the-strategic-importance-of-human-resource-management-a-case-of-unilever.jpg Table of Contents
1. Introduction 4
2. Background of Unilever 4
3. Unilever Mission and Vision 5
3.1 Mission of Unilever 5
3.2 Vision of Unilever 5
3.3 Unilever Values 5
4. Leadership and Management Structure of Unilever 6
5. The Functional Units in Unilever 7
6. Human Resource Functions in Unilever 7
6.1 Recruitment 7
6.2 Maintaining a Safe Environment for Work 8
6.3 Employee-Employer Relations 8
6.4 Compensation and Benefits 8
6.5 Compliance 9
6.6 Training and development 9
7. Strategic Value of Human Resource Management to Unilever 9
8. HRM Challenges facing Unilever 10
8.1 The Challenges 10
8.2 Potential Solutions 11
9. The Future of Human Resources in Unilever 12
10. Recommendations for Unilever HRM 12
11. Conclusion 13
References 14


I. Introduction

Modern businesses no longer consider human resource as a support function in the business but rather a functional area that supports the business in the general attainment of the strategic objectives of the business. According to Lim et al. (2017), the human resource management unit of the business is considered a productivity unit in modern business. This means that the department should have a strategy and strive to be productive through adding value to the business like all the other units in the business the human resource management framework should also consider the increasing trends of business management through delegation, changing employee demographics, changing technology in business, and other factors that affect the employees and their ability to deliver, which makes the role of human resource management increasingly challenging and demanding (Brauns, 2013). As a result, strategic human resource management as discussed in this research paper is critical in the success of human resources hence the success of the entire organization.

2. Background of Unilever

Unilever is a British-Dutch transnational company headquartered in London in the United Kingdom and operating across the world. The company has over 400 brands of products that are sold in over 190 countries across the world, which makes it one of the largest fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies in the world (Basak, 2016). The company was formed in 1929 as a merger of Dutch company Margarine Unie that made margarine and British company lever Brothers that made soap. The company has rapidly diversified from a maker of oil and soap products to a global brands taking over a number of companies in different parts of the world in the process.
Jain & Sharma (2018) note, “Unilever has grown through a strategy of both normal expansion and global takeovers of companies including Lipton (1971), Brooke Bond (1984), Chesebrough-Ponds (1987), Best Foods (2000), Ben & Jerry's (2000), Alberto-Culver (2010), Dollar Shave Club (2016) and Pukka Herbs (2017).” Unilever employs over 155,000 people worldwide, which makes human resource planning an important element of the strategy and planning for the business as well as an important element in strategic management. The company believes in a policy of wining through the people, which includes motivating the employees to act as the agents to the company. The strategy has served the business well over the past years.

3. Unilever Mission and Vision

3.1 Mission of Unilever
Unilever mission states that the company aims, “to add vitality to life. We meet every day needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life” (Mizera, 2013). The mission of the company speaks to the way the company aims to use its products to promote the lives and wellbeing of the people that the company serves on a daily basis.
3.2 Vision of Unilever
The vision of Unilever states that, “Our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace” (Mizera, 2013). This shows that the company believes in being sustainable throughout the activities that it undertakes in the production and distribution of its products. The company achieves this through aggressive and active stakeholder engagement that is aimed at ensuring that they understand and appreciate the sustainable living goals of the business and the culture of the business.
3.3 Unilever Values
Unilever has four core values that the employees are expected to adhere to and promote throughout their time in the company. They include responsibility, pioneering, integrity, and respect. These values ensure that the employees can relate well internally as well as externally with other stakeholders such as the suppliers and the customers of the business.

the-strategic-importance-of-human-resource-management-a-case-of-unilever-inner Figure 1: Unilever Leadership Structure Alan Jope is the Chief Executive Officer of the company and the overall bearer of the company’s strategy while Nils Andersen is the Chair of Unilever N.V. and PLC (Widyastuti et al., 2019).

