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Essay on Human Resource Management in Woolworths



Write a detailed essay critically evaluating the nature of human resource management functions of an Australian organization.


The essay brings about the discussion on the Human resource function i.e., Human resource management function, assessing the contribution of HR function towards facilitating organisations gain competitive advantage. The human resource function has slowly evolved to play a pivotal role in the modern contemporary businesses. Here, in this essay an Australian company, “Woolworths Supermarket” has been selected for the critical evaluation of the nature of HRM along and the relative organisational implications. The assignment will specifically focus on the current trends and practices in the approach to HRM in the selected organisation. Further, the arguments will be supported using relevant HR strategies, processes and tools to attain competitive advantage in the industry for a critical analysis of the HR functions. The effectiveness of HR functions will be aligned with the concept of SHRM (strategic human resource management). Thus, in the end the essay will explore the strategic role of HR function, contribution of HRM in practice, determining the growth and success of the organisation in longer period.

Human resource management is a central pillar of every organisation, provided with the HR department is responsible for performing a wide variety of functions. The core HR functions include recruitment and selection, directing, performance management, development, compensation, employee participation and communication, industrial relations and so on. In the current business scenario, managers are committed towards creating ‘consumerization of HR’ to fulfil the specific product or service need of the customer (Taamneh Alsaad and Elrehail, 2018). This is leading towards an increasingly changing and strategic role of human resource function, with the new trends and systems ensuring better working environment for the employees determining growth. Firms must ensure adequate compensation to their workers, and they must adopt advance approaches of human resource management, thus drawing the key principles of HRM to sustain competitiveness (Els, Grobbelaar and Kennon, 2018).

Founded in the year 1924, Woolworths is the Australia’s largest chain of supermarkets and grocery stores owned by the Woolworth group. The demonstration and critical evaluation of HRM will be carried out in context to the Woolworths Company in the following sections. Woolworths has experienced and developed human capital which is accountable for not a single role but for the multiple roles, along with the planning of other HRM aspects to make sure the completion of business operating needs (Woolworths Group, 2020).

HR function reviews the competent talent landscape of the organisation, and determine the best strategy to be aligned with the organisational goals and objectives; thus, leads to competitive advantage. Human resource managers in Woolworths play a vital role in recruiting and staffing the best candidate in the organisation, increasing their performance level; thus, contributing to organisational effectiveness. This will be further demonstrated, by gaining a comprehensive idea of the nature and characteristics of HRM in the supermarket (Walters and Helman, 2020).

The nature of human resource system in an organisation is to direct the efforts of individuals, enabling them to work together to attain organisational goals. HRM ensures sharing of the tasks, which fulfils the purpose of the organisation. This is attained by focusing on the developing and motivating employees to work with a team, ensuring their high commitment towards organisation. According to Griffin et al. (2020), development of HRM occurs at all the levels and departments of an organisation, determining the pervasive nature of the HRM. In context to Woolworths, HR managers play a significant role in performing various activities including identification of workforce requirement, and recruitment of individuals for the required job. Woolworths hires the best talent in the organisation based on their skills and competencies for the job. Besides, Woolworths aims at maintaining effective relationships with employees through positive working environment, and training programmes; thus, developing competitive advantage in the industry (Brewster, 2017).

Thereafter, HRM in Woolworths is a dynamic and continuous process, carried out at all the functional areas of management to attain innovation and excellence in the delivery of high- quality food products and other services. Thus, management of human resource is an important responsibility of the managers to ensure the alignment of HR systems with the business processes for accomplishing strategic goals of the organisation (Lin and Sanders, 2017).

Moving further, the essay will now identify Woolworth’s appropriate HR strategies, procedures and tools to attain competitive advantage in the retail industry. Woolworths supermarket implement various HR strategies for maximizing the potential talent of workforce, leading towards attaining a competitive position in the retail industry. These strategies include recruitment & selection, development, compensation, performance appraisal and succession planning determining efficient human resource practices (Brewster, 2017). One of the competitive advantages that distinguish the supermarket from other firms (competitors) including Aldi, Coles is the quality and freshness of products through excellent supply chain management. Woolworths attain competitive edge through execution of the product differentiation strategy (Pulker et al., 2020).

