Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is hoping its decision to boost workers’ paychecks will help it boost its bottom line.
The nation’s largest private employer announced on Thursday that it’s giving a raise to about half-million U.S. workers as part of a $1 billion investment that includes changes that Wal-Mart says are aimed at giving workers more opportunities for advancement and more consistent schedules.
The changes come as the company has faced increased pressure to pay its hourly employees more. But Wal-Mart, which has been criticized for its messy stores and poor customer service, says it’s also focusing on recruiting and retaining better workers so that it can improve its business.
The company has struggled with disappointing sales for most of the past two years, even though it posted better-than-expected results during the most recent holiday season. Wal-Mart hopes that taking better care of its workers will lead to better-run stores, more satisfied customers and an increase in sales and profits.
In focusing on investing in workers, Wal-Mart follows other big retailers that have announced plans to increase pay recently as the national debate over raising the federal minimum wage has reached a crescendo. Swedish home furnishings retailer Ikea this year gave thousands of workers at its U.S. division a 17 percent average raise to $10.76 an hour. And clothing chain Gap Inc. raised its minimum hourly wage to $9 last year and to $10 this year.