5. The Functional Units in Unilever

There are three main functional areas in the global business of Unilever that house over 400 products produced and sold by the business globally. The first functional unit is hair care. According to Young (2017), haircare in Unilever includes all the hair products that the company produces and sells in different markets across the world. Examples include Lakme,, Love Beauty & Planet, and Vibrance. Haircare is in important part of the business and accounts for a major percentage of the human resources (27%). Another functional unit in the business is skincare. Skincare includes a range of products that are applied on the skin including oils, gels, perfumes, and roll-ons. Products like Axe and Badedas fall in this category. It accounts for 33% of the labour force. The last category includes foods and beverages. The foods and drinks section is the largest functional unit in the business. It accounts for 35% of the employees but an even larger percentage of the sales. Notably, some employees are shared services hence they oscillate between the different functional units in the business.

6. Human Resource Functions in Unilever

Unilever has human resource management as one of the shared services. The human resource management unit therefore performs six main functions in the organization.
6.1 Recruitment
The main function of human resource unit in Unilever is recruitment. The HR function ensures that the company attracts the right employees and gets them on the best terms. Recruitment is important in Unilever because the company seeks employees that share the values of the business and can gel well with the strategic focus of the business for better management and on-boarding. According to Rao (2017), the values of the business along with the vision and mission of the company stand as important factors, which means that the human resource unit should ensure all recruits fit in the criteria set by the strategic focus of the business. 6.2 Maintaining a Safe Environment for Work
The human resource management unit is in charge of ensuring safety is observed both at the office and in the factories. Unilever operates a production business hence health and safety are important elements. More so, the company produces both food and non-food products. The role of the human resources in health and safety at the workplace is therefore critical. The elements that the department should ensure are present include proper equipment and attire, proper safety guidelines, and proper audit and inspections. The Safety, Health, Regulations for Environment and Quality (SHREQ) works under the human resource director that makes and implements the health and safety standards (Rao, 2017).

6.3 Employee-Employer Relations
According to Pant & Ramachandran (2017), it is the role of the human resource department to ensure there are no conflicts between the employees and the business and when they arise, they are resolved well and fast. Conflict management is part of the relations between the employer and the employees. The human resource department ensures that such conflicts are managed. In Unilever, the function extends to conflicts between employees and their seniors. There is a human resource representative for each business unit that looks out for and resolves such issues.

6.4 Compensation and Benefits
The human resource department should be held accountable for the contracts and the compensation schemes in Unilever. According to Nazarova (2015), the human resource department determines the levels of compensation for the employees as well as the other benefits that they receive. There is a consolidated reward scheme in the business that is developed by the human resource department that ensures proper management of the rewards and benefits of the business. Bonuses, leave days, promotions, and many other elements of reward and compensation are managed through the human resources of the business.

6.5 Compliance
The human resource management department ensures that there is compliance with the employment law. There are principles of the employment law that the business must adopt such as fair compensation, safety at work, and harassment that the human resource management department must check to ensure that they are followed and implemented (Nazarova, 2015). The department also stands in for the employees in case there are complaints about violation of the employment law hence the department is the employment watchdog in Unilever.

6.6 Training and development
The last function of human resources in Unilever is training and development. Employee growth and development is the overall role that includes elements of performance management, training and development (Basak, 2016). The human resource division in the business ensures that employees gain the skills that they need to be continually productive in the business. This is undertaken through training and development that are essential elements in the business. Ensuring that the employees have the right form of training to be continually productive and grow therefore lies squarely on the department.

7. Strategic Value of Human Resource Management to Unilevern

Human Resource Management (HRM) is strategically important to Unilever because it facilitates continuation of the culture of the organization by recruiting the right people to foster the culture of the company through proper recruitment, the HRM ensures that employees that are brought in the organization meet the strategic values of the organization san can be continually productive in their roles. Through this, it ensures continued success and value creation.
The HRM ensures that performance of the employees is sufficiently managed hence creating a good framework for employee success. According to Jain & Sharma (2019), performance management is important in strategic management because it ensures employees contribute to the overall goal of the organization through reaching their targets that translate to overall business success. Performance management also ensures that the organization continues being a value creator hence the role of the HRM is critical. The HRM also ensures that the employees have the right skills and knowledge through training and employee development that improves their motivation and productivity. For employees to work well, they must have the right motivation and attitude that the HRM ensures is maintained through proper training and employee development. Through this, the business ensures that all the employees can work and attain the highest levels of organizational performance. The HRM therefore creates value through enhancing the skills and knowledge of the employees in the organization.
Lastly, the HRM ensures that employees can concentrate on their work while managing the brand of the business externally as well as ensuring that they have the right environment, safety, and health tools. According to Jain & Sharma (2019), the HRM provides a platform on which employees can go on and be successful, which is the most important element within the business. This ensures that the employees can concentrate on their specific roles. For example, the marketers should concentrate on marketing and let the HRM worry about the availability of safety equipment at the company.

