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How Walmart Transformed the Experience for Hourly Workers

How Walmart Transformed the Experience for Hourly Workers

Walmart, one of the original big box stores, currently employs close to 1.5 million people in the US. Being the largest private employer in the country, the retail giant is continuously taking steps to improve its operations. The company has always been known for its obsession with cutting costs and is always in search of ways to automate jobs to reduce labor costs. This can be seen in its attempt to introduce “smart assistants” so that their employees would have more time helping customers. 

Even though this initiative was scrapped after the pandemic occurred, it does not mean that the retail giant has stopped looking for ways to use automation in its stores. In fact, Walmart has been innovating and expanding its technological capabilities to improve its hourly workers’ efficiency and quality of service. 

In this article, we will discuss the ways in which Walmart has changed the retail scene and how it has transformed the experience for its hourly workers.

Increase in Technological Advancements

Walmart is constantly investing in automating its business including installing more self-checkout equipment and increasing its investments in its grocery-delivery business. In addition, the company is also experimenting with robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual and augmented reality to improve quality and efficiency for shoppers and reduce labor overhead. Many companies like Amazon, Target, and those relying on data handlers have made the move to use AI to tackle these routine tasks, with a guarantee to reduce human error. More importantly, it can also help to enhance the quality of training their hourly workers receive. 

Associates’ Training

In 2018, Walmart incorporated the use of Virtual Reality (VR) into its employee training and development program to upgrade the training experience of its associates. With the use of VR, learning becomes more experiential which boosts employees’ confidence and knowledge retention. The three areas in which Walmart is using VR are - new technology, soft skills such as empathy, and compliance.

Before the new Pickup Tower units were installed in Walmart stores, the company utilized VR to train its employees in managing operations with the new units in place. One thing’s for sure, the training definitely helped to engage them and instill confidence, as they were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, all while being in a safe environment.

Business Operations

When Walmart introduced the concept of shelf-scanning robots to help ensure stock availability and accurate placement and pricing of items, many were in awe at the utilization of such state-of-the-art technology. Fast forward almost two years later, the retail giant decided to withdraw these robots as they might be more of a hindrance in the customer’s point of view than anything else. And since more customers are buying online in the current pandemic, having the workers collecting orders and doing the same inventory checks is as effective as using the robots. It could be a cost-cutting measure, or an attempt to protect the brand’s image - we can only speculate.

But Walmart’s technological innovations did not stop there. To increase their efficiency and make the job easier for their workers, Walmart established the Intelligent Retail Lab, or IRL for short, to explore the use of AI and how it can contribute to enhancing the store experience. In IRL, Walmart uses a combination of cameras and real-life analytics to automatically send associates notifications whenever a particular item has run out. This greatly saves time when it comes to stock replenishment, and most importantly, employees need not comb through the whole store just to ensure that the store’s stock is sufficient. And this is just one way Walmart is using AI to streamline its operations.

The key takeaway here is this - technology can simplify repeated and mundane job tasks. This allows employees to focus more on customer interaction or even adding creative ideas to the displays, things that typically require an added human touch.  

Essential Changes 

Needless to say, integrating technology into operations will also inevitably add on more responsibilities to each employee. Now that most of the simpler tasks are automated, Walmart has also modified store jobs for hourly workers to take on more complex duties, one of which includes ensuring that the store meets visual standards. As the company equips its employees with more skills, this allows them to also support others who want to take some time off or just need more help during busy shifts. 

This added responsibility might raise some questions. For one, do these hourly associates get more pay? Will they have a higher chance of growing their career in the company? Absolutely! In 2021, Walmart announced that these hourly roles will receive a raise that will increase their average pay to above $15/hour. For team lead roles, the wage can go up to $30/hour. Hourly associates also have the opportunity to grow their career in Walmart should they possess the relevant skills needed. In fact, there are many cases in which entry-level associates climb up the ranks to eventually serve as store managers.  

Summing Up

Technology has definitely allowed Walmart to transform the retail scene and bring out a better experience for its hourly workers. As these automations eliminate certain mundane tasks, they are able to focus on other responsibilities that require more compassion and creativity. With the improved conditions Walmart is setting up for its hourly workers, it’ll be no surprise if the company builds a reputation for prioritizing employees’ experience and satisfaction.

Did you know that automation can be used in your recruitment process too? With the proliferation of technology, you can now streamline your hiring stages by utilizing smart screening or even automated scheduling. At Workstream, we provide an array of automated hiring tools that will help you get the best employees you deserve! Book a demo with us today to find out how we can best meet your hiring needs.

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