How Walmart Uses Technology To Invest In Its 2 Million Employees

Imagine running a company with two million associates. That’s bigger than the population of 150 countries. Walmart is second in the world only to the People’s Republic of China in how many people it employs.

Having such a large global staff brings with it both challenges and opportunities. But no matter how large the company grows, employees will always be a priority for Walmart. In order for Walmart to stay true to its promise to serve customers and help people live better, it also has to help its employees live better.

As Walmart has led the charge for a more modern grocery experience in recent years, it has poured resources into training its employees to be a part of the change. The pace of change for the store has tripled in the last five years with the growth of more stores, a larger e-commerce push, and online grocery ordering. Walmart didn’t have any associates working in online grocery two years ago, and now it’s the focus of more than 60,000 employees.

With change comes the need to re-train employees.

“We talk all the time about how we are people led and tech enabled. Investing in our people and our humanity is our competitive advantage,” says Jacqui Canney, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer.

Walmart offers two types of training: job-specific skills like how to be an online personal shopper, and more general employee training based around five skills: digital literacy, data-driven decision making, growth mindset, flexibility and adaptability, and empathy.

In order to continually train and invest in its huge number of associates, Walmart relies on technology and innovative thinking. Walmart offers more than 200 training academies to its associates on topics including retail fundamentals and leadership skills. The classes help associates gain knowledge and confidence so they can be more engaged at work and better serve customers.

Walmart is pioneering VR-based training with 17,000 devices in stores across the U.S. Associates use VR headsets to work through simulations about emotional intelligence skills or customer interactions. For example, as associates practice being empathetic with virtual customers, they learn skills that can help them interact with real customers.

Walmart uses VR simulations for a wide variety of training topics, ranging from how to work the deli counter to how to help a customer load groceries in their car. Instead of reading a handbook or sitting through a lecture, associates can put their learning into practice and get engaged with the training. The VR method is popular with associates and something Walmart plans to expand.

But training content isn’t limited to VR simulations. Walmart recently implemented a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy that allows employees to bring their personal phones to work to have access to all kinds of training content. That means that associates throughout stores, warehouses, and offices can access training modules and videos on their phones.

“The idea is to create more productivity and allow people to learn in a lot of different ways. How do you make sure that you’re changing your training and re-skilling associates across the globe? Make sure you’re keeping up with the latest technology, the latest demands, and the latest way people learn,” says Clay Johnson, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

Walmart shows that as companies innovate and create new opportunities for customers, they should also create new opportunities for employees. Making technology-enabled training part of the company culture shows that Walmart sees its employees as valuable resources in the changing retail landscape. Technology makes it possible to educate and re-skill every worker, no matter if there’s 10 or two million.

Listen to Jacqui Canney and Clay Johnson on the Future of Work Podcast here.

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