Cotton On Group, known for its fashion clothing and accessories across eight lifestyle brands, is one of Australia’s largest global retailers. The company employs 20,000 team members across 1,500 stores in 22 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S., and the U.K., as well as countries in South America and Southeast Asia.
By partnering with UKG, Cotton On Group has achieved remarkable results, including:
To manage its large global workforce, Cotton On Group had been using 32 different systems or processes to handle time and attendance, payroll, HR, and recruiting. This situation created issues for managers at all levels in gaining a local, regional, or global view of the workforce, and provided no visibility into the wage spend until after each payroll period ended and team members were paid.
Team members had no visibility into their time and what they had earned until they saw their pay slips. Payroll was an intensely manual process, with payroll team members entering their names, payroll ID, and location into the system. Compliance was a concern, resulting in manual checking of payroll and manual intervention to make sure team members were paid correctly. Team members also could view their schedules and apply for leave only at their store’s central computer.
With Cotton On’s legacy time and attendance system approaching its end of life, the company searched for a solution that could meet the needs of its global business.
In its search for a new solution, Cotton On evaluated three solutions, and teams at all levels ― senior leaders, area managers, store managers, and team members ― participated in solution demos and then scored the solutions.
“The choice of UKG came down to their fit into Cotton On’s Aussie culture and understanding of the retail landscape,” said Natalie McLean, Chief Retail Officer at Cotton On. “We felt there was good cultural alignment and that UKG had a longstanding presence in Australia, which led us to want to partner with them.”
In Australia, Cotton On leveraged the UKG® Australia team to implement the solution. The rollout took place in stages. They conducted an initial pilot with a small number of retail stores over six weeks and then, being confident with the solution, completed a series of launches across the company’s 600 stores in Australia before moving on to a global rollout. In the U.S., the company used the expertise of local U.S. UKG specialists to ensure the solution was configured to comply with individual states’ complex labour regulations.
Strong executive leadership on the project was critical to its success. During UKG solution training, McLean was involved in calls and video messages that were shared during cascade-down trainings. Each week during the 10-week digital training program, area managers were trained on an aspect of the solution, and they, in turn, trained their team members on that week’s activity. This digital format enabled team members in multiple countries to be trained at the same time.
The UKG workforce management solution is currently used by approximately 18,000 Cotton On team members in 16 countries and applies nearly 100 different pay rules. The solution interfaces with Cotton On’s human capital management system and payroll vendors.
“The choice of UKG came down to their fit into Cotton On’s Aussie culture and understanding of the retail landscape. We felt there was good cultural alignment and that UKG had a longstanding presence in Australia, which led us to want to partner with them.”
Natalie McLean, Chief Retail Officer
A range of Cotton On team members use the solution, across all retail and distribution team members, with a mix of part-time, salaried full-time, and casual team members. Retail team members use the solution ― including the mobile app ― to view their schedules, punch in and out, make open shift requests, complete shift swaps, request time off, and apply for leave. Casual and some part-time team members also enter their availability to work.
In Australia, more than 92% of team members are using the mobile app on their own devices, and about 55% of team members worldwide are using the app on their own devices and another 37% are using a company device. Team members find the mobile app intuitive, with many of them learning how to use it on their own.
“The mobile app has increased team member engagement and improved team member experience,” said McLean. “They have visibility into their time and schedules, can pick up extra shifts where they’re eligible, and can manage their schedule from anywhere, at any time.”
The scheduling process has been streamlined as well, with managers no longer needing to fax or email the schedule variations of part-time team members to payroll. With this process automated with the UKG solution, Cotton On has seen a 30% increase in schedule variations.
Another important focus is compliance. The UKG solution helped Cotton On respond quickly to new compliance legislation during COVID, including contact tracing and government assistance programs. In addition, the solution has supported compliance with the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) in Australia by automating the pay calculations of salaried team members who punch in and out in the solution, ensuring they are paid adequately for their time. Team members also attest daily in the solution that they have taken their required breaks, helping to ensure compliance with this regulation.
In New Zealand, the company is using the UKG solution to automate handling “Mondayized” holidays for eligible team members, creating significant time savings for payroll team members.
The company has realised a number of other benefits with the solution. Visibility into real-time workforce data has led to a reduction in overtime. “We definitely experienced the benefits of improved visibility, and could even identify future overtime,” said McLean.
Using their wage dashboard data view, managers can see their team members’ wage spend daily, to understand how wages are being used. “The visibility into wage spend from a reporting perspective has had a significant impact,” added McLean. “The business can now make informed decisions at any point in time and to effectively use wages and be more productive with how they are used to deliver a better customer experience.”
In some locations, Cotton On has multiple brands in separate shop fronts. The UKG workforce management solution enables the company to share team members across brands, supporting flexibility in appropriately scheduling stores.
In the future, Cotton On is looking to engage more of the optimised scheduling and forecasting capabilities as well as strategic workforce planning and expand use of the solution’s Data Hub functionality to dive deeper into the organisation’s workforce data ― and leverage it with other internal solutions ― for even greater insight into its business.
“The UKG solution has unlocked visibility into the wage spend, automation of tasks, diving into accurate information, and effectively building schedules,” said McLean. “And we have greater team engagement with the mobile app, and improved security and compliance, ensuring we are paying people correctly. These were the key principles of this project, and we’ve checked them all off.”