Walmart rolls out VR to train employees

Walmart is using virtual reality to teach associates retail fundamentals and area-specific skills.

Walmart recently announced a partnership with virtual reality company STRIVR Labs to train employees. Specifically, the VR technology will allow Walmart to recreate the holiday season shopping environment in order to teach associates how to deal with the holiday rush.

STRIVR’s VR technology—also used by the NFL—will help Walmart to train thousands of employees across hundreds of facilities. The training will take place at Walmart Training Academies, dedicated facilities where associates receive instruction on retail fundamentals and area-specific skills. 

Walmart has been testing VR in 30 of its Training Academies over the past several months. Based on initial results, Walmart will now roll out the program across all 200 of its training facilities by the end of 2017. About 150,000 associates per year will complete the Academy program, and VR will be an integral part of that experience.

Why VR? The technology offers the most accurate assessment of performance and preparedness for real-life situations. According to STRIVR, learning retention rates with VR can be as high as 75% versus just 10% for reading or listening to a lecture alone.

How does it work? Walmart projects what an associate inside the VR headset is seeing onto a large TV screen, allowing other members of the class to comment and interact as part of the VR-enabled learning experience.

The Walmart Academies are part of a $2.7 billion commitment that the company has made to associates over two years. The dedicated training facilities include five classrooms and an office area. 

Other companies that use STRIVR include professional sports teams and Fortune 100 companies. 

"The most consistent feedback we've gotten in the last several months is that of excitement and appreciation from employees that Walmart is investing in this type of technology to help improve the training experience,” STRIVR CEO and co-founder Derek Belch told FierceRetail. “Across the board, the employees who have used VR in Walmart Academies feel like they are learning and retaining information at high rates. It's new, it's different, and it's a fun way to learn and prepare. And it's going to change the way Walmart employees perform on the job when they first get into the store."