Lara Giardina Human Resources

Our Brands? It’s all about the people behind them

How many times did you think “Do we really want to gain a seat in the market? Let’s invest in Sales and Marketing”

Yet, there are not specific functions which are more important than others. Being successful in our markets is the result of an equation in which all our functions play a fundamental role.


But what’s the role of HR in this equation?

You may also think brands are our ‘only’ most valuable and strongest asset, and therefore our key ingredient to success. But how come these brands, among tons of other competitor’s brands, have always managed through the years to maintain their high market share and a strong brand equity? The answer is easy: it’s because of the people behind these brands!

Read more “Our Brands? It’s all about the people behind them”

Unilever food solutions 2 Business areas

Life on the UFLP HR Scheme – Helen’s Experience

I am currently in my first placement on the HR Scheme working in the Leatherhead office. I business partner Food Solutions where we focus on selling our food brands to other commercial organisations such as restaurants, schools and distributors. It’s a really exciting part of the business to work in because it feels like its own little business within Unilever and means I have been able to get exposure to business partnering all of the different functions (sales, marketing, supply chain etc).

I am now six months into my placement and have been able to get involved in a variety of projects. One of my main projects has been to drive our gender diversity agenda, within Food Solutions specifically and Unilever as a whole. Diversity is a top priority within Unilever as a diverse workforce drives different viewpoints, innovation and business growth.

Within Food Solutions I have been given the responsibility to create a plan that will enhance retention and progression of our female employees. This has involved understanding the experiences of people around the business, presenting my findings to the Leadership Team and I will now be implementing a number of initiatives. These initiatives will be open to all Food Solutions employees, men and women, and include a mentoring scheme, the promotion of our flexible working policies and leading training sessions on networking and using your personal development plan.

Within Unilever more generally, I have also been looking at the best practice in diversity and inclusion from Unilever in different countries, and externally, to find out whether any of these diversity initiatives would also be useful for Unilever UK/Ire.

I have also worked on a report  to assess whether we can expand our international graduate recruitment offering, and  I have been implementing an online tool that helps our business leaders increase the speed of their decision making and their ‘bias for action’. Alongside my project work I get involved in all sorts of other HR activity within Food Solutions, recruitment, training and working alongside our line managers to help them achieve their organisational objectives.

My next role is my placement in a UK Sourcing unit and I am going to the laundry factory in Warrington. I will be sad to leave Food Solutions, but excited to learn new things about HR in a factory environment.

My advice to potential applicants would be to find out as much about Unilever as possible. Look into our sustainable living plan and get inspired! A great example of this is the expansion of our Apprenticeship scheme; last year we took on Apprentices in Business Administration and IT.  The programme has been a success both for the business, helping us build talent for the future in areas we suffer skills shortages, and for our social sustainability agenda. This focus on youth employability will continue and is a great way HR can make a difference to our sustainable living plan.

Ollie Smith-profile Human Resources

Tchaikovsky to TIGI: Ollie Smith, HR UFLP

With a tightening job market, dwindling public support, and cuts from government funding, arts and humanities degrees are struggling to assert their relevance in today’s commercial environment.

Or so people often think.

Whilst students become increasingly concerned about employer opinion and their degree’s potential to land them a job post-graduation, and rightly so, pursuing a degree in the arts or humanities still allows you to develop a wealth of skills, and affords you many experiences on which you can draw, that you can successfully apply in the workplace. Whilst there are a few graduate schemes that demand specific degree subjects from applicants, Unilever is a great example of a business that welcomes applications from any degree type for most of its programmes.

I have degrees in Music and Musicology from Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Birmingham, and yet I now find myself on the Unilever Future Leader’s Programme (UFLP) in my first placement as a Global HR Business Partner. This role places me directly at the heart of one of Unilever’s more recent acquisitions, the premium haircare brand TIGI, where I’ve been given immediate responsibility and accountability: instead of score analysis, my days are filled with data analysis, capability projects, and managing End of Year employee performance assessments. Of course I don’t have specific training in business or Human Resources, but Unilever doesn’t expect you to be an expert – that’s where the UFLP steps in.

So if you’re wondering if you can apply, or if you can compete with slick Business graduates for what are highly competitive programmes, the answer is yes – I would encourage you to apply and leverage the different experience your degree has given you to mark yourself out from other applicants. That’s not to say that it won’t be tough however, and so here are my top tips for making an application:

  • Know the business; know Unilever. There is never an excuse for not doing your research, and you will be expected to be clued up with how the business is performing both in the UK and further afield. What are our challenges? What is the marketplace like?
  • Know why Unilever is right for you. Why are you convinced that you belong here and not Nestlé, Proctor and Gamble, or L’Oréal? What is Unilever all about as a company?
  • Leverage your experience and make it unique. Don’t simply refer to group projects or typical university situations when answering competency questions, but try to use something more interesting or unusual that not all students will have been able to do, especially as an arts and humanities graduate. If you can relate your example directly to the question being asked whilst making it different and memorable, this will help to put you ahead.
  • Know the function. This is particularly important if you’re not from a business or science background, as you might need to do some additional research, but this is time well spent as you need to know as much as possible about the business area to which you’re applying.
  • Be confident. This sounds like such a flippant thing to say, but being confident enough to articulate yourself well is crucial – don’t let nerves prevent the interviewer from seeing your potential.

