Opportunity

From Football to Retail: Virtual Reality Debuts in Associate Training

Inspiration can come from surprising places. Take college football, for instance.

You’d probably never guess that one of Walmart’s newest training tools got its start from an associate watching the University of Arkansas football team practice. But that’s exactly what happened.

Brock McKeel, senior director of central operations, saw how the athletes were interacting with the virtual reality (VR) technology during practice, putting them in real-life scenarios to test their skills and reactions. He talked with the team and one of the coaches – all confirmed VR had helped them improve performance on the field. After seeing the university’s success, Brock had an idea: This could easily be applied to our Walmart Academy training for store associates.

Imagine you’re a new Walmart store manager and you’ve never experienced a Black Friday. Wouldn’t it be helpful to understand the dynamics of such a busy day before you ever had to actually manage your associates and customers through it?

Using the same technology as the football team, we incorporated VR into 30 academies and we used it to train our associates to handle situations from the everyday, like managing the fresh area, to the rare, like Black Friday.

VR allows associates to experience a lifelike store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to recreate disruptive incidents or disturb the customers’ shopping experience.

Ultimately, everything associates do is geared toward giving customers the best experience. Through VR, associates can see how their actions affect that. It’s helpful for associates to see mistakes in a virtual environment and know how to deal with them before they experience it in real life and don’t know what to do.

From our test, we’ve seen that associates who go through VR training retain what they’ve learned in those situations better than those who haven’t. Because of the promising results, we’ll be rolling out this training to all 200 of our Academy facilities by the end of 2017. That means, the over 140,000 associates who will graduate from academies each year will have VR as an integral part of that experience.

“When they said we were going to be using VR for training, I thought it was brilliant,” said Sean Gough, Academy facilitator at our Broken Arrow, Oklahoma store. “From cashier to lawn and garden, to electronics or fresh – there are just so many areas where I think this training would be so helpful.” As we test and learn from using this technology, we’re sure to find more and more ways to apply it.

When Sean first tried the VR training, he was able to virtually transport to another store and see how they were running things. It gave him a different perspective, which he felt would be great for store managers to experience. As a manager, you don’t usually have time to travel to other stores to see how things are done, but this technology would allow them to travel to a store across the country without even leaving their own store.

“I feel really proud that Walmart would invest so much in training, particularly at the level they have,” Sean said. And he is proud to play a part in this investment. As an Academy teacher, Sean helps others be leaders and experts in customer satisfaction. He enjoys seeing the associates he’s taught pass on that training, because this helps create futures for others.

Sean sees a great sense of pride from the people going through his Academy. As associates see all of the technology and enthusiasm we put into making them better, it encourages them, makes them feel good about their job – feel good about working for Walmart. Sean commented, “I think people leave my class thinking 'Walmart cares and they take care of me.'”

What’s so great about using VR? Well, it’s really easy to use – as easy as using a smartphone. It creates a passion about learning because we’re trying something new. And associates are better able to retain what they’ve learned.

Yeah, it’s cool. But it actually works. And it’s all thanks to a little football.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Take a ‘Topeka’ the Mars Candy Factory in Kansas

When you open a package of M&M’s and pour the colorful candy-shelled chocolates into your hand, you may not give much thought to where the candy was made.

Neither did I, until I had the chance to meet some of the people who create these delicious little treats at the Mars Wrigley Confectionery in Topeka, Kansas.

The Topeka facility specializes in creating filled M&M’s ─ like the brand-new M&M’s Caramel, as well as Snickers candy bars. Next year it will add Twix candy bars to the list. And they’re adding 70 new jobs to help take on the expanded production. Over 95% of Mars Wrigley Confectionery products sold in the U.S. are made locally by the company’s team of over 5,000 associates working across 12 domestic sites. More than 300 associates work at the Topeka facility.

Walmart is proud to work with companies like Mars Wrigley to bring locally-made products to customers. That’s why we’ve committed to buy an additional $250 billion in products through 2023, creating new jobs across communities like Topeka.

Check out this video to meet the people who make your favorite candy.

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Opportunity

These Vets Helped Each Other - Now They Pay it Forward

For veterans leaving the military, transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge, but Jarred Crabtree and Jeff Kowalik are determined to make it a little bit easier.

