Walmart’s new workforce app provides a look into the future

Associates can clock in through the [email protected] app once they arrive at their store. (Image courtesy of Walmart)

To help its workers simplify some of their tasks and better manage their workflow, the nation’s largest employer is relying on a new tech tool: an in-house app that employees can use while on the clock.

Walmart is launching [email protected], a workplace app that allows its workers to clock in, schedule shifts, request time off, connect to and communicate with other workers, locate merchandise and troubleshoot daily tasks. The app was built in-house by Walmart Global Tech and applies technology like machine learning, augmented reality, camera vision and artificial intelligence to tackle problems.

“The idea of this app started as a way to manage associates’ schedules and has grown into our single in-store app for U.S. associates, saving them time and helping them be more efficient,” wrote Drew Holler, senior vice president, Walmart U.S. people operations, and Kellie Romack, vice president of product and associate experience, in a company blog post. The app also includes “Ask Sam,” a voice-activated personal assistant that answers a variety of questions, like merchandise locations.

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As part of the rollout, Walmart says it will provide Samsung Galaxy smartphones to more than 740,000 workers so they can access the app. Workers can also use the phone as their personal device if they choose to.

Related: In-depth: 7 big lessons from Spring HR Tech

According to the blog post announcing the initiative, workers at the retail giant eventually will be able to use an augmented-reality feature on the app to scan multiple boxes in store backrooms, speeding up the process of getting products onto store shelves. “Since piloting it last year, this patent-pending capability takes a third of the time than the previous manual process,” Holler and Romack wrote.

Walmart’s new app comes as more companies rely on tech to better engage and help workers. The move is especially significant as Walmart is the nation’s largest employer with roughly 1.6 million U.S. workers.

John Sumser

Industry analyst John Sumser, founder and editor of HRExaminer, says providing employees a single interface to manage the entirety of their relationship with the company—from timekeeping and scheduling to on-the-job execution—“is where work software is headed. The best employee experience is centered on the idea that employees should perceive one company, not multiple software interfaces.”

Sumser notes that the vast majority of an employee’s experience is the actual work itself. “The employee’s actual experience of HR is a minor sub-component of that overall experience. Apps like these that combine HR, learning, and elements of the actual work are the future of the company’s relationship with its team, particularly in the case of essential and customer-facing employees.”

Related: Learn more about work tech and how it’s changing HR at the HR Tech Conference this fall. Register here.

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