Published on July 15th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Walmart Turns to VR to Pick Middle Managers
Walmart continues to be a retail industry leader in the adoption of virtual reality for training. Sarah Nassauer and Chip Cutter report in the Wall Street journal how the big box giant is using VR to train and assess employees in how they deal with management challenges. Can VR recreate a situation that is “real” enough to see how an employee reacts under pressure? Probably more so than the traditional live role playing or training video. Walmart may find their next star management stepping out of a VR world.
Retailer using virtual reality headsets to gauge workers’ potential and skill level, help determine promotions and pay cuts
When some Walmart Inc. WMT +0.17% store workers want to apply for a higher-paying management role, the company fits them with a $250 virtual reality headset to see if they are the right candidate for the job.
The country’s largest private employer is using a VR skills assessment as part of the selection process to find new middle managers, watching how workers respond in virtual reality to an angry shopper, a messy aisle or an underperforming worker.
VR training is becoming more common in a variety of industries to educate a large number of workers quickly or assess the technical ability of high-skilled workers like electricians or pilots. But Walmart’s use of the technology to gauge a worker’s strengths, weaknesses and potential is significant because it pushes VR evaluation out to a massive hourly workforce and in some cases helps determine who gets raises and who gets demoted.
“What we’re trying to do is understand the capacity of the individual from a leadership perspective and how they view situations,” said Drew Holler, Walmart’s senior vice president of associate experience. Walmart executives hope the technology will limit bias inherent in many traditional hiring decisions, increase diversity and reduce turnover among its 1.5 million U.S. employees in a tight labor market.
The assessment yields a color-coded report for hiring managers that describes strengths and weaknesses—perhaps weak leadership skills, but strong knowledge of the fresh produce department—that can help determine promotion decisions or the need for additional training, said Mr. Holler.
Walmart started using virtual reality training broadly last year, adding headsets in the backrooms of all 4,600 U.S. stores to train over a million workers 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.