Walmart is Transforming Employee Training with Virtual Reality

Walmart has made headlines in this past year for all the wrong reasons. All too often, these headlines revolve around the widespread mistreatment of workers. More than two-third of its 1.3 million workforce is filled with low-skilled workers who receive few opportunities to move up. The big box store is now fighting back against those criticisms by offering new employee training programs for its employees by inculcating virtual reality.

According to TechCrunch, Walmart will soon start using virtual reality to help train its employees using state-of-the-art retail simulations. Virtual reality training will be incorporated at the retailer’s 200 “Walmart Academy” training centers in the U.S. by the end of the year.

Each training center will receive an Oculus Rift headset and gaming PC featuring a collecting of VR training content. The virtual reality training will be entirely 360-degree video-based. It will include interactive on-screen signs prodding trainees to make decisions after stumbling upon various retail situations. For instance, the scenario may be related to seasonal situations like facing the Holiday rush in VR.

A budding startup Strivr Labs, is building these experiences largely focusing on VR training for athletes, brands and organizations. Walmart and Strivr partnered to determine what VR experiences made more sense for the training in retail scenario.


Image: Walmart Training Academics graduation group.

The Upside of Virtual Reality in Corporate Training

With the rising interest in virtual reality, organizations are spending an exorbitant amount of money so employees can use VR training to practice essential skills. Research suggests that virtual reality based employee training solutions help with abstract learning, experiential learning and retaining information, too.

The NFL teams currently use VR technology to analyze and improve their plays. General Motors uses Google Glass to train factory workers in real time. This kind of training helps connect the workers on the assembly floors with others in the back office, thus, allowing for efficient collaboration and communication to address shortcomings.

Deutsche Bahn in Germany uses virtual reality to get ahead on recruitment. Candidates are given a tour of the company and what to expect from the job before they apply. The Berlin-based mobility and logistics firm is also using VR to help older employees get a taste of the workforce of the future, and thus better prepare them for the challenges ahead.

The adoption of VR is important to all industries, including recruitment and a broad range of employee training applications. The technology is swiftly becoming more economical compared to traditional mechanisms and is much more realistic. Kudos to Walmart for betting on virtual reality employee training applications. But, it’s going to need much more than that to change its reputation in the employment market. Low-wages, irregular schedules, no benefits, and unreliable working hours are just some of the horrible working conditions most Walmart workers have to live through.

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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