Virtual Reality Training: Walmart Leverages VR For Employees

Q&A With Walmart’s Aaron Kimbrough

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Steven Lerner

Virtual reality training is one of the most recognizable benefits of using VR in the enterprise. This technology provides employees with simulated, realistic experiences of working in a challenging environment.

Walmart introduced a pilot program in 2017 where selected associates received virtual reality training at one of the Walmart Academy facilities. The training featured real-world scenarios, such as dealing with Black Friday shoppers. This virtual reality training was conducted with PC-tethered Oculus Rifts.

Walmart is now joining a growing list of companies that have incorporated VR to train employees. VR training makes learning more visual and it can help workers prepare for numerous situations.

In October 2018, Walmart expanded its virtual reality training by deploying 17,000 standalone Oculus Go headsets to almost all of its 5,000 stores. The goal will be to provide the same caliber of training those employees received at the Academy to workers at all stores nationwide. Managers, cashiers, and janitors will be among the employees who will get to receive the VR training. Walmart wants to train workers in three areas: new technology, soft skills (such as customer service), and compliance.

To find out more about Walmart’s groundbreaking virtual reality training, Enterprise Mobility Exchange spoke with Aaron Kimbrough, Sr. Manager II, Digital Operations.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: What were the internal training challenges that occurred before implementing VR technology?

Aaron Kimbrough: As Walmart continues to implement new technologies and programs into our stores, we needed a method to consistently deliver training. With many training methods in use for various efforts, we saw VR as a method to deliver it in a consistent manner. Many times, we need to demonstrate complicated processes, and 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.

See Related: VR In HR

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: Describe the decision to utilize VR for training.

AK: Over two years ago, we piloted VR content in our Academy training centers and saw success there. In that format, we saw that test scores in centers with VR were higher when compared to centers that didn’t have it. Based on this measurement, we expanded VR to all Academy training centers. Earlier this year, we were looking for a method to get some key training materials in the hands of a larger population of store associates. Based on our experience with VR in our Academies, we decided to pilot VR in a few stores, and again saw success in the pilot. We saw VR as a fit for even more future training modules, and the decision was made to expand VR to our entire U.S. chain.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: How does the technology/training work?

AK: We are outfitting each store with a limited number of Oculus Go units. The associate will check out the VR equipment from equipment lockers in our stores with the help of a local personnel / training coordinator. Associates will complete VR modules and then return the VR equipment back to the lockers for charging and safe storage. As new content is developed, we will push that content down to the local stores, and we will communicate the need for additional training to our store personnel based on job codes required for the training. The associate completion information is uploaded to our analytics engine for reporting purposes.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: What is the ROI for your organization?

AK: We see ROI as the ability to consistently transfer knowledge to our stores. With this, we expect to see increases in key metrics that our organization tracks. We’ve taken the time to keep the training very high quality with VR so that the experience is very efficient from a training perspective. This frees up more time for our associates to focus on customer service. We are also creating a platform on which we can deploy future training programs quickly to the stores in less time than it would take in the past, so it becomes a very cost-effective method over time.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: Big picture – should other organizations use VR to train workers?

AK: Yes. VR provides an immersive way to train, which has a positive impact on all kinds of learners. With VR, you can place workers in scenarios that seem real while they interact with the situations. From our experience, when workers feel something and interact with it, the retention of that information increases. With VR, you can create scenarios that can be viewed over and over to multiple workers, and it’s the same every time. It provides an edge in our minds to a CBL or a simple video for many topics.

Want to learn more about Walmart’s virtual reality training program? Register for the Enterprise Mobility Transformation Exchange on November 7-8 in San Diego, California. Aaron Kimbrough will present a case study about how Walmart is using this technology.