Learning & Development

Walmart Black Friday Virtual Reality Training

There are certain events and scenarios that rarely occur. This can be true for any business. But even if an event rarely occurs, that doesn’t mean that employees don’t need to be prepared for the event just in case. But, how do you train for these types of events? Often, they can be difficult or expensive to simulate in a sufficiently real-world environment.

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In these situations, companies are increasingly turning to advanced technologies like virtual reality (VR) to help effectively and cost-efficiently train their workforces.

What Is VR?

VR puts people “into the action.” They put on a pair of headsets (or, for a less realistic experience, they can even use their computer or laptop) and find themselves immersed in a situation that is virtually real-world (pun intended).
VR differs from augmented reality (AR). If you’ve ever played, or are familiar with, the wildly popular game Pokémon, you’re familiar with AR. With AR, you’re not part of the action, but your environment is augmented to add different elements that are not part of the “real world”—e.g., the wide range of creatures from Pokémon.
Both of these types of technology are proving to have relevant applications in business environments, particularly from a training perspective.

Walmart Trains Employees Virtually

Case in point: Walmart’s Black Friday training efforts utilizing VR. The retail giant has invested heavily in high-tech training, including the use of 17,000 Oculus Go headsets sent to Walmart’s 4,700 U.S. stores.
Patrick Sisson, a writer for Vox, recently documented his experience by trying the headsets on himself, saying: “It’s a bit claustrophobic, with customers streaming past me in every direction. Spinning my head, I see a family pushing a cart filled with emoji slippers, then a man rushing past with a haul of electronics, and finally, a team of associates giving directions to lost shoppers.”
He adds that the instructor running the simulation has the ability to pause it, allowing trainers and trainees to discuss and digest to aid in the learning process.

Investing in Human Capital Pays 

Walmart’s investment in the VR program is a sign of its continued investment in human capital. You don’t have to be a super big-box retailer to reap these benefits, though. For any retailer, the customer experience is extremely important and can serve as a key differentiator.
Employee training can be extremely costly, especially when trying to mimic certain real-life situations in sufficient detail and realism to make an impact on employees. VR is a great alternative, particularly as the technology continues to grow, develop, and become more attainable for companies with smaller budgets.