Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with 1.5 million workers, is using virtual reality to help find candidates for management positions in all 4,600 stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. The VR headsets and the assessment program were designed by Strivr, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.
Walmart’s idea for a VR assessment was rooted in seeing how its workers might respond to challenging situations and how they prioritize different tasks—things that would be hard to identify in an interview. So far, 10,000 employees have undergone the VR test as part of an initiative to identify potential high performers and cut back the overall number of managers in each store. This is part of a larger plan to change how many higher paid managers are overseeing teams and to give its frontline workers more decision-making power in their jobs, according to an earlier report in the WSJ.
As the WSJ reported, VR is a “touchpoint in our selection process. It’s not a disqualifier,” or a mandatory part of the promotion process, according to Beth Nagel, Walmart human resources market manager for the Pittsburgh area. For example, a 12-year veteran of a store in Pennsylvania got a promotion to team leader and a 10% raise after taking the VR assessment.
VR isn’t being used to demote people who may be underperforming, a Walmart spokeswoman said. “We’re only using it in four roles and it is only being used for selection for those four roles,” she told Fast Company in an email.” Further, it is just one data point and is not being used to cull the applicant pool at all.”