Woolworths said on Monday its Future of Work Fund will help upskill, reskill and redeploy team members impacted by industry disruption and technological change - and also underpin the launch of an online learning platform to offer team members easily accessible training, apprenticeship and mentoring support across Australia.
The key technical focus areas for training will be in digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics, with further investment planned for advanced customer service skills, team leadership and agile ways of working.
Woolworths says the Fund is expected to support training for more than 60,000 company team members over three years across its store and e-commerce operations, supply chain network and support offices.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: “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.
“The Future of Work Fund is designed to equip our team members with new skills and capabilities that will not only serve their career well within Woolworths, but across a number of industries.”
Woolworths says that over the coming months, the fund will formalise partnerships with key learning institutions and other stakeholders to ensure it takes an integrated and holistic approach, and while the program will be built for Woolworths’ needs, the knowledge will be shared across retail and other service industries to help support economy-wide upskilling and training programs.
“In 2021, we’re the proud employer of more than 200,000 Australians. Despite a wave of technological change ahead, we truly believe we’ll have many more people working in our business by 2030,” Banducci said.
"Where they work and what they do will change. There will be a much stronger emphasis on service and personal interactions with customers, which will be good for customers and our business.
“We want to bring our team with us as we strive to build a better tomorrow, and ensure Woolworths continues to play an essential role in the future of work in this country.”
Key funding areas announced by Woolworths include:
Supply chain: Funding for reskilling existing team members to take on technical and supervisory roles with robotics and automation in new distribution centres. Funding for team members impacted by the planned closures of Minchinbury, Yennora and Mulgrave sites by 2025. This funding will enable team members to pursue redeployment in the group or training (including vocational) and upskilling to support a new career outside of the organisation.
Store operations: Woolworths to fund service training for tens of thousands of team members over the next three years to focus on differentiated service and improved in-store theatre for customers. Woolworths will increase its focus on e-commerce, customer service and in-store experience as more and more tasks are aided by technological advancements. Woolworths to hire and train thousands of new online team members to assist with e-commerce growth.
Store support: Woolworths will upskill team members in support functions on agile ways of working to deliver better end to end decision making. Woolworths will also fund training programs for team members to upskill on advanced analytics, so it can make best use of emerging technology.