How Walmart is expanding VR usage from training employees to determining raises

Walmart introduced virtual reality into its employee training and development programs in all U.S. stores in October 2018, and has since further expanded the use of the Oculus headsets to assess employees up for promotions to leadership roles, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The skills assessment, developed by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Strivr, shows how employees respond (virtually) to angry shoppers, messy aisles and underperforming team members. The evaluation produces a color-coded report illustrating an employee's strengths and weaknesses, which is used to determine whether they have earned a promotion or raise, or if they need further training, according to Drew Holler, senior vice president of associate experience at Walmart.

Walmart's assessment was trained on early VR evaluations of hundreds of candidates and subsequent real-life performance reviews, Michael Casale, PhD, Strivr's chief science officer, told WSJ. The software's algorithm currently only scores workers on how they answer questions in VR, Dr. Casale said, but will soon take into account an employee's body movement and attention data, which will improve evaluations of future performance and soft skills.

Using VR will not only streamline the process of assessing employees' abilities and potential, but could also reduce turnover and limit the bias often inherent in the hiring process. Still, the technology is not autonomous: After undergoing the VR assessment, an employee is further evaluated by management before being promoted, with the high-tech review serving merely as a way to corroborate the potential a manager sees in an employee, according to Beth Nagel, Walmart's HR market manager for the Pittsburgh area.

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