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Human Resource Management and Employee Motivation at Unilever

Muhammad Bazil

Unilever plc (NYSE: UL)is one of the largest suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods in the world. Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch multinational corporation operating globally with subsidiaries in around 100 countries. The company owns more than 400 brands; however, the operations of the company are mainly focused on 14 major brands which generate collective revenues of over one billion euros. With such a wide scope of operations around the globe, an organization may face issues pertaining to human resource management; however, Unilever has proved with its effective human resource management strategies that it is one of the most attractive employers in the world. The company acknowledges that its efficiency depends upon the effectiveness of its employees worldwide; therefore, Unilever attributes high significance to the motivation of its employees. This article presents an overview of the recent financial performance of Unilever, which accounts for its inclusion in the Global 2000 Leading Companies for 2014 on Forbes, followed by a critical evaluation of the human resource management conducted by the company.

Unilever’s Financial Performance

The financial performance of Unilever has been impressive over the years, and the company’s continued growth showcases its ability to remain resilient in the wake of rising competition and shifting environments. For the six months period ended 30 June 2014, Unilever reported a total revenue of 24 billion euros with an operating income of 4.4 billion euros. The net income was an impressive 2.8 billion euros. Figure 1 shows the trend of profitability of Unilever over the past five years.

Figure 1: Profitability of Unilever

(Source: Google Finance)

The figure shows that the revenue of the company continuously increased till the year 2012. It fell slightly for the year 2013; however, it was still higher when compared to the year 2011. With regard to profitability, it can be observed that the net income increased in 2013 when compared to prior years.

Unilever’s Human Resource Management

Unilever is one of the companies that have set examples of efficient human resource management. The company focuses greatly on human rights and ensures that compliance with human rights is carried out through its positive assurance process. In order to learn about the perspective of its employees, Unilever carried out self-assessments of employees, external audits, and trainings. The strategic management of Unilever realizes that happiness among employees directly influences the success and growth of its business.

Unilever has initiated numerous campaigns internationally that strengthen its HRM strategy and enhance the motivation of employees. In 2013, Unilever held a global ‘Winning with Integrity’ week that comprised of surveys and interviews regarding human rights, and it encouraged the suppliers of Unilever to operate to the standard set by the company. This campaign was continued in the form of the ‘speaking up’ initiative in 2014, which also helped the company learn the concerns of employees around the world.

In 2013, Unilever also launched a ‘Social Impact Hub’ on its employee portal which helped the company introduce its employees to social activities. This had a positive impact on the society and linked the business with its corporate social responsibility. The hub also included information regarding human rights in order to help the employees learn about their rights in the workplace.

Apart from the international human resource campaigns, the local subsidiaries of Unilever also carry out activities that are worthy of note. For example, Unilever Klev recently installed a device that tracked employee motivation and job satisfaction on a daily basis. The employees were required to input their mood to the device every day before exiting, and this information helped the management identify whether the employees were satisfied or dissatisfied.

Advantages of Keeping Track of Employee Motivation

In this age of highly competitive business environments, the workforce has become increasingly fluid, and it has become a challenge for organizations to retain their valuable employees. In such a scenario, one of the most effective ways to reduce employee turnover is to ensure that the level of motivation of employees is maintained continuously at a high level. This results in high job satisfaction and high organizational commitment, which keeps the employees from switching to other organizations.

Organizations such as Unilever have implemented innovative ways to ensure high employee motivation, and the example of Unilever Klev is one of those innovative methods. At the core of all of Unilever’s strategies, was the extensive use of software technology that made communication easy within the company. Businesses, both small and big, can take a tip from Unilever’s example regarding how using the right tools and strategies gets the company better employee satisfaction data. Tracking employee satisfaction and ensuring continuous communication with software driven employee scheduling helps the enterprise management devise impactful HR strategies, no matter the size of the company.

Important Take Aways from the Case Study

The aim should be to use these software and tools towards the goal of achieving employee satisfaction. This is not so difficult when interfaces are employee and management friendly. Such software centric approaches help you schedule, communicate, and manage part-time employees and freelancers as well. Thus, the approach used by Unilever is resonant with what small businesses and enterprises are looking to accomplish through the use of similar tools and strategies.

The strong financial performance of Unilever, its impressive human resource strategies, and valuable workforce have had a positive impact on the stock performance of the company. Considering the positive trend in revenue and profitability, it can be said that the net income of Unilever will continue to increase in the prospective periods, which will have a positive impact on the stock performance of the company. In light of this information, it can be said that Unilever stock is a ‘buy’.

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