Developing a team fit for growth
Sustainable, profitable growth can only be achieved if the right people are working in an organisation that is fit to win, underpinned by a culture in which performance is always aligned with values. We are increasingly an agile, flexible and diverse business with people who are motivated by doing good while doing well. We are building capability and leadership among our people and are attracting some of the best talent in the market place.
Our business strategy is called ‘the Compass’. First developed in 2009, it sets out our ambitious Vision and Purpose, and defines four ‘Winning with’ pillars within the business that will help us achieve both. One of our ‘Winning with’ pillars is ‘Winning with people’. This is because developing and retaining the right quantity, quality and diversity of people is crucial to our growth strategy.
In 2009 we launched our ‘talent and organisation readiness’ assessment programme. This helps ensure our people have the right skill sets to manage the business through a period of growth. We are assessing those areas of the business most crucial to our strategy and whether we have the right talent, organisation, skills, culture and capabilities. Where we identify gaps, we focus on:
- changing organisational structures
- revising our recruitment strategy and approach
- reviewing our retention schemes
- improving core processes such as decision-making
- focusing on culture and employee engagement
- using development and training programmes to build capability levels.
In 2010 we rolled out this programme across our business. By the beginning of 2012, talent and organisation readiness assessments had been conducted across the business. These assessments have given us important new insights and are now fully integrated into our core business planning and HR processes.
Having built our understanding of gaps in talent, during 2011 we focused on strengthening our ability to recruit the right people to build our business and set ourselves the goal of becoming the employer of choice in a number of markets. We also worked on developing a strong talent pipeline for the senior roles in the business, as well as a way to measure that the right people were in the right roles.
Investing in learning
Much of our training is now delivered online through our Learning Management System (LMS) which offers learning programmes in more than 20 languages to nearly 130,000 employees in over 100 countries. The system provides around 7,600 e-learning modules.
All employees with corporate intranet access have a ‘learning passport’ that enables them to manage their own skills development, while at the same time allowing us to drive specific training that is strategically or legally required. For example, during 2009 and 2010 we targeted training programmes for sales representatives in China and Russia. During 2011 over 95% of our managers completed the first of a new set of modules on our Code of Business Principles.
In early 2011 we formed the Unilever Learning Academy (ULA). This brings together all our major functional academies (Marketing, Supply Chain, R&D, Finance, HR, IT, Customer Development) with our Leadership Skills and General Skills teams to share best practices and to adopt common processes and standards for learning. The Academy also provides career skills maps for all our functions, providing employees with a clear understanding of their development journey and access to the tools they need to build a successful career.
Our vision of creating a sustainable business is motivating for employees, but it is not always clear how they can apply it in practice in their roles. So we integrate sustainability into existing training and have created bespoke training too. For example, new brand managers engage in a week-long sustainable marketing challenge during their foundation course.
In support of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we intend to increase the number of training programmes that are delivered virtually. This helps reduce the need for air travel. We also intend to introduce new learning resources which make the most of social media and mobile technology to deliver training.
A particular challenge for 2013 and beyond is to build our understanding and capability on sustainability. Over 6,000 people have completed a Unilever Sustainable Living Plan e-module. In future we will embed sustainability into our core training for business functions.
We are committed to the growth of our people throughout their careers, and to ensuring that leadership skills in particular are developed at every level of management. Leaders who are authentic, inspiring, and share our values will become ever more important to the future success of our business.
In 2010 we introduced a flagship programme, the Unilever Leadership Development Programme (ULDP), specifically to align the personal development plans and careers of our most senior leaders to our Compass strategy and vision. Since then many of our most senior leaders have participated in the programme.
The Programme is delivered with the active participation of our CEO, other members of the Unilever Leadership Executive, and with contributions from Harvard Business School academics. It also brings back Programme alumni as coaches. The success of the ULDP has led to a deeper partnership with Harvard Business School who are using it as a model for their MBA programme.
Our Four Acres training and leadership development facility in the UK continues to provide high-quality training opportunities for our senior leadership and others. In 2011 we broke ground on a new leadership development centre in Singapore – called Four Acres Singapore. Scheduled to open in mid-2013, the facility is running a global curriculum to drive excellence and commitment to leadership development and sustainability. It is supporting our talent development efforts in Asia, a region where we are likely to see much of our future growth.
We put great effort into engaging with employees to find out whether they understand the company’s mission and their role within it, what their views of Unilever are and what they believe needs to change to achieve our ambitions.
We gather feedback from our employees through our biennial Global People Survey (GPS) covering all our employees, and through interim Pulse surveys of all our managers.
Over 114,000 eligible employees participated in the GPS 2012 survey, representing an 87% response rate. Our engagement score of 75%, up from 73% in the 2010 GPS, is now in line with the scores of high-performing employers in our class.
Other key aspects of the survey also showed good progress: scores rose by 5% for people management, and by 4% for performance culture, bias for action and diversity. We believe that our Sustainable Living Plan and our values are significant factors in keeping employees fully engaged in our business – and therefore driving performance.
We will run our next Global People Survey in 2014.