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Problems related to Human Resources in Woolworths Supermarkets


Executive Summary

Woolworths Supermarkets is determined to be a retail industry that possesses a chain of supermarkets, located in Australia. The aims of the retail giants are to build a store and customer-led culture at the retail stores. Its utmost priority is to fulfill the requirements of the customers, developing attractive and newer means and pay heed to their opinions related to shopping. The company is extremely dedicated to generating loyalty programs for their consumers and constantly remain updated with their products and expanding a variety of options for the consumers to select from. However, the company faces various human resources (HR) related issues that affect their business to a great extent. Hence, the paper provided a research problem that presented the number of HR-related issues faced by Woolworths Supermarkets. It also provided an analysis of the potential causes for the issues based on HR theories and concepts. The paper helped in identifying the three main causes of HR issues and explained them in brief. It has been observed that all the three issues discussed within the paper are related to employees within the organization. Furthermore, based on that causes recommendations has been provided that would help the organization to deal with the HR related issues. It also discussed the implementation of the action plan based on the recommendations. Therefore, the entire paper is based on HR-related issues faced by the organization that hampers their workplace culture. Thus, it provided with the strategies that would be helpful in overcoming with such issues.


The problems faced by human resource (HR) managers are changing significantly related to industrial service management parameters and employee relation. Within the next few decades, it is expected to acknowledge extreme changes in its policies. Thus, it is the right time for the HR professionals and managers to play a significant role in dealing with HR related challenges by creating particular competencies to enhance these roles into their core attributes.It can be seen that the HR managers are required to accommodate employees into a virtual work location as well as develop ways to manage corporate culture as well as employee orientation. Based on the present situations the paper will focus on recognizing the issues created within the workforce because of the impact of HR issues in Woolworths Supermarkets. The issues would be analyzed and linked based on the facts and theoretical models. Based on the analysis the paper will discuss different techniques of negotiation to resolve the existing HR related issues within the organization.

Background of Woolworths Supermarkets

Woolworths Supermarkets is considered to be an Australian supermarket or grocery store chain that has been owned by Woolworths Limited. The company was founded on 5th December 1924, whose headquarters is located in Bella Vista, New South Wales, Australia. Mostly the company is well-known for selling grocery items but they also sell stationery items, pet and baby supplies, health and beauty products, DVDs and magazines in 995 locations all over Australia. Currently, the company operates 1000 stores all over Australia where it has 976 Supermarkets and 19 convenient stores that carry out the same logo (Woolworths Supermarkets - Woolworths Group. 2019). The total number of employee's works within the organization is around 115,000. The revenue of the company in 2018 has been estimated by A$56.726 billion. Woolworths together with Coles had developed a near-duopoly of Australian supermarkets that accounts for about 80% of the Australian market. From January 2017, around 99% of Woolworth's supermarkets are making use of green apple Woolworth's logo. Woolworths launched their campaign in 1987 namely "The Fresh Food People" which is a fundamental campaign that existed up to 2012. Woolworths Online which was known as "Home Shop" provides home delivery and click and collect services to its customers (The Woolworths Story - Woolworths Group. 2019). The stores of Woolworth's sells a variety of products where it provides goods to its customers in the cheapest price and avails money back guarantee.

Research Problem

Many difficulties and challenges are bound to be faced by a renowned organization like Woolworths. The problems are faced both by the employers and employees. But the problems need to be solved at the earliest to that the productivity does not get hampered and the healthy work environment is regained. The employees have to keep direct face to face contact with the customers in retail banking. So the organization must provide its employees with proper training so that such a workforce is created which is efficient in taking the responsibilities of the job. The main workforce involves in dealing with the customers and understands their needs (Pulker, Trapp, Scott & Pollard, 2018). But in these days due to an increase in the online sector, the face to face customer-client relation is affected to a large extent. As a result, maximum people are not taking up job in the retail sector. The selection of employee is the major drawback faced by the human resource department. In maximum cases, the employees quit their job when they find a better opportunity. The company spends a lot much time and effort to train their employees how to carry out their job in a decent manner but when the employees leave their job the company faces loss. The clients are comfortable to converse and discuss with the known and familiar faces but if the employees keep on quitting their job it is really a great disadvantage for the company. When new employees join and customers come up with some issues they feel uncomfortable to approach which ultimately leads the company losing their most valuable clients. Some hard situation faced by the workers such as they have to work for a longer duration, they are paid low, cutting of bonuses, and they are given no holidays (Harrington, Warren & Rayner, 2015). In fact, they are not provided with opportunities to grow. Thus they refuse to give their best to the organization. During the time of festivals, it is seen that the regular employees take leave as a result of which customers decrease as they do not find employees around them to help and assist. It is difficult for the organization to retain their employees for longer hours mainly during the festival times so drag is seen in the customer footfalls as the employees are not around to help them.

