Walmart is preparing to eliminate around 7,000 jobs in the coming months as the largest private employer in the country looks to boost efficiency in a rapidly changing retail landscape.
The cuts will affect back-office tasks such as accounting and invoicing. As The Wall Street Journal notes, these positions are most often held by employees that have been with the company for many years and are among the highest paid hourly workers in stores.
Walmart, however, wants these veteran employees to be working directly with shoppers, not hidden away in backrooms.
Starting early next year, the mega retailer will be replacing the tasks that back-office employees do with new money-counting “cash recycler” machines and relocating other tasks to a central office.
Walmart spokesperson Deisha Barnett said they tested the change in roughly 500 stores earlier this year. Barnett added that they believe most displaced employees will find new customer-facing roles and that their salaries could go up or down depending on their new position.
Because it is Walmart, the scale is a bit bigger than it would be for other retailers. Also because it’s Walmart, you can be sure that there will be excessive complaining as if it is the company’s fault that the 21st century is here and they are availing themselves of technological advances.
There are a lot of qualifiers in that sentence about the employees being moved into other positions, though. It probably isn’t likely that all, or even most, will be happy:
One employee that has been with Walmart for more than 20 years making $15 an hour doing invoicing said they are getting their resume together because a move back to the store floor isn’t appealing.
The article also notes that even though automation is eliminating jobs, shifts in the retail landscape in areas like online shopping and pickup are creating new jobs. That is generally the case and is almost always overlooked in any panic when an industry adapts to more efficient technology. When President Obama famously lamented ATMs replacing bank tellers, he completely ignored the fact that people are needed to manufacture, install, and maintain those ATMs.
Then again, he’s never had a real job, so his ignorance can almost be forgiven.