In the retail company, HR managers recruit potential individuals dependent on the merit, experience, skills and professionalism of the candidate. The organisation analyses the market situation including the demand and supply of labour, unemployment rate in the retail industry. Unemployment rate is the biggest factor influencing the recruitment and selection process, which is 6.2% of the Australian retail sector in the present year. The organisation optimizes recruitment through both internal (within organisation) and external sources of recruitment through employment exchanges, agencies, and advertisements, to ensure employee retention (Al Mamun and Hasan, 2017).

Ensuring adequate compensation to all the employees in the organisation is essential to motivate them to perform better, and provide maximum benefits to the business in terms of higher profits. Woolworths provide monetary and non-monetary rewards such as salary, incentives, promotions, career-growth opportunities and others to motivate and measure their performance aligned with the set objectives (Naidoo and Gasparatos, 2018).

Training and development lead to varied organisational level outcomes, developing specific competencies of the firm to create organisational knowledge for attaining competitive advantage. The HR management team at Woolworths identifies learning and development strategy as the core to the organisational efficiency and effectiveness in the long-term. The retailer invests funds in training and development of employees, through organising e-learning platform, to enable them access to the learning resources (Woolworths, 2020). Personal development processes, workshops, special projects, and other tools are designed to encourage employees to set goals, receive feedback on their performance and plan their careers working within Woolworths. Thus, Woolworths cultivate a culture of learning being committed to extend learning opportunities to bring effectiveness in operations and high customer satisfaction. This leads to enhanced customer loyalty of the firm, which is a vital source of competitive advantage (SAP, 2021).

HRM motivates employees to commit themselves to the goals and enhance their performance level, which positively correlates with the growth and productivity of the supermarket. The organisation, therefore implements performance appraisal methods as per HR norms, i.e., 360-degree approach. However, managers at Woolworths can implement management by objectives (MBO) for constant reporting and feedback in the procedure to meet objectives using available resources. It would build employee’s capacity and leadership skills to increase their creativity, and initiative in the organisation. This sets forth the basis for the performance appraisal and management of employees working in the organisation. Effective measurement of employee performance, will determine strategic efforts of the employees, facilitating attainment of organisational objectives (Lin and Sanders, 2017).

Furthermore, Woolworths supermarket adopt participative style of leadership as leaders encourage the participation and contribution from the group members in the decision-making activities of the organisation. Human resource management procedures describe essential processes and responsibilities of managers in respect to the recruitment, workforce management and development ensuring employee wellbeing (Wright and Constantin, 2020). The supermarket deploys the utilisation of several HRM procedures and tools such as SAP service, employee management tool, HRIS (human resource information system) and others to bring efficiency in managing human resource attaining competitiveness in the industry in terms of increased brand reputation. Thus, HRM strategies, procedures and leadership practices in Woolworths build a strong corporate culture, which assist in attaining competitive advantage (Neumann et al., 2021).

Human resource management (HRM) implies the application of management principles for managing the workforce of an organisation effectively. It is a strategic approach to the effective management of human resource, which facilitates the organisation gain competitive advantage. On the other hand, SHRM (strategic human resource management), is a managerial function performed by the line managers in the organisation. SHRM frame HR strategies in a way, to direct employees’ efforts towards the organisational goals (Delery and Roumpi, 2017).

The retail industry of Australia faces uncertainty and challenges due to emerging issues of job loss, lower consumer spending, increased volatility of the housing market. Other challenges faced by retail include retail price inflation, communication, sustainability, digital disruption affecting the operations within firm. Currently, Woolworths Supermarket is facing numerous human resource issues and problems confronting management regarding underpayment of the employees, and the redundancy in the job-role, affecting the efficiency of management system. Unrest amongst the employees, has led to violent acts, influencing the reputation of the firm. Retail sector encountered various challenges in the effective functioning to attain profit margins such as-

  • Attracting and retaining top talent in the industry.
  • Employee misconduct
  • Managing and securing HR documents across retail locations
  • Effective utilisation of new technologies, CRM database, electronic inventory control system, and others.

Discussing about statistics, Woolworths Supermarket has represented a rise in the sales growth rate from 10.7% to $16.5 billion, generating revenue reported during market analysis and forecast during 2019-2020 (Samwel, 2018).