Another problem arises when the customers who belong to different religions and backgrounds cannot understand the sign language and instructions on products. Thus the organization loses some of their valuable customers. Another crucial problem faced by the employees is that they constantly remain in a fear that the might be fired. Thus an additional responsibility arises for the human resource department is that they have to work harder to motivate the employees that those are rumors and they must not pay heed to such rumors and keep to giving their best as long as they are working for the organization. These employees leave the organization and join other competitor organizations (Grimmer, 2018). The excessive increase in work pressure has increases absenteeism towards the Woolworths supermarket. Moreover, the greater employee strength has left the organization. Discrimination and bullying of employees on basis of caste, creed, religion, gender etc. has created problems. Recently a problem aroused in Woolworths supermarket when the customers had to leave their shopping mid-way as checkouts were unable to process sales for an hour due to some technical failure. Form a renowned organization like Woolworth's such behavior are not expected. The technicians and staffs must be trained properly by the HR to avoid this type of situation in near future (Allen, 2017). The number of employees must be increased and efficiency must be increased so that delay in the checkout of a product is avoided.

Analysis of the potential causes of the problem

The first issue based on legitimate work demand in the manufacturing unit in Woolworths has called for a strike. It can be seen that this specific situation is not only occurring in Woolworths but also in various organizations across the world. In the current difficult situation, the Unitary Theory based on Industrial Relationship created a unified loyalty structure or authority to the management for controlling the unfavorable situation (Zarkada-Fraser & Fraser, 2015). The role of the unitary theory is to place the perspectives of the organizational participants as a team by focusing on a common destiny, shared values, and shared goals. Thus, the theory aims to maintain industrial peace by eliminating unnecessary conflicts.

On the other hand, the second issue is based on employment discrimination that hampers the working culture of the organization. The Conflict Theory based on Industrial Relationship focuses upon the employee'saspiration and their different values that potentially conflicts with the management decisions. The theory helps in resolving the critical situation through collective bargaining and agreement (Price, 2016). Thus, the company has to be a follower of Conflict theory that helps the group of employees to influence management decision.

The third problem faced by the company is the improper job design. It can be seen that the present issue of job designing, a coordination, and supply chain management of the employees related to the commitment made by the company is connected directly with the System Theory based on Industrial Relationship.Every organization must develop its systematic approach to influence the functional and structural sociology of the industrial relation. Based on the perspective of the theory the company is needed to introduce a range of systematic description of the production and rule-making governing (Cascio& Boudreau, 2016). With the help of this theory, Woolworth could balance the social system by developing an extraordinary system of industrial relations.

Cause A

Workplace strike due to lesser compensation

In the factory outlet of Woolworths manufacturing unit, the Human Resource (HR) managers face problems related to employee unrest and strike because of unpaid bonus scheme and lesser wages. It has been observed that violence among the paid and unpaid employees are growing enormously. For Woolworth's managing HR related issues becomes a significant challenge for the HR managers.With the organization, the call for fair working system becomes a major HR into Industrial Relationship. For example, the fair work demand of Woolworths Australian branches has made a call for strikes in the manufacturing unit on 30th May 2015. Hence, the HR personnel fails to meet such demands because of dilemma among their own actions and principles presented Woolworths management (Albrecht, Bakker, Gruman, Macey & Saks, 2015). It has been noticed that most of the manufacturing organizations are specifically driven by competitiveness and market pressure because of management priorities more on the total quality and continuous innovation management within the market. However, in order to achieve the target, the organization cuts fewer additional bonuses from the workers.As a result, it generates payout issues among the workforce that leads to striking (Hollenbeck & Jamieson, 2015). Hence, this problem is faced by the HR personnel of Woolworths Supermarkets because of the supremacy of the management and change in the power relations. Therefore, it becomes a difficult task for the HR managers to balance both employees and the management.

