News Feature | June 15, 2017

Walmart Leverages VR For HR Associate Training

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Walmart Store Front

Retail giant debuts virtual reality as part of its improved associate training program.

Walmart has announced that it has debuted virtual reality tools as part of its training program at 31 of its training facilities in recent months, with plans to expand the program in the near future. According to a company blog post, VR technology provided by Strivr Labs is being utilized to help employees prepare for busy store conditions or to help them learn to perform tasks in stores. As the blog post explained, “VR allows associates to experience a lifelike store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to recreate disruptive incidents or disturb the customer’s shopping experience.”

Ultimately, the retailer hopes to use VR in the training programs for some 140,000 associates through its employee “academies.” By the end of the year, there could be 200 of these programs, according to a Walmart spokesperson. Each training center will use an Oculus Rift headset and gaming PC featuring a variety of VR training content, according to the HR Digest.

“Ultimately, everything associates do is geared toward giving customers the best experience,” the retail giant said on its blog Wednesday. “Through VR, associates can see how their actions affect that. It’s helpful for associates to see mistakes in a virtual environment and know how to deal with them before they experience it in real life and don’t know what to do.”

While many retailers are jumping on the VR bandwagon to improve the customer experience and help boost sales through customer-facing use, Walmart is focused on using the technology to help strengthen its company operations and employee performance, which is in line with recent efforts to attract and retain qualified employees.

“When they said we were going to be using VR for training, I thought it was brilliant,” said Sean Gough, Academy facilitator at our Broken Arrow, Oklahoma store. “From cashier to lawn and garden, to electronics or fresh – there are just so many areas where I think this training would be so helpful.” The VR technology provided Gough with the opportunity to virtually transport to another store to witness and compare how they were running things. This perspective is a valuable tool to managers, who rarely have the time to travel to others stores to compare notes.