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Forbes has a piece about how Walmart and Amazon are both endeavoring to become favored employers at a time when unemployment is at record lows.  It also is a time when retail in general and both companies specifically are seen as being "lousy jobs" - offering unattractive environments, bad pay, and less predictability than they desire.

The tenor of the piece is that some of the moves may be more cosmetic than real:  "As Amazon and Walmart work to lure workers from a shrinking pool of candidates, as well as keep the ones they have, they need to meet and exceed candidate expectations on wages, education, paid family leave, and workplace safety at minimum. Both have made strides in certain areas, but have a way to go, particularly when it comes to ensuring employees feel valued and more like partners than workhorses."

Some excerpts:

•  Wages:  "Last year, Amazon announced it would increase minimum wage to $15 for all U.S. employees. While the news drew headlines, particularly as Bezos challenged others in the industry to do the same, it similarly drew criticism by employees. Amazon also announced it would be eliminating bonuses, which often added 8 percent a month to many employees’ earnings … While Walmart has not taken Bezos’ bait and matched Amazon’s minimum wage hike, it did recently announce a more measured approach to wage increases through an initiative it calls 'Great Workplace.' The idea is to empower employees by offering them more opportunities to be cross-trained in several functions to advance into a higher pay scale."

•  Benefits:  "In 2018, Walmart announced an expanded parental and maternity leave policy, with 10 paid weeks for birth moms and 6 weeks for other new parents (dads, non-birthing moms and adoptive parents), regardless of whether the employee is hourly or salaried.

"The move was likely an attempt to level up a bit closer to Amazon, which in 2015 began offering up to 20 paid weeks of leave for birth mothers, the ability to share up to six weeks of paid leave with a spouse or partner, and a flexible return to work program. These benefits apply to all full-time hourly and salaried employees."

•  Training:  "Both Amazon and Walmart are initiating in-house training programs in order to retain their current workforce. Just this month, Amazon announced its plans to retrain 100,000 employees through its 'Upskilling 2025' program. The goal is to help U.S. employees adapt to a workplace that is becoming 'increasingly disrupted by automation and new technologies.' The initiative feels like a big undertaking, but actually compared to Walmart’s program for every employee, it’s a bit sparse.

"Dating back to 2015, through its program Live Better U, Walmart employees have been able to get degrees in fields ranging from computer science to cybersecurity for the tuition tab of $1 a day, and earn free college credits and other educational perks."

You can read the full analysis here.

KC's View:

There are a lot of stories out there about how companies are adjusting to the tight labor market, and I keep wondering what is going to happen when the economy worsens - which it will - and the labor market loosens up.  Will companies start looking for ways to take back some of the concessions they've made to attract employees?  Or will they be unable to do so, and will be stuck with expensive programs and initiatives that will have an impact on their businesses in other ways?

Just curious.