Toi toi toi!

Laura Allsopp profile2 Human Resources

Living and breathing the USLP: Laura Allsopp, HR UFLP

So it’s been just 3 months since I embarked on my UFLP journey, and what a blast it has been so far! For those out there that think HR isn’t a strategic part of the business I compel you to keep reading, as my first placement has seen my working on exciting projects that directly contribute to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. I am part of a team that looks after programmes that we run nationally, from diversity and inclusion to mental health and wellbeing, and in my case youth employability. In the UK and Ireland youth employability is a priority for realising our ambition of increasing our social impact, contributing to a Billion Better Lives. I have had the opportunity to really throw myself into the concept, from meeting lots of other organisations and charity partners to government and industry bodies. This has allowed me to gain some real expertise into not only how we make a positive social impact, but also help to support and build the talent of the future!

So what does this actually look like? Well firstly it involves me having overall accountability for the programmes that we run. This means I have to work closely with both my team and also all of our sites to ensure that we are running activities aligned to having a positive impact on youth employability. This can include work experience, employability skills days, running schools workshops, and also more formal work experience that we run in partnership with a charity such as the Prince’s Trust. As you can begin to see this is a huge amount of responsibility, as it means that I need to regularly engage with and support sites on being able to run these programmes. Similarly due to the continued focus on youth employability by government we also have external pressure to use our scale for good through the running of these kind of programmes. Secondly the role allows me to really think strategically about our social impact and how we can best develop this. Our offering in this area is quite new, therefore I have had to opportunity to design an entire strategy about where I think we should take this concept; this was based on who we should work with, what the external context is and how this aligns to our internal business strategy.

So where does it go from here? I think the rest of my placement is going to be largely focused on really driving forward our youth employability programmes, making sure that we not only meet our commitments, but even exceed them, as well as making a positive social impact to the lives of hundreds of young people. This is a really exciting role to be in and hopefully you can see that in Unilever the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan really is at the heart of the business, as is HR Management!

Kingston Business areas

Working in Kingston: Lianna Beesley-Peck, HR SP

Hi everyone, I’m Lianna and I am currently just over half-way through an HR Summer Placement. For the last 8 weeks I’ve been working at the Kingston office.

The Office

The first person you’re sure to meet at Kingston is Bob. Bob is Kingston’s Security and is known for his cheery greetings every morning and evening. Bob’s polite and friendly manner is typical of everyone I’ve met, not only at Kingston, but at Unilever as a whole. Whatever your question, role, department or length of visit, everyone will go out of their way to help you making Kingston a wonderful place to work.

The office is completely relaxed, people turn up in comfortable clothing (jeans are in, suits out); there are also comfortable chairs and sofas for coffee breaks or informal meetings. Desks are first come first served, whatever your work level, you’re free to choose your desk each day meaning you work alongside a wide range of people. Bookable and non-bookable rooms are also available for larger meetings or more sensitive phone calls. Importantly, you never struggle to find a room or a desk, whatever the time of day.

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Each of the six floors has a drinks area offering a wide range of complimentary coffees, teas and hot chocolate. There’s also a fridge if you wish to bring your own lunch, but most employees take advantage of the reasonably priced and high quality food produced by the Catering team in the Cafeteria. A free selection of fruit is available daily, but most importantly various flavours of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream are also available!

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And for when you think you’ve taken advantage of the ice cream too much, there is an on-site Gym free to all employees. The gym offers a wide range of equipment, classes throughout the day, good showers and newly renovated changing rooms. I started off going to the gym several times a week, though I might have slipped a little lately…

Kingston Gym

And then there is Eben. Eben is the magic guy to whom you take your poorly laptop and he clicks a few things and there you go: it works like new! I have a reputation for being useless with computers, but Eben has managed to solve all my issues (for example fixing excel for me only yesterday). He runs a walk in session each day, which makes it easy and convenient to get anything you need fixed.

And finally – the shop. The Kingston shop stocks a wide range of Unilever products and sells them for below-the-high-street prices. It’s perfect for gifts to friends or stocking up for yourself!

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Virtual and Agile Working

No matter where you are based, you’ll quickly find that your colleagues are all around the world. For example, one of the two people I work with the most sits next to me, while the other is in the Netherlands. As a result most Unilever meetings are virtual (people dial in via a conference call). This also means that we have the opportunity to work from home under Unilever’s agile working policy. Despite being a Summer Intern, this is still something I can take advantage of and you’ll find, especially in Kingston, that most people work from home 1-2 days a week.

Additionally, the vast number of Unilever factories and offices means that travel is integral to working at the company. So far I’ve been fortunate to visit and work at both Port Sunlight and Leatherhead. You may also have the opportunity to travel abroad.

Living in Kingston

When looking for a place to live I decided that I’d rather live within walking distance of the office than commute in. This means I live right in the heart of Kingston which offers an incredible shopping area and high street (I walk past it on my way to work, not good on pay day). The area also boasts many riverbank restaurants as it is located along the River Thames; in fact all Kingston interns are meeting there for a meal tonight. There’s also a leisure centre, cinema and Richmond Park to explore – and don’t forget the Belgian Waffle House.

