Walmart will give 740,000 employees free Samsung smartphones by the end of the year so they can use a new app to manage schedules, the company announced Thursday.
The phone, the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro, can also be used for personal use, and the company will provide free cases and protection plans. The phone's retail price is currently $499.
Employees will only be able to use work features on the new Me@Walmart while on the clock, the company said. "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," the company said.
"We believe it's the first of its kind in the retail industry."
Up until now, associates at Walmart stores used handheld devices they shared to communicate, but an initial test with employee smartphones was received well and will now be expanded upon, Walmart said.
Scheduling, push-to-talk with employees, signing into work by phone and a voice-activated personal assistant are all features of the Me@Walmart app. In the coming months, the company plans to add a feature that will help shorten the time it takes employees to get items from the stockroom to the sales floor.
"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," Walmart stated. "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."
The company promised that it would not have access to any employee's personal data and can "use the smartphone as their own personal device if they want, with all the features and privacy they're used to." The test will be expanded by the end of the year, Walmart said.
Earlier this year, Walmart announced pay increases for nearly a third of its U.S. workforce of 1.6 million. In February, digital and store workers saw their starting hourly rates increase from $13 to $19 depending on their location and market.