Walmart Gives Free Smartphones to All Workers

The new technology means convenience for store employees and consumers.

June 08, 2021

Walmart Employee with smartphone in his hand

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart is launching Me@Walmart, a new workplace app that allows associates to schedule shifts, clock in, troubleshoot daily tasks and, eventually, replenish products more efficiently, the retail giant said in a blog post.

By year’s end, more than 740,000 of the retailer’s almost 1.6 million U.S. workers will receive free Samsung Galaxy smartphones, along with a case and protection plan. Associates can only use the new app’s tools while working, but they’re free to use the device for personal use.

In a blog post, Drew Holler, senior vice president of people operations, and Kellie Romack, vice president of product and associate experience, Walmart, said the move reflects retail’s rapid evolution and the need to retain and satisfy associates.

The company introduced a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy in 2018 that invited workers to use various workplace apps on their personal phones. Walmart’s new Me@Walmart app consolidates numerous activities onto one platform, including scheduling shifts, clocking in to work and communicating with other workers through a “push-to-talk” feature much like that of a walkie-talkie.

Workers can also use “Ask Sam,” a voice-activated personal assistant that answers work-related questions ranging from product locations to sales metrics. And according to the company, workers will eventually be able to use an augmented-reality feature on the app to scan multiple boxes in store backrooms, which should speed 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 said in the blog.

Providing new smartphones to Walmart employees will improve efficiency and make the retailer appear as an attractive place to work, though privacy concerns may make workers wary of the program. Walmart addressed these concerns in its BYOD initiative, noting that while it can view specs like battery level, phone number, operating system and carrier, it can’t view personal data like web activity, personal emails and photos.

The company received a positive response when testing the phones earlier this year. "We are now expanding the test and will continue to evaluate to make sure we’re providing our associates with the best tools to do their jobs," Holler and Romack noted in their post.

“As retail continues to evolve—and quickly—it’s more critical than ever to equip our people with the tools and technology they need for success,” they wrote in the blog. “Doing so makes work easier and more enjoyable, and it keeps the focus where we need it most—delivering a great in-store, pickup and delivery experience for our customers."