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An open letter to Woolworths’ David Guise

Human resource, Young businessman holding white billboard with a question mark on it and waiting for job interview,An open letter to Woolworths’ director of HR, David Guise, on the retailer’s struggles to maintain its key executives.

I have long been sceptical of some human resource departments. Danger signs include what they are called. When one finds titles such as ‘group people & development manager’, it is a worry.

It is therefore refreshing to see that you are simply referred to as ‘director of human resources’ at Woolworths.

There is only so much that a human resource director can do within an organisation and I am sure you are doing your utmost to keep the ship sailing despite the loss of several executives and the fiasco right at the top.

When the resignation of your CEO was made known in June last year, it was announced that he would ‘retire’ from the company no sooner than late November. Of course, he is still there, and you must be tearing your hair out realising the effect that this is having on morale, especially amongst the more senior staff.

It is unclear to what extent you are responsible for succession planning, but I am sure you will concede that seven months is a bit of a stretch to find a replacement CEO.

Now a survey of one is not much to go on but it may be symptomatic of some rot lurking beneath the bedclothes. In response to an article that I wrote a while ago regarding Woolworths, I received the following email (I received the author’s permission to publish his comments without mentioning his name):

I worked with this company for seven years. Don’t quote me, but this article has hit the nail on its head. It has lost 60 per cent of its talent; I left like many others.
Top heavy to the extreme. Zero management and zero leadership. So many bluff masters running the place; it desperately needs a clean out. People who actually care, challenge and deliver are shafted and the non-value adding plain talkers and storytellers flourish. It’s amazing.
Hope things change for those incredible silent workers who give their blood and guts for not much return. Just wanted to share my thoughts.
Have a good day.

While I am sure that the comments are somewhat exaggerated, I would value your reaction to this email David, although I appreciate that this will not happen.

In my experience, sentiments such as those expressed above are rarely those of a lone wolf, and I would be curious to hear from any other employees or ex-employees of this organisation – in strictest confidence, of course. If you are in doubt which company this refers to, I will advise on request via email.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702.

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