performance and effectiveness of teams are achieved when each member of the team understands his/her roles in relation to those of other members. Teams are important in the supply chain function of Wal-Mart because the function requires a combination of various skills, knowledge and experience. One person does not have a combination of all the competencies and skills needed to achieve organisational goals. Therefore, building a team ensures that the skills, knowledge, and experiences of different members are brought together to achieve better results (Rosen & Brown, 1996). Interaction and collaboration of small teams ensure that the complementary skills of members are combined to achieve common purpose and goals.

Leadership is an important ingredient in enhancing the high performance of a team (Kippenberger, 2002). The team leader should focus on building a strong spirited team with a strong performance ethic. On the other hand, team members should be focused on meeting organisational goals and supporting each other. The table below shows the differences between being a team leader and being a team member.

Team Leader Team Member
Building a spirited team and delegates duties Performing specific team tasks and supporting each other
Making decisions by capitalizing on opinions and contributions of team members Supporting and contributing towards decision making through opinions
Communicates effectively Listens effectively
Team leader trusts members Members trust each other and their leader
Provides support, supervision, monitoring and evaluation. Provides cooperation, collaboration and skills

If conflict arises between the team leader and the team member, it should be dealt with appropriately through various mechanisms of conflict resolution. Conflicts may arise due to differences in personality, attitudes, and opinions. Resolving conflicts must be done on time before it affects the entire team performance (Dessler, 2001). Although most conflicts affect teams negatively, some conflicts are useful because they generate constructive debate which may result in better choices.

Sometimes conflict between a team leader and a team member or between two members may result from role ambiguity whereby the perceptions of the team member regarding his/her roles become different from the team leader’s expectations (Offstein & Morwick, 2009). In order to resolve such a conflict, the team leader should make the roles of the team member and his expectations clearer. The team member should clearly understand his/her roles and the expectations of the team leader from the roles. There should be a meaningful purpose for performing such activities. In order to make the roles clearer, the team leader may translate the broad objectives to specific and measurable goals of the team.

Wal-Mart can resolve conflicts resulting from role ambiguity in the supply chain function by explaining the role of each member of the team. For instance, the overall objective of green supply chain management has been translated into specific and measurable team goals, e.g. to create zero waste. In this case, the role of team members is clear. They all work in their duties to ensure that the do not cause any waste in the supply chain. Furthermore, the company’s leader Lee Scott has indicated a specific goal of selling products that sustain the Wal-Mart’s resources and environment. Team members will be guided by this goal to ensure that the products that go through the company’s supply chain management are sustainable. This makes the roles of the team members clearer and conflicts reduce.

The second mechanism of resolving conflicts is by enhancing fair and equitable distribution of work. When work is unfairly or unequally distributed, conflict may arise between the team member and the team leader who assigned the work. In Wal-Mart, equality and fairness of work distribution may be enhanced by giving the team members equal work contributions in shifts so that all members can perform the same workload. All members in the supply chain management team should contribute equally towards the achievement of sustainability goals in the supply chain function.

Lastly, conflicts between the team leader and the team member may be resolved by setting clear rules and behaviour expected from all team members. This enhances openness, trust, focus and commitment. Wal-Mart should come up with a team charter for the supply chain management team which describes the rules and regulations that will enhance zero waste, 100% renewable energy, and sustainable resources and environment. These rules will lead the team members to meet the team leader’s expectations; hence reducing or resolving conflicts.

Performance Management Proposal for Walmart

In performance management, Walmart assesses the actual performance of employees against performance standards of the organisation (Venkateswara, 2004). This is important in developing employees because it ensures that the company learns about the performance level of each employee and develops mechanisms of improving his/her performance to meet the organisation’s standards. The stages involved in developing employees are shown in the flow chart below.

From the flow chart above, it is clear that employees’ development is achieved by identifying development needs of employees, and then setting objectives needed to be achieved by employees. Learning then takes place through various learning styles in order to meet the development needs. After employees have been trained, they are appraised to determine whether they meet the performance standards of the organisation. Lastly, the employees and coached and mentored to achieve the desired standards.

In terms of comparing performance appraisal of employees, employees’ performance is assessed against the set performance standards of the organisation. For instance, the performance standard required in Wal-Mart is zero waste. If a supply chain employee causes 4% wastes in supply chain management, the difference will be assessed and corrective action taken, including training to improve the performance of employee.

The proposed performance process is effective because it entails the measurement of standard performance of the organisation and assessing employees to determine their actual performance. The process of developing employees entails key steps to ensure that employees’ meet their development needs and organisational objectives. This performance measurement process will be developed quarterly, so that it is conducted four times each year.


References list

Burkholder, NC, Edwards, PJ & Sartain, L 2004, on staffing: Advice and perspectives from HR leaders. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

Dessler, G 2001, Management: Leading people and organizations in the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Elearn Limited (Great Britain) 2009, Recruitment and selection. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Pergamon.

Hunt, ST & Society for Human Resource Management (U.S.) 2007, Hiring success: The art and science of staffing assessment and employee selection. San Francisco: Wiley.

Kippenberger, T 2002, Leadership styles. Oxford, U.K: Capstone Pub.

Latham, GP 2012, Work motivation: History, theory, research, and practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.

Offstein, EH & Morwick, JM 2009, Making telework work: Leading people and leveraging technology for high-impact results. Boston: Davies-Black.

Ortmeier, PJ & Meese, E 2010, Leadership, ethics, and policing: Challenges for the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ott, JS, Parkes, SJ & Simpson, RB 2007, Classic readings in organizational behavior. Princeton, N.J: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

Rosen, RH & Brown, PB, 1996, Leading people: Transforming business from the inside out.         New York, N.Y., U.S.A: Viking.

Ulrich, D, Losey, MR., & Miesinger, S 2005, The future of human resource management: 64 thought leaders explore the critical HR issues of today and tomorrow. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

Vecchio, RP 2007, Leadership: Understanding the dynamics of power and influence in organizations. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press.

Venkateswara, RT 2004, Performance management and appraisal systems: HR tools for global             competitiveness. New Delhi: Response Books, a division of Sage Publications.



Appendix 1: Job Description of the Supply Chain Manager

Title: Supply Chain Manager

The Grade: Grade 1

The Department: Supply Chain Management

The Location: London, UK

Responsibilities of the job holder: Leading supply chain management team; Receiving, recording, storing, and dispatching inventory

Qualifications: Masters in Supply Chain Management

Experience: At least 2 years experience in supply chain management

Appendix 2 – Person Specification

Academic Qualification: Masters in Supply Chain Management

Competence: The person should have effective knowledge and skills in supply chain management, and should be able to apply knowledge to real life situations

Skills: Communication skills, computer skills, stock management skills, time management skills, and ability to work under pressure.

Appendix 3 – Interview Questions

  1. Why are you interested in the position of Supply Chain Manager?
  2. What unique thing you bring to the organisation?
  3. What do you understand by teamwork and what can you do to build a strong team if you were given the chance to lead a team?
  4. If conflicts occur at the workplace, how will you handle?
  5. If things do not go well as your expected, what will you do to bring changes?
  6. How are you going to relate with members of the organisation, most of whom you had not even known before?




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