Woolworths Group is investing $50 million into upskilling, reskilling and redeploying its team over then next three years, as it is increasingly impacted by the pace of industry disruption and technological change.
The ‘Future of Work Fund’ will help around 60,000 of Woolies’ employees to skill up in digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics over the next three years.
More investment is planned to train workers in advanced customer service skills, as well as team leadership and adopting more agile methods of work.
And, though the training program is to be created to suit Woolies’ needs, the knowledge gained through the initiative will be shared across the retail and other service industries to help other upskilling programs.
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said, like many industries, retail is changing at the fastest pace in decades and that while they are largely positive changes, it also impacts the way employees work on a day-to-day basis.
“What our people do in 10-years’ time will almost certainly be different from now,” Banducci told SMH.
“Over time, our team members will do fewer manual and repetitive tasks, and more work that requires judgement, creativity and interpersonal skills. That’s an exciting prospect on many levels, but it also creates uncertainty.
“As Australia’s largest private employer, we want to lead this transition and ensure no team member is left behind by the wave of change we are all riding.”
Woolies employees over 200,000 people across Australia, and expects to employ many more as it continues to grow over the next decade, potentially in roles that may not exist today.
The supermarket’s fastest growing role in 2020 was the personal shopper – a role that didn’t exist in 2009, but in 2020 employed 25,000 people according to Banducci.
Key areas of upskilling will be seen in the supply chain, where workers will be trained in technical knowledge to deal with robotics and automation, to be redeployed elsewhere in the group, or to support a career outside of the group; in store operations, where workers will be trained to better serve customers in-store, as well as assist with e-commerce growth; and in store support.