Woolworths deploys SuccessFactors to activate high-performance people strategy

Woolworths HR

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With 198,000 employees in 2700 locations, and complex, manual and ageing human resources (HR) processes, Woolworths’ ability to sustain growth was under threat. Alison Merner, head of HR transformation, Woolworths, outlined the company’s people strategy and the HR transformation program implemented to achieve it during a session at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Conference in Orlando.

Aiming to eliminate complex paper-based processes, Woolworths implemented SAP SuccessFactors as an end-to-end human capital management system.

“We needed to simplify how we work in our organisation, attract, develop and retain our talent, develop our leaders and find better ways to reward and recognise our employees for the contribution they make,” said Merner.


Woolworths selected the SAP SuccessFactors Talent Management Suite and SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and Employee Central Payroll. The system now provides employees at all levels with a single, centralised view of master data, streamlining daily decisions about staff and leave.

Other benefits are employees having access to online records of objectives and performance that follow them through the company, managers being able to quickly approve annual leave, and universal access to learning and personal data from mobile devices. Employees are encouraged to further their careers within the company through a centralised view of available jobs, and personal talent profiles which are searchable by managers looking to fill openings.

“We had a huge pool of talent within our organisation, 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.”

From the IT perspective, lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO) was also attractive to Woolworths, as well as holding company information in local data centres.

“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, Woolworths. “The move to cloud and the innovation roadmap 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 centre in Australia.”
According to King, it’s not unusual for thousands of employees to use the SAP SuccessFactors system, and on some days half of that access occurs between 5:00pm and 6:00pm.

Project success factors

Importantly for the project’s success, Woolworths didn’t position this transformation as IT-driven; rather as business-focused, enabling managers to be accountable for the development of their people, giving employees with the ability to manage their own careers, and increase communication across the business.

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 organisation, 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.”

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