Cause B

Workplace bullying and employment discrimination

Bullying occurs within an organization because of unreasonable behavior that takes place significantly from the management upon the group of workers that creates a serious risk to the health and safety of the employees. The administration of Woolworth's production unit frequently changes the overtime schedule, leave balances and roster off schedules of the employees to maximize the profit margin based on a particular situation (Onkila, 2015). It intentionally creates inconvenience for the workers. Within the manufacturing unit of the company, the managers discriminate women employees from male employees and assign more than 38 hours of work schedule per week. As a result, the women employees are forced to leave their job as it becomes unable for them to continue. Such types of workplace bullying have called for a strike within the company and this has led to a significant loss for the manufacturing unit along with its productivity (Maheshwari& Vohra, 2015). Presently, on 30th May 2016, a call has been raised by the employees of Woolworths for the working hours that is to be overlaid by 38 hours in a week. It can be seen that the challenges of unpaid workers and highly paid employees are raising the situation because of workplace bullying initiated by the workers.

Cause C

Job Design
Job design is regarded as the process in which the tasks are mixed together to form complete jobs. The employees within an organization are motivated by using job design principles that lead to successful completion of the tasks. The HR department of Woolworths recruit the employees for a particular job and appoint them in different stores.Although employees at Woolworths stores are appointed there does not possess any kind of induction programme that would guide about their responsibilities (Schneider, Wickert& Marti, 2017). This unavailability of induction programme puts a negative impact on customers as well as achieving the satisfaction of the customers. The employees at Woolworth's losses interest or get exhausted by constantly performing the similar task regularly. The branch manager of the company fails in designing the job for better utilization of labor force due to lack of supply management system and lack of cooperation among the stores. The employees also lack in making quick decisions or control needed during the operations (Stone, Deadrick, Lukaszewski& Johnson, 2015). Such types of issues influence the productivity and quality of the staffs working within the company. The current staff of Woolworths is made to perform for long hours by giving limited off due to lack of employees.


Recommendations to address the identified problem
In order to overcome HR-related issues faced by Woolworths, job design and job analysis are essential as it develops motivation among the workforce. This is determined to be a better option for casual workers and full-time workers (Boddy, Miles, Sanyal&Hartog, 2015). The company is required to modify career pathways for the employees so that they remain within the company instead of seeking options outside the organization. It has also been recognized that the organization must adopt appropriate negotiation technique to accomplish the actions taken by the workforce. Therefore, collective and distributive bargaining process could be applied to enhance the effectiveness of the negotiation of the overall process of industrial relations. In order to avoid employees to choose other organizations to work for. Hence, the departments of HR requires to be focused while hiring employees (Hossain & Mahmood, 2018). The organization must recruit such employees who are equipped with good conversation skills. It is essential for the company to develop a rapport with the consumers as the overall retail sector is related to the customer-client interface. The company must efficiently to promote a sensitive cultural environment for the workers so that the employees may execute their work with a spirit of teamwork. Therefore, a good human resource department must promote stability to avoid the unfavorable economic condition.

Recommendations to address the cause A
Issues related to lesser compensation could lead to a long-term production issue that may put a great impact on brand profitability. In order to deal with this issue, Woolworths enhance pay scale increment that would reduce employee grievances related to the management. This could also improve the overall productivity of the company to a great extent. Additionally, the company must adopt a rewarding attitude that will motivate the workers to improve their performances by working hard (Javad, 2018). Appreciated and acknowledge employees would be highly interested in giving their best. The organization must avoid the distasteful condition of incentives and growth by doing a commitment to the needed values that is to be developed among the employees. The adoption of these value cultures would restrict the call for a strike due to low compensation. The company must make strategies to implement compensation plans where the wages of the employees must be increased by at least 2.7% to 3.0% (Collings, Wood &Szamosi, 2018). Woolworths must consult a compensation consultant who will be the partner of the company to implement anemployee retention strategy for paying employees fairly and competitively. This would help in reducing turnover costs and retain valued employees. By following the above steps the organization could begin a solid process for equity that would increase the program and planning.

