Exclusive Interview with Tanya Eales – Group Head of People Services for Woolworths

1. Ctanya-woolworthsan you tell us a little more about yourself and your role at Woolworths?

I am the Group Head of People Services for Woolworths, we are about to  celebrate our 1st anniversary of our new function here in Queensland, although we have had state based operations in the shared services space for roughly 4 years.  I lead operations across four Service Delivery streams with about 250 team members: Talent Acquisition and Development, Advisory and ER, Payroll, Reward and Benefits.  I also have responsibility for a service effectiveness team that supports our HR model end to end including systems support, process improvement, service and vendor management, performance standards, budgets, reporting and workforce analytics.  My day to day role involves leading these large teams, talent and planning, meeting workforce demands, problem solving and systems implementations.   A major component of this new shared services model was our HR transformation for the business as a whole.  A 20 year old payroll system, 14 HR systems – none were integrated so we have set about changing this.  To date we have transferred 175,000 people into our new Payroll and HR systems and we have 10,000 Logistics team members left to go.   In the course of setting up a large new venture like this I feel more like a business leader at times than a HR Leader.  Although our function is HR, I am leading a large team and a cost centre that supports a broader national HR function.

I recently celebrated 30 years of service. I started with Woolworths in operations in Perth, I had plans to go to university and become a nurse but I thoroughly enjoyed the business, the industry and the customer focus.  I have worked across every brand and in four Australian states

  1. What are you focused on right now?

Year 2 is about embedding our operational model and looking at enhancing efficiencies.  We have learnt a lot over the last 12 months and now we need to focus on our systems efficiencies, our systems road map and process improvement.  We want to make life easier for our line managers and our employees.

Our new HR operating model is about to move into it’s second year as well, the focus is about “one HR”.  Everyone across the HR function has been focussing on their individual areas of our new operating model and now we are putting the “one HR model into practice”.

  1. How is the role of the HR function within Woolworths responding to the current aims and challenges of your business?

A huge focus on customer and how we deliver service to them, especially in our food and drinks businesses.  We are reviewing our operating models to ensure we have the right team members undertaking the right tasks that deliver maximum value to our customers each and every day. The talent agenda is also prominent, do we have the right talent at the moment and what will we be focussing on from a talent perspective in the future?

We have lots of change in our business units and their operating models are changing too, so with our new CEO reviewing our core operating models it means we are all working with transformations in our businesses.

  1. What do you see as the main challenge that the HR function faces in the future?

Definitely Talent.  Having the right team at the right time in the right roles.  We work in a highly competitive industry, how are we continuing to develop our team members, how are we creating the right opportunities for them, what are the skills we are developing for today and for tomorrow.  We need to consider roles that may be crucial for us in the future, some of these roles may not be present in today’s employment market.  We need to adapt to meet changing customer expectations in our industry.  A large focus is on getting the best people and developing our talent pipeline to help the business succeed. Everything we do needs to have the lens of the customer across it.

  1. What key characteristics do you look for in HR professionals when recruiting for your team?

We have done a fair bit of this over the last 18 months and for me it is around leadership and culture.  If people have the ability to lead and are a cultural fit, we can develop the additional technical skill set.  I like my team to be open to coaching and learning.  It is our role to engage our teams and create an environment which allows everyone to shine and be the best version of themselves.

  1. What is the best career advice you have ever been given?

Two pieces of advice come to mind:  don’t be afraid to take opportunities despite feeling you are not 100% ready for them – you will make up the shortfall with your ability.

Secondly, be consistent.  Don’t be a different person at work than who you are in your personal life.  Be authentic, bring the whole you to work and live by your mantra.

  1. What do you love most about your role?

My team, absolutely.  We have achieved some amazing things together, we have fun and we are looking forward to future wins and achievements together. I also enjoy the variety that a shared service operation brings.  At one moment I may be reviewing budgets and forecasts, the next day it could be a talent review session with the team and the next, resolving a payroll incident or getting communications out to the store.  I love the company that I work with and the opportunities this presents.

  1. Best place or holiday destination you have visited?

Anywhere I get to relax and recharge with my husband.  That could be by the pool in the backyard, in Italy, New York or on an island off the coast.


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