Woolworths invests in skills for tomorrow

Date : 11 February 2021

Nick Miles

Head of Insight - Asia Pacific

Woolworths has announced that it will invest more than AU$50m over the next three years in training its teams to have the skills and capabilities they will need for the future.

Preparing its team for the future of retail

The investment, called the Future of Work Fund, will look to 'upskill, reskill and redeploy' its team members in the face of industry change and technological advances. Area's highlighted by the retailer include; digital, data analytics, machine learning, robotics, advanced customer service skills, team leadership and agile ways of working. As part of the process the retailer will launch a new online learning platform, which will make its training more easily accessible all over Australia.

Training across all aspects of the organisation

Woolworths hopes that the fund will help train over 60,000 team members over the next three years, across its stores and online operations, supply chain and support office functions. This will include:

  • Stores and online - ensuring its store operations focus on differentiated service and improved in-store theatre. Hiring and training thousands of new online team members to support growth in the channel. Plus, ensuring ecommerce, customer service and in-store experiences are aided by new technology. 
  • Supply chain - reskilling staff to deal with robotics and automation in distribution centres. Plus, supporting team members impacted by distribution centre closures over the next few years, either supporting them to redeploy within the company or gain new skills to find a new career elsewhere.
  • Support offices - training staff in more agile ways of working and better decision making, this will also include upskilling the team on advance analytics, so that the retailer can make better use of the data made available via the emerging technology.

Change is happening faster than we have seen in decades 

Woolworths Group CEO, Brad Banducci, commented, “Around the globe, retail is changing at the fastest pace we’ve seen in many decades. Technological advances in automation, predictive analytics, AI and cloud computing are making core retail processes much faster and more efficient than ever before. While these changes push our industry forward for the better, they’re also changing the nature of the day to day work many of our people do. That’s an exciting prospect on many levels, but it also creates uncertainty. As Australia’s largest private employer, we want to lead on this transition and ensure no team member is left behind by the wave of change we’re all riding."

Retailers will invest more in partnerships to drive organisational change

Retail is changing and the global pandemic has if anything accelerated this change. Retailers are using more technology across their businesses, as well as investing in this themselves they are using partnerships to drive this faster. Woolworths will use partnerships to build its new training programmes over the coming months, rather than doing this all themselves. As processes are being automated by technology and more decisions can be made using AI, the roles within retailers are changing. For example, Woolworths employs 25,000 personal shoppers across its stores, with this being the fastest growing role in the business. As customer expectations increase, retailers and suppliers will be expected to put a stronger emphasis on service and personal interactions than ever before.