Recommendations to address the cause B
Workplace bullying and discrimination can affect staff morale, lead to stress, can have a high impact on the health of an employee, increase turnover of staffs and damage relationships which in turn can affect productivity and profit. It ultimately damages the reputation of the organization and the person whose behavior is questionable (Burke & Morley, 2016). It is the responsibility of the employer to set the example of what norms and conduct are acceptable in a workplace. A work culture can be created in such a manner where all people are respected. Appropriate policies can be put in place to reduce employer liability in case of any inappropriate behavior. Health and safety of the workers in the workplace as far as is practicable reasonably can be ensured by the employer. It is also the responsibility of the worker to take care of their own health and safety and they have to make sure that their acts do not have a negative impact on other people's safety (Fulmer &Ostroff, 2016). If it is safe and comfortable one can calmly tell the other person, object and stop since they might not realize the effect their behavior is having on somebody and the feedback can give an opportunity to change. If no change happens the matter must be immediately reported to the higher authority. The person who is facing the problem may seek advice from another person such as supervisor or manager, human resource officer or health and safety representative to help in working out as early as possible.

Recommendations to address the cause C
It is strongly recommended to Woolworths that the manager must make use of proper job design that makes the job challenging, interesting and meaningful.Job design plays a significant role in managing operations effectively.The store manager of Woolworths must implement various programs that would help in enhancing their employees as per the environmental condition and their skills (Cleveland, Byrne & Cavanagh, 2015).They must divide the staff as per their requirement and needs of the task with appropriate planning. This would be helpful for the store in providing proper time for the particular job and utilization of labor. These are determined to be the psychological components of job design that focuses on various factors that provides job motivation and satisfaction. It has been observed that motivation is the major factor to run the business effectively and smoothly. It is because as compared to less satisfied staffs monetary employees would perform better (Kim, 2017). The company improves its job design as the employees seek to continue their employment at the organization where they can interact openly and freely with every aspect of management. This would not only be beneficial for the organization but also for the employees. Therefore, it is highly recommended to the company to implement the designing service process such as customer contact matrix and service matrix.

Action/Implementation plan

Based on HR related issues Woolworths must design a change program that could determine a wide range of plans for the company. Determining the fact it has been observed that developing the reasons for making improvements becomes necessary prior to implementing a change methods in the strategic HRM process. Therefore, an assessment strategy is required to involve for the enabling of the change process that could be implemented in Woolworths Supermarkets (Guerci, Radaelli, Siletti, Cirella& Shani, 2015). To implement the change program the company must follow the following steps such as,
• Defining the vision and future mission of the organization
• Identifying advantages and disadvantages of the plan
• Establishing the knowledge base based on the impact of the change program
• Recognizing the causes of the change program
• Evaluating and creating a strategy
• Demonstrating the plan to the workforce
• Ask the workforce to participate actively in the change program
• Developing an enabling atmosphere and making use of the enabling tactics
• Pretest the program by involving the labor union
• Ultimately, implementing the action plan after getting affirmation of the union

Therefore, the feasibility of the entire change plan could be assessed effectively with the help of following steps. Maintaining a consistent Industrial relationship with the present workforce that will prove to be beneficial factors of Woolworths.