Major trends in the approach of HRM in the Australian retail sector include changes in the customer preferences due to the shift in technology. Australian retail sector is indulged into hiring of individuals from different regions, and cultural background i.e., managers emphasize on workforce diversity. Other emerging trends include re-engineering work processes to improve productivity and others (Delery and Roumpi, 2017).

Organisational restructuring is one example of the changes in the human resource management pattern of the Australian supermarket company. Another example, is the increasing trend of individualisation of employment policies and decline in the recognition and role of trade unions. Woolworths supermarket has shifted their focus, adopting new patterns or approach to HRM i.e., strategic HRM rather conventional HRM. Changes in the workforce planning practices are another vital instance of the current patterns in the approach to Human resource management (Walters and Helman, 2020).

Essay will now critically reflect and evaluate wider organisational implications, analysing the contribution of HRM in practice with context to Woolworths Supermarket in retail industry.

The primary role of HRM is to oversee critical areas of organisational development including staffing and recruiting, defining employee roles, compensation and benefits and other practices.

Implementation of strategic HRM in an organisation impacts the collective efforts of the individuals towards accomplishing targeted objectives. Therefore, it impacts and contributes to the organisational performance, leading to outcomes such as employee performance, organisational commitment, and job-satisfaction (Griffin et al., 2020). Thereafter, SHRM framework in the organisation explicitly utilises people management to achieve HR outcomes productivity, and organisational outcomes such as return on investment (ROI), profit margins and share in the retail market (Regy and Malini, 2019).

Implications of the wider HRM practices, or strategies influences performance through organisational, financial, employee-related outcome. These outcomes are reflected as competence, employee cooperation with management, coordination amongst staff, indicating about the skills, commitment, attitude and behaviour of individuals. Leaders in Woolworths perform a crucial responsibility of motivating their staff through different rewards and benefits, which drives their commitment towards better organisational results (Sardi, A. et al., 2020).

According to Naidoo and Gasparatos (2018), it can be stated that different HRM-performance linkage models and other variables determine the significant impact of the human resource practices on the organisational growth. To reflect upon the critical organisational level outcomes, HRM contributes in the effective management and development of employees working in the organisation, which further increases organisational performance. Implications of human resource management practices are widely observed in the product quality and innovation capabilities of the Woolworths supermarket, which is a significant factor representing competitive advantage.

Consequently, vital contribution of human resource management (HRM) in practice has changed the scenario and working of the Australian retail industry. This is evidenced through the operational efficiency of HR managers at Woolworths, increased strategic role of managers and improved relations with the personnel and industrial members (Taamneh, Alsaad and Elrehail, 2018).

To conclude the above discussion, it can be stated that human resource system attains the requirements of the contemporary organisations. HRM practices are found to develop unique competencies and behaviour of the individuals, essential for the productivity and future growth of an organisation. The role of HR function contributes to overall organisational effectiveness, through brining efficiency in the practices carried out by managers. The assignment has critically evaluated the effective role of HR strategies, practices, and procedures in attaining flexible work practices through enhancing employee performance. Woolworths Supermarket is the most valued retail brand in the Australian market, wherein the HR managers reported positive reactions the new trends and patterns in the approach to HRM. The supermarket has established strong pillars of product quality, innovative services, and creating customer value through personalised services using lean retail model, attaining efficiency in operations. The essay illustrated and reflected upon the organisational implications and contribution of HRM in context to the Woolworths retail sector in the last section. Henceforth, Woolworths must exploit efficient resources to tap opportunities creative efforts of individuals for attaining competitive advantage in the growing retail industry.

Al Mamun, C.A. and Hasan, M.N. (2017) Factors affecting employee turnover and sound retention strategies in business organization: A conceptual view. Problems and Perspectives in Management, (15, Iss. 1), pp.63-71.

Brewster, C. (2017) The integration of human resource management and corporate strategy. Policy and practice in European human resource management, pp. 22-35.

Delery, J.E. and Roumpi, D. (2017) Strategic human resource management, human capital and competitive advantage: is the field ongoing in circles? Human Resource Management Journal, 27(1), pp.1-21.

Els, C., Grobbelaar, S. and Kennon, D.E.N.Z.I.L. (2018) Redefining the role of SMEs in value creating ecosystems: Evidence from case studies. 27th International Association for Management of Technology (IAMOT), pp.1-26.

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