Employer Branding Talent Acquisition

From Target to Walmart: What Retailer Has the Best Leaders?

The retail world is so heavily reliant on the trends and tastes of its consumers. And this constant need to adapt to the times provides implications for many important business factors, especially their employer brand. This is because as demand grows for their products, so does the need to hire the best talent in the market.

And when you’re talking about the top 10 US retail companies, from the likes of Target all the way to Walmart, more often than not, there are more jobs available than candidates! So retail companies have to be shrewd in their approach and find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors.

One key aspect of this is through their Management & Organization. The employee culture and overall employer brand within any retail store lives and dies by their managers. It is the Management & Organization that set the standards. A good retail manager wears many hats and has to be able to not only run the store efficiently but also to keep staff motivated, maintain employee schedules, enforce company policies and much, much more.

So, using our proprietary methodology, the Employer Brand Index, we wanted to generate our own understanding of the impact of Management & Organization, one of our 16 employer brand attributes, within the US retail industry. Click here for full report with company breakdowns, thematic analysis and more.

How do people generally really feel about their managers?

A large portion of the data (20%) tended to be very general, with comments such as ‘bad management’ or ‘good management’ coming up quite often. And extracting meaning out of these generalities can be difficult because the word good or bad can constitute so many different things.

Yet, in the case of this research, it actually helped paint a picture as to how competent people feel their managers and leaders are at the company. Below are the most common descriptors:

As visualized above, the word ‘poor’ was the most commonly used description, and if you were to analyze the ratio of sentiment for this topic as a whole, it would be 66% negative and 34% positive.

And as the report shows, from the fifth-placed Home Depot to the tenth-placed Walmart, negative commentary surrounding the theme Ability, Knowledge & Competency had the highest or one of the highest shares of voice within their respective data sets. This not only emphasizes the impact of poor management or inadequate leadership on their poor scoring within this research but their overall employer brand and talent retention!

Manager’s don’t care about employees

This is a pretty strong statement, but our research methodology is driven by what people say and we convey what they say as bluntly as possible. And the theme Treatment, Behavior & Appreciation as a whole had a very strong negative impact on the scores for Walmart, Target, Dollar General and more.

A major part of this was the lack of care and appreciation employees felt they received from managers. Kate Pritchard, Head of Insights at Link Humans, had some very interesting thoughts about this issue:

“Managers in the retail industry have a difficult job, working in highly operational roles, often with a flexible workforce who could be working different shift patterns to them. This makes it even more important to get the fundamentals of management right: treating employees fairly and with respect, being available to offer support and recognize great work. Small changes in the way managers interact with employees can have a large impact on their experience at work.

On the whole, this theme made up almost 20% of the entire data pool for this research, which shows how important it is for people to be recognized, appreciated and cared about by their managers.

Favoritism is a norm

Examining the data we did notice the importance of friendship and team culture for each of these retail organizations, but it seems as though, more often than not, these friendships have boiled into favoritism.

The research shows that 8 out of the 10 companies had significant issues with the theme Favoritism, Fairness & Politics. The words ‘favoritism’ or ‘favorites’ came up often and some of the issues pertinent to this were:

  • Better schedules are given to friends & family
  • Promotions are given to friends & family
  • Management boys clubs in the workplace
  • Managers driving their own personal agendas

This type of inequality can be hard to control for retail organizations the size of Walmart and Target, who put their trust into thousands of managers and supervisors across the country.

Yet it is an issue that needs to be focused on, because allowing this type of behavior will have serious implications on any organizations employer brand, especially in regards to talent retention because the best people will not be fairly selected for the role and those that see this happen will ultimately lose trust in the organization.

As the common saying goes ‘People Leave Managers, Not Companies’. And while this blanket statement isn’t always true, it feels extremely fitting for the retail industry.

The graphic below is a summary of how each scored on our 1 to 10 scale. Remember: 1 is a perfect score and 10 is the worst possible score. The commentary you will find on the right-hand side of the graphic are examples of the most common themes and subjects.


By Karim Ansari