The two met in the U.S. Army, where Jeff was Jarred’s lead drill sergeant in basic training. An injury sent Jarred home earlier than he’d anticipated, but the two kept in touch over social media. When Jarred learned his former drill sergeant was leaving the Army, he knew he had to reach out.

Jarred had made the transition from military to civilian life twice before. After a time in the Army and seven years in law enforcement, he had become a market manager for Walmart’s Oklahoma City stores. He was still at Walmart when he rejoined the Army and met Jeff in 2010.

“When I injured myself, it was devastating,” Jarred said. “But the group of veterans when I came back was so supportive, I immediately felt better – like I could put all my energy and skills back into my job here.”

After 18 years in the Army, Jeff was medically retired and having the all-too-common experience of struggling to find...

Posted by Walmart Today on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jarred wanted other veterans to experience the same kind of support and community he had, so he invited Jeff to come tour one of his stores in Oklahoma City, where they had several developmental co-manager positions open.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better for the role,” Jarred said. “I remembered Jeff’s leadership skills and his ability to lead diverse groups of people. He had the skill sets we needed.”

During his 18 years in the Army, Jeff had never had to look for a job. “When you leave the military, you have to remember how to do everything again,” he said. At Walmart, Jeff had to learn a new lingo and a new role, but he said it goes hand in hand with what he learned in the military. “The leadership, how hard you have to work, the service – there’s an honor behind what you do here.”

Jeff and Jarred are passionate about having other veterans join their teams at Walmart. They know the value veterans bring: professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, problem solving and ingrained leadership skills.

“If you want a job, all you have to do is come apply. You don’t have to start at the top, but with dedication and hard work, you’re going to move up,” Jarred said. “There’s so much opportunity, and it’s not just on the sales floor. With all the positions we have, whether it’s in operations, support, merchandising – when people realize what’s available, they’re amazed. You can lead people, and that’s what Jeff and I get to do every day.”

Now, Jeff mentors his team members at Walmart and in the broader veteran community. He works with the Veteran Support Foundation, which supports various veteran projects across the country, including helping homeless and disabled service members. He also maintains the veterans’ appreciation board at the front of his store, a photo display that recognizes associates who have served in any of the military branches.

“There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that ties you together,” Jeff said. “When I came to Walmart, it was extremely heartwarming to know I had someone like Jarred, who was also military and also a leader above me who I could learn from.”

Jeff and his family have since moved to Houston, where he’s a co-manager of a Walmart supercenter, and his wife Jennifer is an assistant manager at another supercenter nearby. Meanwhile, Jarred was promoted to a director of implementation and sustainment. That means he’s now the main point of contact for Walmart’s central division of stores to ensure they’re operating successfully. But both veterans are taking what they learned and continuing to encourage other veterans around the country.

“Don’t give up,” Jarred said. “That’s the biggest message I’d want to get across to other veterans: there’s something out there for you. Ask questions. Don’t just apply online – come visit the store. Come talk to us, because you’ll find more people like me and Jeff who want you working with us.”

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Life

12 Days, 12 Ways We’re Helping You Holiday Easier

Eggnog, inflatable Santas, bath bombs, video games – ever feel like the shopping list will never end? No matter how you want to shop – whether in our stores, on our apps or online – we’re here to help. For the next 12 days, we’ll highlight different ways to nail every detail of the holidays so you can rock this Christmas.

Day 6: Save time using grocery delivery

Don’t let a frantic holiday schedule leave you with an empty fridge. When you’re pressed for time or worst of all, can’t make the trip, our delivery service in select cities will bring groceries and more straight to your door. Place an order on Walmart.com and a driver will retrieve your items and escort them to your home. It’s another way we’re helping you shop when and how you want.

So, give it a try - enter your zipcode here to see if this service is available in your area.

Day 5: Shop millions of online items across our brands

We’ve expanded the Walmart family a lot over the last year, which means you have more shopping options than ever at Walmart, Jet.com, Hayneedle, Shoes.com, Moosejaw, Modcloth and Bonobos. Find just the right item for everyone on your list, or check out Jet's Uniquely J line of everyday goods and keep your home stocked for the holiday season.


