- Sports and outdoor lifestyle apparel retailer evo has launched an extended reality (XR) training solution for employees at its Seattle warehouse facility, according to a Nov. 20 announcement.
- The training will use technologies including 360-degree virtual reality video and augmented reality to familiarize staff with the layout of the facility and train them on critical processes.
- The retailer plans to use the training to prepare for the Black Friday shopping season, ahead of which the Seattle facility's headcount will triple from its normal headcount of 50 full-time staff members, per the statement.
Virtual reality and similar technologies are increasingly showing up in mainstream learning and development programs thanks in part to adoption by high-profile firms like Walmart. Similar to evo, Walmart launched a VR training platform ahead of the 2018 holiday season to prepare store employees for crowded stores and loud customers.
Part of the appeal of the technology is its adaptability. The company's provider, Pixvana, previously implemented training solutions for cruise ship wait staff that can be used without an internet connection, a helpful feature for a workforce operating in remote parts of the world. Similarly, evo's solution will be able to simulate several of the chain's store locations for employees, Spencer Earle, the company's director of operations and technology, said in the statement.
"Our HR department is excited to do some empathy training, and our customer service and retail teams can get consistent training on how to engage with an unhappy customer," Earle said.
Employers, especially retailers, typically bring on additional seasonal and temporary workers to help meet holiday demand. But this wave of hiring can pose a safety risk, especially if new employees lack experience in a retail environment. Nonfatal incidents in retail facilities were one contributing factor to the first stagnant nonfatal injury and illness rate among U.S. workplaces since 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 2018 marked an eight-year high for slip, fall and trip injuries in retail.
More efficient training methods may help HR keep up with hiring increases, but both managers and workers will need to be familiarized with guidelines to ensure a safe work environment, one workplace safety attorney previously told HR Dive. On and around Black Friday, employers also must ensure they're following laws around scheduling and overtime pay, which may vary between jurisdictions.