8. HRM Challenges facing Unilever

8.1 The Challenges
The main HRM challenge facing Unilever is change management. According to Khamis (2016), change management in organizations is challenging because the employees are not ready for change and in no way do they show that they can cope with the change. Change management is a challenge for Unilever especially with technology. The company is adopting new technology in production and other business functions yet the employees continually find it hard to adjust to these challenges.
The other major HRM challenge in Unilever is generational change and management of human resources among multigenerational employees. According to Khamis (2017), the young generation entering the workforce present new challenges for HRM that have not been experienced before such as a desire for working remotely and unwillingness to work independently. This means that the hours of work are increasing by the day. Unilever HRM is challenges to find solutions that will create value for the business by encouraging cross-generational collaboration and working in the company.
Recruitment is another main challenge for Unilever HRM. According to Nazarova (2015), the profile of employees that Unilever seeks is specific and lean. This means that the HRM must find specific employees that fit the profile in order to create the specific desired culture. However, with competition for jobs higher, this crop of employees is harder to attract making the work of Unilever HRM increasingly hard.

8.2 Potential Solutions
The first potential solution is increased adoption of technology in recruitment in order to attract a wider range of candidates. Nazarova (2015) notes that to get the right candidate, businesses must widen the recruitment net. Technology is one of the best ways to do this because it reaches more people and increases the challenges of landing the top employees in the company. Technology also creates efficiency and lowers the costs of human resources for Unilever. To manage the challenge of resistance to change, change management training is necessary. Unilever should invest in change management training as a roadmap to effective change management. According to Jain & Sharma (2019), managing change management through training ensures that the employees know and prepare for different types of change. It also ensures that the employees understand and anticipate change in the organization, which eases the issue of management through acceptance.

9. The Future of Human Resources in Unilever

Unilever is moving towards a reduction in in-house human resources and an increase in outsourcing human resources. According to Jain & Sharma (2019), outsourcing is a growing trend for human resources especially in fast moving consumer goods companies hence Unilever is likely to take the lead and develop the model through outsourcing HRM. Outsourcing would eliminate the costs of monitoring and supervision and other HRM costs and enhance efficiency in the business. The HRM in Unilever is also moving towards management by analytics. With the generational change, there is need for more management through analytics in order to enhance performance management among the millennial generation of employees. Unilever is likely to focus more on HR analytics because of the need to understand the value that the millennials add to the organization hence align the strategy of the business to their needs. Agile remote working is another trend that will be common in Unilever. In 2017, Unilever adopted the remote working strategy in preparation for the future by allowing employees to work remotely as long as they have the permission of their bosses. While this has not picked fully, it is expected to be the mode of operation in the organization in future as the organization adopts more technology and employs more millennials.

10. Recommendations for Unilever HRM

In order to cope with the changes, the main recommendation is for the business to invest in technology that will enable it to cope with the human resource changes in future. Technology is likely to be the driver of human resources in the business hence ample preparation through investment in human resource information systems and other technological tools is effective tor the business. Value based human resource management is another strategy that is recommended for the business. Unilever is moving towards multiple changes across the ensure business including robotics in the factories, remote working, the triple bottom line, and more sustainability (Jain & Sharma, 2019).

3. 11. Conclusion

In conclusion, Unilever is one of the largest FMCG companies in the world with a large base of employees. Human resource management principles are applied across the organization. The employees are managed through strategic human resource management, an approach that focuses on the long term future of the organization and looks to attract employees that fit the culture of the business. Some of the major challenges that face the human resource management include change management, teamwork, technology, and the intergenerational effects. The future of the human resource management in the company therefore consists of aggressive adoption and use of technology in human resources management in the company. Agile working, which the company has already started to will be a major part of the human resoiu8rces in the company while there is a natural drift towards outsourcing human resources as the involved factors in the HRM continue to evolve. Businesses should therefore prepare through training and technology installation.


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