Day 4: Voice order items on Google Home

“Hey, Google, add baby wipes from Walmart to my cart.”

“Alright, your order history has 500-count Parent's Choice Fragrance-Free Baby Wipes. I can get it from Walmart on Google Express for $8.97. Should I add that to your cart?"

That’s right: shopping just got easier than ever with Google Home's virtual assistant, one of this season’s hottest items. The voice shopping option, coupled free two-day shipping and the Pickup Discount, makes getting what you need at low prices effortless. And just in time for the holidays, when you buy your Google Home or Google Home Mini from Walmart, you can receive up to $25 off when you link your Walmart account to Google Express. Think of it as a little Christmas present to celebrate all your hard work this season.

Day 3: Get groceries quick with your own personal shopper

Our certified personal shoppers are time savers and miracle makers. They have a passion for people, products and exceptional service. Need veggies for dinner tonight? Milk for breakfast tomorrow? With Online Grocery Pickup, our expertly trained associates are standing by in more than 1,100 locations, ready to select the freshest items on your list. Choose from more than 40,000 items and we’ll do the rest. Best of all, we offer same-day service with no price mark-up, no subscription and no fees. Santa's elves will even load your car.

Day 2: Shop millions of items on Walmart.com

We've tripled our assortment on Walmart.com as compared to last holiday season. What does that mean for you? More than 70 million potential gifts for your family and friends alongside the essentials you need every day, from paper towels to hot new electronics and great deals on smart TVs. Best of all, Walmart.com continues to offer free, two-day shipping — no membership required.

Day 1: Use the Walmart app to power through your to-do list

What can you do on the Walmart app this holiday season that’ll save you time and money? Just about anything. Shop for dry groceries, reorder everyday items, refill prescriptions, transfer money, even send last-minute gifts. For quick help, search an item in-store to find the aisle number, or check out featured items to get gift ideas for your family and friends. Even Santa isn’t this good!

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Business

We’re Updating Our Legal Name to Reflect How Customers Want to Shop - Here's Why

Today we announced that we are changing our name from Wal-Mart Stores to Walmart. Why the change? Because of our growing presence as a retailer who serves customers no matter how they choose to shop.

Most of us, and I’d guess all our customers, refer to our company as Walmart and still will. Changing our corporate name from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., to Walmart Inc. is just a symbol of how customers are shopping us today and how they’ll increasingly shop us in the future. Whether it’s in our stores, on our sites, with our apps, by using their voice or whatever comes next, there is just one Walmart as far as our customers are concerned. When they shop with us, they expect it to be an easy and seamless experience.

Changing our corporate name to Walmart is a way of better reflecting our company’s path to win the future of retail. It’s also a bit about returning to the company’s roots. You might be surprised to learn that, when Sam Walton opened the first store in 1962, the name on the front of the building was simply, “Walmart.” A few years later, we incorporated as Wal-Mart, Inc., and amended the name to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., when we went public in 1970.

For our associates, while our new legal name removes the dash, we’re not planning to change the Walmart cheer. Getting our blood flowing and choosing not to take ourselves too seriously is still part of our culture. It’s important to have some fun at work, so for our associates in countries where your cheer calls for the squiggly, keep doing it!

We began with great stores and steadily expanded to include clubs and distribution centers. In 1991, we became a global retailer when we opened our first international location in Mexico City, and we launched Walmart.com in 2000. Today we operate under almost 60 different banners around the world, including eCommerce sites, and have more than 11,600 stores and clubs in 28 countries.

Now, we are focused on strengthening stores and clubs around the world to make sure customers continue to have a great experience every time they walk through the door. At the same time, we’re also building our eCommerce and digital capabilities, and we’re putting them together in a way that makes every day easier for busy families. Sam Walton said, “To succeed in this world, you have to change all the time.” He wouldn’t have known that customers in the future would shop on their smart phones or with their voices, but he did know that retail would continue to change. He taught us that, and that for a company to succeed, it has to be agile and innovative.

Even though our corporate name has changed, what won’t change is that Walmart will be there for customers—saving them money and time and helping make every day just a little bit easier.

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