Unilever's Strategic Approaches to Recruitment and Selection Term Paper

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¶ … Unilever's Strategic Approaches to Recruitment and Selection and Performance Management

Established in the 1890s, mega-corporation Unilever currently competes on a global level with more than 400 brands in more than 40 countries, many of which have longstanding and widespread recognition. To its credit, the company has acquired and merged with dozens of other enterprises over the years and has managed to harmonize its human resource operations across both national borders as well as dissimilar corporate cultures with good results. Although it is reasonable to suggest that Unilever's human resource practices differ across its dozens of business units and far-flung geographic locations, it is also reasonable to suggest that it is possible to discern, at least in a general fashion, the company's recruitment and selection as well as its performance management strategies based on its promotional material and industry analyses. To this end, this paper provides an examination of the peer-reviewed and scholarly literature, as well as organizational material from Unilever, to determine how this company achieved this harmonization and a competitive advantage by applying strategic approaches to its recruitment and selection as well as its performance management functions. A summary of the research for both tasks and important findings are presented in the paper's conclusion.

Review and Discussion

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Term Paper on Unilever's Strategic Approaches to Recruitment and Selection Assignment

The specific strategic goals of an enormous multinational corporation such as Unilever vary from industry to industry as well as by region and country. For instance, Van Clieaf (2004) notes that, Unilever is "a global entity operating in three or more industry sectors, with over 30 business unit presidents accountable for investing in new products and new business models in more than 40 countries" (p. 2). At present, Unilever also has more than 170,000 full-time employees working in these far-flung geographic locations throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. (Company profile 2012). In addition, Unilever (hereinafter alternatively "the company") has established some general strategic goals for sustainable development and enlightened human resources practices in all of the markets in which it competes (Van Clieaf 2004). These types of lofty -- and laudable -- corporate goals demand a careful assessment of how to best use an organization's resources to achieve a maximum return on their investment. Given the enormous diversity that exists within the company's human resources and the differing needs of its business units, the specific recruitment and selection strategy used at a given point in time and place may reflect the immediate needs of the company, but increasingly, multinational corporations such as Unilever are seeking to align the recruitment and selection process with larger corporate goals such as those described above.

The strategic alignment of the human resource recruitment and selection function with these types of ambitious organizational goals has become an important part of achieving a competitive advantage in the increasingly globalized marketplace in which the company currently competes. In this regard, Millmore (2005) emphasizes that, "Recruitment and selection has long been recognized as a key activity within human resources. Prior to the more recent emphasis on strategic alignment, organizational recruitment and selection practice remained relatively unchanged, having evolved into a relatively standardized approach frequently libeled as 'traditional'" (p. 87). In sharp contrast to the traditional approach to recruitment and selection, the strategic application of this HR function involves placing a premium on "selecting employees against organizational rather than job-specific criteria" (Millmore 2005, p. 88). Some indication of the vast variety of jobs available throughout the company is provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Summary of Unilever's Business Units

Business Unit

Description

Personal care products

These include skin care and hair care products, deodorants, and oral care products under the brand names of Axe, Brylcreem, Dove, Fissan, Lifebuoy, Lux, Pond's, Radox, Rexona, Signal & Close Up, Simple, St. Ives, Sunsilk, TRESemme, Vaseline, and VO5.

Home care products

These include laundry tablets, powders and liquids, soap bars, and a range of cleaning products under the Cif, Comfort, Domestos, Omo, Radiant, Sunlight, and Surf brand names.

Food products soups, bouillons, sauces, snacks, mayonnaise, salad dressings, margarines and spreads, as well as cooking products, such as liquid margarines under the brand names of Becel/Flora, Bertolli, Blue Band, Rama, Hellmann's, Amora, and Knorr.

Refreshment products

These include ice cream, tea-based beverages, weight-management products, and nutritionally enhanced staples under the brand names of Heartbrand, Lipton, and Slim Fast.

Source: Corporate profile 2012

Clearly, virtually anyone who has consumed anything in recent years has purchased one of the company's products. Beyond the broad range of specialty and general job types that are required to support these enterprises, the company also maintains its own sales force to support them (Corporate profile 2012). A review of the job postings by the company indicates that although there are several job-specific criteria involved in the recruitment and selection process, these criteria are tied to the larger corporate goals established by Unilever. For example, the company's latest annual report emphasizes the strategic focus of the company's recruitment and selection function. According to the annual report for 2011, "The talent we need will come from all over the world. We've introduced global standards for graduate recruitment, so that people have the same experience wherever they start. We have targeted universities, particularly in emerging markets, with our campus recruitment programme. In 2011, we were recognised as the most preferred graduate FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) employer in 14 countries" (p. 21). In addition, the company's annual report for 2011 codifies Unilever's larger corporate goals with respect to its recruitment and section function as follows:

1. Under the umbrella of its Code of Business Principles, Unilever aims to ensure that applications for employment from people with disabilities, and other under-represented groups, are given full and fair consideration and that such people are given the same training, development and prospects as other employees.

2. Every effort is also made to retrain and support employees who become disabled while working within the company.

3. Unilever continues to review ways in which greater diversity can be achieved in recruitment and selection.

4. The company has also established policies that promote the achievement of diversity in its business and reviews these regularly. For example, Unilever UK provides policies on home working, flexible working, maternity and paternity leave, child care provision and career breaks, which help the company meet the objective of greater employee diversity (Unilever Annual Report 2011, p. 124).

Another indication concerning how the company aligns its recruitment and selection function with its larger corporate goals is reflected in Unilever's promotional material for prospective candidates that states, "We grow through focusing on our key brands, nurturing our people and continuing to develop as a world-class organization. As a business we constantly strive to progress through simplifying our systems and optimizing our processes" (How we work 2012, p. 3). Certainly, while it is vitally important for multinational corporations such as Unilever to constantly fine-tune their supply chains to add value and eliminate waste at every opportunity, it is also important to develop recruitment and selection processes that facilitate the accomplishment of these larger organizational goals. To this end, the company reports that, "To keep up the pace of change we recruit individuals who balance talent and creativity with a passion to win and the ability to deliver results. And we reward them with professional challenges, opportunities for career and personal growth, and a highly supportive workplace" (How we work 2012, p. 3).

Taken together, it is clear that Unilever uses a wide range of recruitment and selection approaches to satisfy its human resources needs, but it appears the company has recognized the need to coordinate these services in ways that contribute to the accomplishment of its larger corporate goals as well in ways that many of its competitors have failed to achieve in a timely fashion. Notwithstanding the global nature of the company's enterprises, Unilever has established some overall guiding philosophies with respect to its recruitment and selection processes that reflect its larger corporate goals, indicating a clear strategic alignment. With respect to the far-flung nature of the company's business unit, Unilever reports that its recruitment and selection approach ". . . varies around the world because, naturally, people have different points-of-view depending on where they live. But some things are consistent, important things that determine how we interact with colleagues and partners, customers and consumers" (the important things in life 2012, p. 1).

The core principles that influence Unilever's recruitment and selection process at present include the following:

1. Most important are our high standards of corporate behavior, which are enshrined in our Code of Business Principles. We also have high ethical standards, both in terms of people and the environment.

2. What's more, we are proud of this business and what it does -- bringing trusted products to millions across the globe. In fact we have a phrase for our philosophy: 'doing well by doing good'.

3. We value colleagues as individuals, we're friendly towards each other and we're informal in terms of corporate behaviour and,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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