Implementation of recommendations for cause A
As Woolworths Supermarkets is dealing with the issue related to employee relationship, involving the worker union may prove to be a beneficial strategy for the organization. The evaluation and appropriate mapping of the change strategy may support the management to analyze the possibility of the framework (Fabi, Lacoursière& Raymond, 2015). The changes in the HR policies involves job-related activities and compensation that requires proper communication with the workers before the process of implementation. Therefore, the communication of action plan will prove to be a successful technique for Woolworths. The implementation of this plan would be useful for the management to recognize the involvement and upcoming threats comes from the employee's side (Bashshur&Oc, 2015).To implement value culture, Woolworths must make norms, values, and beliefs of behavior shared by the organizational employees. The company must implement core values that would help Woolworths to increase their pay scale of the employees to control the factor that calls for a strike. Implementation of value culture needs changing the mindset of the employers related to the compensation of the employees.Woolworths is in need to implement employee retention strategy by orientation and onboarding, creating mentors programs, employee compensation, identification and reward systems, work-life balance, communication, and feedback (Thunnissen, 2016)..

Implementation of recommendations for cause B
Effective control measures must be implemented, monitored and reviewed. Some of the actions include:
• Regular consultation with the workers and health and safety representatives to see if there are any factors which can increase the risk of bullying at workplace
• A proper workplace bullying policy rather a code of conduct standard must be set
• Implementing and designing safe working systems by clearly exhibiting jobs. The workers must be provided with proper resources, information, and training which will help them in carrying their work safely
• Procedures must be implemented so that workplace bullying if seen is immediately reported and responded (Bakker, 2017)
• Through better management practices and effective communication productive and respective workplace relation should be developed.
• Proper information and training on policies and procedures on bullying at workplaces must be provided and check what are the available support, help, and assistance in such a scenario
• If necessary The Australian Human Rights Commission also investigates and resolve complaints (under federal law) of bullying and workplace discrimination
• Creating and posting antidiscrimination policy by experts keeping in mind that no anti-discrimination policy will be paid heed until and unless concrete action is taken against any wrong activity (Ulrich &Dulebohn, 2015)
• Top level management must see that if benefits are to be given each and every employee must avail the same benefit
• According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission illegal to discriminate any employee on the basis of race, color, religion, origin, marital status or disability. If such a case is observed it must be immediately reported
• A work environment must be created that is free of employment discrimination

Implementation of recommendations for cause C
Based on the recommendation it can be said that the organization must adopt new programs such as customer contact matrix and service matrix. These programs would be helpful in improving the job design of the organization. Improving the job design would not only satisfy the employees but also fulfill the needs of the customer. In order to implement the programs, Woolworths must adopt a well-functioning process that would provide proper services to the employees and the customers (Jabbour& de Sousa Jabbour, 2016).This particular programs would also improve the designing process of Woolworths service. In order to implement proper job design the organization must follow the following steps given below:
• Review existing data and literature related to job descriptions
• Interview store managers to understand their roles and responsibilities
• Interview the employees who are currently doing the job within the organization
• Mention the job description including the observations and findings
• Motivate employees to execute the job individually

Considering the issue of improper job design the operations management research of Woolworths seeks to adopt operational antecedents of profitability and service quality, utilization of vendor-managed inventory (VMI) and forecasting techniques (Shen & Benson, 2016). It has been observed that the organizations that possess a better operating system to facilitate proper service. The implementation of a customer contact matrix is effective in determining the degree of standardization. In this particular system, contact with the customer is removed for better accuracy that enables the customers to purchase the products by their own from the self-checkout counters (Sanders & Yang, 2016). Therefore, the management of Woolworths requires self-checkout counters where the employees would guide the customers to purchase products.

Woolworths is the biggest name in the retail sector in Australia which has thousands of employees the main purpose of which is serving customers across the world. The primary purpose of the study presents the current Human Resource Management (HRM) of the company Woolworths Supermarkets. While going through the paper it is identified that three major HRM related issues of the organization which is low pay, strike at workplace, bullying, and discrimination of employees, and improper job design. The critical analysis of the theories such as System Theory, Conflict Theory and Unitary Theory have been assessed. To implement the organizational structure of workflow a program change with various steps has been designed. Without employees, the organization cannot exist. A work environment which is sophisticated is the most important matter. In order to retain customers the basic requirements of the people at the grass root level must be taken care of. An employee friendly network should be carried out. This will help in increase in the level of performance leading to betterment of the organization. Finally to achieve the desired goal by the company an action plan which is potential should be implemented keeping the main focus on the strategies adopted.


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