The country’s biggest private employer, Walmart is now using VR headsets to test employees. These tests determine whether an employee has the skills and talent for positions in middle management.
The VR headsets put employees in realistic situations – like giving new employees tours around the store or calming down an angry customer. It tests the associate’s knowledge of the various store departments, their decision-making skills, and leadership capabilities.
Senior Vice President Drew Holler explains, “What we measure is how they engage with us. 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.”
STRIVR, a Californian company based in Menlo Park, designed the VR training using $250 Oculus Go headsets. Social media company Facebook owns Oculus Go.
The partnership between Walmart and STRIVR started three years ago. The headsets first came to 30 Walmart Academies, where employees were trained to handle everyday situations like sorting the clothing section and more uncommon cases such as the Black Friday craziness.
According to Holler, around 10,000 employees out of Walmart’s 1.2 million have already undergone the VR assessment. During the process, employees must choose an option from an ordinary situation that would likely happen during their time on the management team.
After completing the VR test, 12-year employee David Arias earned a promotion and a 10 percent pay raise. He says that one part of the training involved him helping an employee and a customer on the search for mascara. Based on his approach to the situation, his hiring manager and the VR experience decided that he had great leadership and teaching skills.
Walmart’s use of technology in the workplace isn’t just limited to Virtual Reality. The company has started investing in and using robots to do simple jobs, like scrubbing floors, unloading trucks, scanning shelves, and taking items out of storage for delivery orders. But, public statements from the company’s senior executives also made it apparent that Walmart also equally values the work that it’s human employees do for the business.
CEO Doug McMillon stated in a 2017 annual shareholder meeting that “I want to be clear that we don’t believe technology is the answer to everything. The secret to success will always be our people… It will be our humanity that drives our creativity, powers our competitive spirit, and keeps us out in front.”
The use of robots had been implemented to lower the cost of employee salaries and the training of employees. Since robots are already coded to comply with what the owner wants them to do, they don’t require as much training as humans do.
As technology changes, the retail industry is finding creative ways to keep up.