In an effort to cut down on food waste and to increase efficiency, Whole Foods implemented a new inventory-tracking system. The order-to-shelf approach is making waves for its impact on both employee morale and shoppers, with many stores having practically bare shelves due to the lack of backroom inventory, but another part of the system is leaving workers in tears.
Whole Foods not only requires stores to follow the order-to-shelf, or OTS, system for inventory management, the company also uses “scorecards” to ensure compliance. Along with rating their inventory process, the scorecards also evaluate the level of theft, called “shrink,” and the accuracy of any posted signage.
Workers who assist managers with the evaluations based on the scorecards requirements describe the new systems as stress-inducing and even punitive. Even long-time employees, some who had been with the company for nearly 20 years, decided to part ways with Whole Foods due to the changes.
According to a report by Business Insider, the level of terror employees experience in regards to the prospect of losing their jobs under the new system has increased dramatically. Some now spend hours buried in paperwork related to OTS instead of helping customers that require assistance.
After becoming frustrated with the new approach, which harms morale and leaves stores with empty shelves, some workers have chosen to quit or begin seeking other employment.
Whole Foods defended OTS to investors, stating that the system has reduced shrink, cleared out backroom storage areas, cut costs, and even given employees the ability to spend more time assisting customers. But outsiders and employees disagree, saying the decentralized system is inefficient and should be changed.
“The OTS program is leading to sackings up and down the chain in our region,” said one Whole Food employee in Georgia. “We’ve lost team leaders, store team leaders, executive coordinators, and even a regional vice president. Many of them have left because they consider OTS to be absurd. As an example, store team leaders are required to complete a 108-point checklist for OTS.”
The scorecards look for anything that may be amiss in the stores, including excess stock in storage and issues with where products are placed. Departments lose points as problems are identified.
“Every item in our department has a designated spot that is labeled or marked,” said a Colorado Whole Food worker. “If that item is even an inch outside of its designated spot… we receive negative marks.”
Employees can also be quizzed on the spot on topics like the departments’ sales goals, previous week’s sales, and top-selling items. These tests, referred to as “walks” internally, are conducted twice a week by store managers, with corporate employees making an appearance monthly.
A score below 89.9 percent is considered failing and can result in terminations, according to employees.
“I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about maps and inventory, and when regional leadership is going to come in and see one thing wrong, and fail the team,” said a West Coast Whole Foods supervisor. “The stress has created such a tense working environment. Seeing someone cray at work is becoming normal.”