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Woolworths Transforms HR, Delivers High-Performance People Strategy with SAP SuccessFactors

July 12, 2016 by Susan Galer

Woolworths Ltd. has experienced phenomenal growth since the retailer was founded in Sydney, Australia in 1924 on the premise that every person needs a handy place where they can find affordable, quality products.

Today 198,000 employees in 2,700 locations serve over 28 million customers each week. At the same time, Woolworths was challenged by complex, manual, aging human resources (HR) processes that threatened its ability to sustain growth. The company began an HR transformation program to help achieve its vision of “great people delivering high-performance in the best place to work.”

The goal was to eliminate complex paper-based processes so that HR could better support the company’s four primary focus areas: talent, leadership, organizational effectiveness and employee recognition and rewards. Alison Merner, Head of HR Transformation at Woolworths, outlined the company’s high level people strategy during a session at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Conference, entitled, “Transform HR with a People Strategy That Delivers Business Outcomes.”

“In order for our business to stay ahead and meet customer expectations we implemented an end-to-end human capital management system, SAP SuccessFactors, to help achieve our people strategy,” said Merner. “We needed to simplify how we work in our organization, attract, develop and retain our talent, develop our leaders and find better ways to reward and recognize our employees for the contribution they make.”

Interestingly, Woolworths didn’t position this transformation as an IT project. It was focused on empowering managers to be accountable for the development of their people, providing employees with the ability to own and manage their careers, and increase two way communication across the business.

Self-Service Boosts Visibility, Access, Opportunities

Woolworths selected the SAP SuccessFactors Talent Management Suite and SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and Employee Central Payroll. Using the cloud-based software, now employees at all levels have real-time visibility into a single source of truth for master data throughout the company. This centralized view of pertinent information streamlines daily decisions about staffing and leave. It also provides employees with online records of objectives and performance that travels with them throughout their career at the company. Managers can quickly approve annual leave. Everyone can access learning and personal data in the system at their own convenience from a mobile device. Employees are empowered to pursue their careers with a centralized view of available jobs, along with their own talent profile searchable by managers looking to fill openings.

“We had a huge pool of talent within our organization, but we had no way of identifying where that talent was, or how to maximize that talent,” said Merner. “We also had vague processes. Moving to the cloud has allowed us to adopt standard processes for managing talent, and has given us clarity of goals and objectives for teams and business units across the organization to ensure that we’re aligned.”

Speed Lowers Cost

Lowering total cost of ownership (TCO) was also attractive to Woolworths, along with having local data centers for company information. “TCO is lower in the cloud and fixed across the life of the solution. And, speed to implement lowered the cost of our deployment, delivering outcomes earlier in the journey,” said Bernadette King, HCM Program Director at Woolworths. “The move to cloud and the innovation road map with quarterly releases from SAP SuccessFactors allows us to adopt those changes regularly.  Of course, compliance with international security standards is a requirement, and SAP SuccessFactors established a data center in Australia.”

Lessons Learned

Merner credits the relatively smooth transition to SAP SuccessFactors to effective change management and aligned senior-level team support. “If you tailor your change program to allow employees and managers to see what’s going to be good about it, they’ll be more than willing to adopt that particular change,” said Merner. “We also knew senior leadership sponsorship was critical. We needed to have senior people within the Woolworths organization, SAP, and our systems integration partner working closely in order to deliver this. They all sat on the governance committee so that as problems arose we were able to work as an overall group to find effective solutions.”

Moving to the cloud has allowed Woolworths to adopt standard processes for managing talent

Strong relationships and solid governance between Woolworths and SAP continue to pay off. These days, it’s not unusual for thousands of employees to use the SAP SuccessFactors system, whether people are submitting recruitment requisitions, leave requests or moving forward with performance goals. According to King, on some days half of that access occurs between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., proving the convenience value of cloud-based HR. With a high-performance culture in place, Woolworths is well-positioned to surge ahead for decades to come.

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