A Walmart Greeter at Work (Image credit: Walmart blog)
The refrain “Welcome to Walmart” is a familiar one to anyone who has visited their many stores. The Walmart Greeter is a first touch welcome to anyone entering the store. A point of engagement they are also a key part of the business value proposition for Walmart because research clearly indicates that retail sales are higher, customer satisfaction is greater and stock loss is reduced when a customer is greeted on arrival to the store. The greeter isn’t there for just their familiar communication. They play a critical role in the Walmart business and customer proposition.
Welcome to Walmart on Workplace by Facebook
Walmart has today announced that it will be implementing Workplace by Facebook as its global collaboration platform. Walmart, the world’s 3rd largest employer and the largest private employer, has chosen Workplace as the ideal platform to engage its global employee base of over 2.1 million
Walmart stores depend on people to create the Walmart customer experience from Greeter to Store Manager or from Logistics worker to Buyer to CEO. The opportunity to improve engagement with this massive globally distributed community of workers on one Workplace platform is an enticing one for Walmart. While I know nothing of their decision-making process, I expect that their choice of Workplace is based on the ease and familiarity of its user interface, the strength of its mobile proposition and feature set and the opportunities for integration and bots to help a massive global community. The strong endorsement of Workplace in a recent presentation by Starbucks is encouraging for any retailer considering the platform.
Remember Walmart has more than its own employees to engage in collaboration. Walmart has always cleverly involved its suppliers in collaboration to improve its business performance and returns. It is famous for having presented its suppliers with its massive datasets and encouraged them to deliver insights back to its buyers to shape merchandising and marketing decisions. The ease and simplicity of engagement on Workplace presents another opportunity for this global supplier community to engage through multi-company groups to help drive the Walmart business.
Walmart’s decision is a strong endorsement of the value of collaboration and the role Workplace can play to realise value for organizations. Since the launch of Workplace last year, we have seen a newfound interest in collaboration in organizations around the world. However, Walmart is a notoriously frugal organisation that lives in its ‘Every Day Low Cost. Every Day Low Complexity’ model throughout its global organization to be able to consistently deliver its ‘Every Day Low Price’ proposition around the world. Walmart would never invest in Workplace unless it knew the value of Workplace would deliver returns that enabled it to further its proposition and significant business value.
The value creation opportunity for collaboration can be simply described using the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration. Let’s look at how the use of collaboration for everyday work can help realise value for Walmart.
Bringing Walmart Together – Connect & Share
Retail at Walmart’s scale is a demanding business. Employee communications and employee turnover are massive costs at the scale of Walmart’s operations. Leveraging Workplace to create more engaged employees and to simplify communications across Walmart will save money for Walmart around the world. Importantly, this approach will also deliver value for Workplace’s employees by connecting them to others in the massive organisation, giving them easy access to relevant information and also demonstrating the opportunities for them to make a greater contribution.
Bringing 2.1 million employees together and helping them to better understand how to execute their roles in line with the Walmart strategy is also a key part the first phase of value creation. At Walmart’s scale even small issues of misalignment can have massive costs. Identifying duplication and wasted effort is a full-time challenge for an organisation of this scale. Walmart has always had a strong focus on using information across its business from its massive data operations to its culture of sharing successful promotions and initiatives across stores. The use of Workplace will offer opportunities to accelerate this sharing and broaden its reach beyond head office and store management communities right to the superstore and distribution center floor.
Collaboration as a Platform for Digital Transformation – Solve & Innovate
Walmart has outgrown other global retailers to reach a scale of stores and global operations unique in human history. However digital transformation means that to many analysts and observers this scale is more a threat to Walmart’s survival than an opportunity. The Amazon threat to Walmart has been a long standing one and the battles between the two retailers have been fierce, but they have largely been competing in parallel for consumer’s attention. Now with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Walmart’s acquisition of Bonobos sees the two moving towards competition across the breadth of channels consumers use.
In this context, Walmart needs to continue its digital transformation across its business, whether in its stores or its digital business operations. Agility and collaboration will be key components of this journey. Walmart needs Workplace to deliver it a community of employees across any of its businesses who can come together to work, to solve problems, to learn better ways and to transform the business as a result. Amazon works with speed and agility and uses learning everywhere in its business. They will bring this focus and their relentless customer centricity to Whole Foods and all their future retail propositions. Walmart will use Workplace communities to underpin its own transformation in this way.
Digital transformation is not just about delivering a website and a few digital processes. Walmart is already far beyond that level of the use of digital approaches in its business. If its challenge was process transformation, then Walmart would not need Workplace. Walmart needs Workplace because its transformation involves change for both people and the very nature of work. Digital transformation involves taking both process and people into the opportunity to deliver innovative customer experiences, to test and learn in the market at the speed of consumers and to leverage the opportunities created.
Walmart’s frugal business approach raises an interesting final question: will they support adoption and business value creation on the Workplace platform? As a platform that can generate strong engagement, customers can be reticent to invest for more. The people dimension of digital transformation also highlights the investments that Walmart will need to make to move beyond simply connecting and sharing. A clear business strategy for value creation, ongoing community management and capability building for employees are critical to realising the value of digital transformation quickly and enabling employees to maximise the value of their use of Workplace. Working out loud must be learned & practiced. Remember Walmart will be engaging a massive global community with diversity of culture, business approach and lines of business. Uniting all of these employees and partners in one new set of work practices will require change to maximise the value.
Community management investments are the catalyst for business value creation in collaborative communities. Sustaining this investment is important to ensure that the highly engaging platform grows to a broader, richer and more effective pattern of work. I would recommend Walmart makes these investments to launch effectively and to accelerate it’s growth. In this they can demonstrate a strong lead for all other Workplace customers on how to best leverage the platform.
Welcome to Walmart on Workplace by Facebook. The journey ahead will be an exciting one to watch. As this journey develops we need to remember that like the greeter, Workplace is not just in use for communication, it will be a fundamental platform for the business value creation as Walmart transforms itself and its work.
Simon Terry is a member of Change Agents Worldwide has used the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration with global organizations for over 4 years to improve the effectiveness of collaboration.
Change Agents Worldwide is a Workplace by Facebook Partner, specialising in adoption services to enable organisations to accelerate the realisation the strategic business value of collaboration. Ask us how we can help your organization accelerate the benefits of collaboration and future work practices.