Walmart Using Virtual Reality to Determine the Staff to Promote
Walmart has been one of the most enthusiastic adopters of virtual reality in training programs and the company is now going even further in integrating VR into the center of its business processes by using the technology in determining which of its middle managers to promote.
The retail giant has partnered with the virtual reality training startup Strivr to develop a virtual reality skills assessment program which the Walmart’s HR executives will deploy in assessing and promoting its staff to mid-level positions.
The tech enables Walmart staff to be observed while performing various tasks such as the handling of poorly performing employees, an aisle that is disorganized or an upset customer. Virtual reality skills assessment is already in use to assess high-skilled workers in other sectors such as in the assessment commercial pilots. However, Walmart will be leveraging the technology for an hourly workforce.
The prospective candidate to be promoted will put on a virtual reality headset and their response on a number of situations will be tested in virtual reality. Multiple scenarios will play out ranging from the angry shopper to an employee that is under-performing. The virtual reality assessment tool has been designed to test the strengths, weaknesses as well as the potential of the worker. The assessment will release a color-coded report on these variables which the hiring manager can subsequently use in determining the strengths and weaknesses of the staff member and then making recommendations for additional training or promotional decisions.
Walmart is implementing it in its retail stores to determine who gets the promotion and who gets demoted.
The technology may sound dystopian but it delivers a very comprehensive and impartial test on staff and helps in eliminating some of the traditional biases in the hiring process. Walmart says the technology may not necessarily be a qualifier but it will be an important “touchpoint” in its selection process, helping it in substantiating the potential that the human managers see in an employee. The tech could be key to curbing some of the biases in the hiring process, improve the diversity of its staff and help minimize the turnover amongst its 1.5 million strong staff.
The VR-based assessment will help Walmart recruiters to understand the capacity of every candidate from a leadership viewpoint and how they handle situations.
WSJ reports that Walmart has already used the VR staff assessment program in assessing more than 10,000 of its staff. The program has also been deployed in the retail giant’s new store management structure to assist in reducing the number of required managers. Walmart is looking to use this tool to hire more qualified managers that will help the retail giant to reduce its overall costs.
Its partner in this project, Strivr, has worked with the retail giant on a nationwide virtual reality training program which the company unveiled in 2018 along with some 17,000 Oculus Go headsets in its many outlets. The two companies are also collaborating in the further integration of data points like the employees’ body movements and attention to data so to help them get a better picture of the potential of every employee. The current assessment is purely based on the answers provided by the employee but in the not so distant future, the company may be able to leverage on additional data points like eye-tracking data to assess the potential of its staff.