Unilever has 149,000 employees and therefore has to deal with any issues that arise from the changing nature of work. The company is investing in artificial intelligence and robotics for its factories, negotiating with unions, hiring gig workers, and restructuring its workforce to be more suitable for digital commerce. organizations who find themselves in circumstances analogous to Unilever’s typically think that the only way to fix the workforce is by making drastic cuts- for example, by transitioning some employees into consulting work, or by reducing hours or benefits.

Unilever does not think that simply exchanging goods and services is the best way to do business because it doesn’t take advantage of other possibilities and can be harmful in the long run. The company is not willing to trade profitability for workforce security. Its vision is to make sure that investors earn more money than they would with similar investments in other companies, and it competes in the area of online sales and digital technologies. Although Paul Polman’s time as CEO of Unilever was marked by tension, he showed that having a clear purpose can help reduce workplace tensions and create conditions that are ideal for growth. The company’s focus on purpose will help it adjust more quickly and profitably in the future.

Doubling Down on Purpose

Unilever expanded their scope of purpose from sustainable brands to include sustainable workforce relationships because they believed that work was constantly evolving.

The speed of change in workplace skills requires that companies move to “higher ground” with employees.

Digital skills in both offices and factories need to be updated or renewed at a much quicker pace than was necessary with prior technologies. Unilever plans to hire people who are open to learning new things and who align with the company’s values. The purpose is the main thing that employees should focus on because it will produce stable work relationships and a workforce that is capable of change.

Purpose will help attract younger talent.

Studies show that millennials care about having a purpose at work. A survey on LinkedIn found that 86% of young employees would be willing to sacrifice title and compensation to work at a company that aligned with their values or mission, while only 9% of Baby Boomers said the same. Furthermore, people of all ages cherish the ability to accomplish their personal goals and professional aspirations.

Purpose can guide hard decisions.

Young people today also expect companies to be consistent in their actions and will voice their displeasure when they feel that a company has acted inappropriately. The recent walkouts at big tech firms over military contracts are an example. Unilever believes that by incorporating purpose into workforce management, it will encourage innovative approaches that will help it face its most challenging moments. When executives are facing tough staffing and HR problems, they can look to company values for guidance on how to proceed in a way that reduces the likelihood of negative consequences.

Connecting Purpose and Work

Unilever is still working on making its talent strategies more sustainable, even though it has made some mistakes in the past. But it has identified several key lessons.

Purpose starts with the individual.

It may sound like a paradox, but in order to create a shared purpose, individuals first need to understand their own reason for being. Workforce management is different from other initiatives because it is mostly determined top-down. Leaders at all levels are responsible for executing the brand promise to consumers, but senior leaders have the final say in what brands are represented. Embedding meaning in workforce renewal requires employees to decide what they each want in the future, which is something that Unilever believes in.

Purpose requires interacting with individuals at scale.

In 2009, Unilever began the Unilever Leadership Development Program in order to help senior executives find their own purpose and use that to guide their work. Over 400 executives have participated in the program. Unilever’s successful leadership development program has been expanded to include all levels of employees.

It wasn’t possible to have a four-day workshop for senior leaders that would be feasible on a large scale, so the company rolled out a one-day version that can reach all employees in their countries and native languages. In the summer of 2021, almost 60,000 of them (40% of the workforce) will have “discovered their purpose” through these workshops. Unilever is committed to reaching everyone—even hourly staffers. Many new employees today find that, when they meet members of their team, the first thing they do is share their purpose.

Purpose guides all worker arrangements, even contracting.

As companies move away from the traditional 40-hour work week, they are increasingly relying on gig and remote workers to fill critical needs. Unilever’s first experiences with the gig economy were not very complex. Although many managers needed to be pushed to even consider non-full-time employees for tasks, a few had experience with gig-work platforms such as Catalant and Momlancers. Unilever needed to adapt its internal procedures to accommodate the fact that gig workers expect to be paid more quickly than the 60-day-plus terms typical among consumer packaged goods companies. But the company is persevering. Over the next five years, the company has identified more than 80,000 tasks that need to be performed by a combination of full-time employees, gig workers, contractors, and people working flexibly.

Purpose guides workforce reductions.

Unilever will have to make some tough choices when things start moving too fast and it becomes necessary to lay people off in order to stay competitive and earn good financial returns. Some employees may find new forms of work with new technologies, but not all employees will. That’s why they’ve created a new campaign to celebrate how people are managing in the face of the pandemic and the things that really matter. Unilever remains committed to celebrating how people are managing in the face of the pandemic and the things that really matter.

The company has had to close a lot of plants in its 100 year history. With the shared goal of “not doing this the old way,” and 21% of its employees based in Europe (where trade unions are generally more powerful than in other parts of the world), Unilever first teamed up with its European Works Council (which represents its European employees) to co-create a framework for the Future of Work in March 2019. They decided to work together to improve skills building, new employment models, and skills-enhancing employability programs and set aside money to help with the project. The principles of the agreement have been spread worldwide through Unilever’s Responsible Transformation program.

If you can find what it is that you’re passionate about in regards to work, you can have a much more fulfilling career. Physical and emotional well being as well as motivation levels are increased by exercising.

In the coming years, Unilever will face a challenge that could jeopardize its existence: how to maintain its status as a purpose-driven company while transitioning its workers to a time when some of their skills may become obsolete. The leaders are humble and know that some future decisions won’t work out. They also know that some actions to make the workforce more sustainable may not be effective or could even have negative consequences. The company’s Board has decided to reorganize itself along three divisions—Foods,Home Care, and Personal Care—where previously it had been organized geographically. But Unilever’s board has now decided to reorganize the company into three divisions – Foods, Home Care, and Personal Care – instead of by geography. The company believes that focusing on its purpose will help build a workforce capable of overcoming whatever obstacles the future holds.


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