Nothing illustrates the difference between the 20th and 21st century business model more than the two stories about Walmart, side by side, in the New York Times June 4.
The first told of gender and racial discrimination in salaries and promotions that the company’s lawyers had urged Walmart to end. That was in 1995. The statistics – and the class-action lawsuits that were filed – sullied Walmart’s reputation for years. Many are not settled yet.
The second story? Walmart now offers workers discounted tuition and financial aid so they can get degrees from American Public University, an online college. As part of the deal, employees in certain jobs will be given credit for work experience at Walmart. The online college was chosen to give employees more flexibility and make the program more affordable.
In The Times’ article, Walmart executives indicated that the company is a place for everyone to grow, where good jobs will become great jobs, and that they wanted to be innovative while setting a standard for other employers.
They’ve become socially responsible.
I’m speechless. What a turnaround! And what a good thing. Walmart is one big gorilla in the retail world. When it sets standards, others follow. Their action reinforces the report on Profit at the Bottom of The Ladder, which reinforced my core belief that employees matter.
Also reinforced is my belief that every protest matters, whether it is one person filing a lawsuit or people refusing to shop at a store because the ethics of the store are questionable or stockholders raising questions: Speaking up matters. It may take years but eventually, you will be heard.
What changes have you seen in the way businesses operate? What still needs to be said or done by individuals?