Giant Retailer Walmart uses Virtual Reality to Test New Store Managers

Retail giant Walmart is using virtual reality headsets to assess which employees have the aptitude for middle management positions. For the past 3 years, Walmart has been working with STRIVR, an immersive performance training startup company to design and manage Walmart’s virtual reality training using $250 Oculus Go VR headsets. (Oculus is owned by social media giant Facebook.) In 2017, the VR headsets were first tested in 30 Walmart Academies where associates were trained to handle situations from the everyday, like managing the produce section, to the rare, like Black Friday madness.
The VR headsets place Walmart associates in real-life situations such as calming an upset customer or giving new employees a store tour. Basically the program is designed to test knowledge of store departments, decision-making, leadership capacities and soft skills. The assessment will help the company to place employees in the best-fitting job. This is part of a larger Walmart plan to change how many higher paid managers are overseeing teams and to give its frontline workers more decision-making power in their jobs, according to an earlier report in the WSJ.“What we measure is how they engage with us,” Drew Holler, Walmart’s senior vice president for associate experience says. “There’s no right or wrong, but it gives an understanding for their level of maturity when it comes to leadership, as well as how they view customer service.”
Since the initial test, the virtual reality headset program has expanded to all 4,600 Walmart stores. 10,000 of Walmart’s 1.5 million Us employees have undergone the skill management assessment as of February, according to Holler. Also, in 2018 Walmart started using virtual reality training broadly to train over a million workers on how to stock shelves or use new online pickup machines. In one training meant to encourage empathy, workers see through the eyes of a cashier, then inhabit the view of a dad with his son as they hold up the line by carefully counting change, only to find they don’t have enough.
Walmart isn’t the only company to use virtual, augmented or mixed realities to train employees. In recent year companies have utilized VR for to hold real time meeting where remote designers storyboard or sketch together and surgical training programs for doctors and nurses using VR headsets. However Walmart is the first company to use VR to train lower level employees to improve customer care.
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