VR headset training is changing everything at Walmart.
As the largest discount retailer in the world, Walmart employs and trains more than two million associates worldwide. That represents a significant amount of onboarding time for Walmart associates and their trainers. It’s time that prevents them from engaging with customers and making sales.
The standard three-month long training process for new employees can be compacted into a shorter period, but some store managers worry that employees need time to practice what they are learning so that their new skills become automatic.
Worldwide retailers like Walmart all face a similar dilemma: How do you ensure that your employees consistently treat customers well while acting as brand ambassadors?
The answer lies in VR headset training. It’s disrupting how Walmart trains associates.
Walmart was an early adopter of virtual reality training for its associates.
Using simulated experiences to teach employees about likely retail scenarios changed the training landscape.
Rather than have trainers try to describe what might happen in any given situation, trainees experienced authentic scenarios. During the training process, associates learned about various job requirements like stocking, and they experienced Black Friday scenes without shutting down the store for training.
Associates liked the new training program. So did the managers, because skill retention increased by as much as 15%. Trainees remembered more because they were active learners engaged in relevant scenarios. In addition, VR headset training improved learning in less time. The pilot program had been a success.
After the rollout
As a result, Walmart launched a new initiative in September 2018.
To streamline the shopping experience for customers, Walmart has installed Pickup Towers in several hundred stores. These towers function like a giant vending machine. Associates train on how to use the towers, but not in the way you might imagine.
Walmart is relying exclusively on VR headset training instead of teachers.
So far the results have been impressive, and the virtual simulations are a win for everyone.
Taking the next step
Now the company has purchased 17,000 more Oculus Go VR training headsets (which they also sell) to expand their training program. Most Walmart stores will receive headsets and VR training software designed to help associates improve their soft skills as well as their technical skills.
Walmart plans to focus on three critical training areas: new technology, empathy-based customer service, and compliance. Associates who participate in the virtual reality professional development will check out the VR training headsets and complete a series of simulations.
Stores can collect and aggregate data to determine effectiveness, calibrate training as needed, and improve employee performance.
Walmart hopes to train more than one million associates in 2018 and scale up their training program soon afterward.
Effective VR headset training
Without interactive and relevant on-the-job-training, participants don’t retain new concepts and skills. Most professional development, however, can be costly in terms of time and money.
It can take a while for employees to accrue enough experience to know what to say and do in every situation they might encounter.
VR headset training, on the other hand, has helped companies like Walmart capitalize on time and reduce training costs. It’s the most effective way to train employees in key areas.
Aaron Kimbrough, Digital Operations Sr. Manager II, stated, “VR allows us to prepare associates without having to send teams of people into our stores for one-on-one training. We know of its effectiveness already, so it seemed like a natural fit for us on key projects.”
When Walmart says its goal is to “to save people money so they can live better,” this retail giant takes its own advice. The super-retailer is saving money on training while providing a better professional development experience for its associates.
VR headset training makes it possible.