At weekends I often meet up with friends located around London and set off on some sightseeing. Living in Kingston is perfect for this because it is on a direct line to Waterloo and only takes around 30 minutes. I’ve been lucky enough to experience Centre Court at Wimbledon (just a couple of stops on the train from Kingston); posed with Benedict Cumberbatch at Madame Tussauds and been to a Gladiatorial Fight, a Magic Show and a Stand-Up Comedy performance, as well as exploring many other major sites and museums.

The fact the office is within walking distance of the train station also means that if you wanted to live in an area with greater nightlife or a little more rural, you could easily commute in each day. Kingston also has a major bus station a few minutes’ walk from the office.

This summer has flown by. I was very nervous before I started, but everyone has been so welcoming, kind and helpful. I hoped I would be based around London and Kingston has been perfect. I’ve been given so much responsibility which has boosted by own skills and confidence. But what has made this internship incredible is everyone I work with!

becky 1 Business areas

My time on the HR UFLP: Becky Coleman

Hi Everyone!

I’m Becky and joined the HR UFLP in September 2014 and I’m currently based at Leatherhead as an HR Business Partner to Customer Management (Sales). So, what have I been up to since joining? Well it’s been pretty busy!

Within the first week of joining we had an HR offsite day. This was great as it enabled me to learn about the structure of HR in Unilever and to network with lots of people. Although judging by this picture perhaps someone had just a little too much fun making a mess when it came to the evening bake off… Although I much prefer the other brown stuff…. Yes Marmite!

becky 1

The great thing about working at Unilever is that you have responsibility from the start. By mid-November, I was running the end of year review process for about 120 people. It was great to hear our talent group representatives in Customer Management have such passionate discussions about people’s development. Although it was a big responsibility to ensure, everyone had a fair end of year review.

In December I worked with the Customer Management Leadership Team and created three events on career development and the training options available. It was great to see senior leaders deliver content that I’d created to the whole of Customer Management. This was approx. 300 people! Then getting to present one of the breakout sessions and taking questions was brilliant, and it was filmed for future use on run one! So, no pressure! Also being allowed to experiment with new, interactive presentation formats for the event which has received great feedback is one of the great things about working with Unilever as people are willing to take your ideas and let you try them out even if it’s for such a large scale event.

I’m currently CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) qualified but I’m taking the next level of my CIPD as part of the HR UFLP programme. It’s great to be able to complete my professional accreditation whilst working. It ensures you get the best of practical and theoretical experiences and you also get to learn from experiences other HR professionals have in different sectors.

But maybe this just sounds like it’s all work? Well, actually as well as working with really great people we do get to have a lot of fun too! My day job is really great fun, but recently the whole of the UK and Ireland were treated to a day at Twickenham for the Gathering. This was a really exciting day as we got to see all the brand cascades for up and coming 2015 advert campaigns and product ideas and we also learnt the Haka! This symbolised bringing everyone together to drive forward as one ready for a successful 2015.

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On a factory tour during my induction

So, why did I choose HR? I knew I was never going to be in finance…. (Sorry Finance) but that one is best left to the numerical expert’s….. That left me with marketing or HR, and I have a passion for creativity and also people. I was fortunate enough to try an insight day in marketing at a competitor who for these purposes shall remain nameless….. but also to try an HR placement in a car factory when I was 17. I made the choice that HR was something I wanted to explore further as I really enjoyed developing people and seeing how people made a business tick during my time there. So, I took my undergraduate degree in HR and spent an industrial placement year in HR at an FMCG/Pharmaceutical company rotating through diversity, policy and also university recruiting. Having gained this experience, I was then keen to explore as many areas of HR as possible going forward to give my career breadth and to put my passion for talent development to good use. So, the HR UFLP provided a brilliant opportunity to do this in a business with passionate people and great brands so now I guess I get the best of both creativity and great people!

Why did I choose Unilever? Well, for all of the above really, and because Unilever is a business that is firmly rooted in the local communities that it operates in. I got to volunteer recently at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation which was a really great day and made a big difference for many people with disabilities. I also did some fundraising through assisted kayaking on the Thames for their sister charity MERU recently. It was super that Unilever were able to gift match the fundraising. I’m looking forward to going to volunteer in a school shortly to talk about careers and to inspire young people about their future options.

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In the ball pit from Comic Relief

Also I like Unilever for the great people and great brands, yes, love it or hate it, in my case I love Marmite. You can never have too much of a good thing!

I’m looking forward to continuing to experience the broad range of experiences that the HR UFLP programme brings.

So if you’re interested in starting a HR career or have previous HR experience Unilever is a really great place to develop a HR career.

Ailsa Business areas

My First 6 Weeks in HR: Ailsa McKinnon, IP

Hello!

My name is Ailsa McKinnon, I am currently 7 weeks into my industrial placement in Leatherhead within the Human Resources Expertise team. The most important thing I have learnt so far is that HR is so much more than hiring, firing and red tape. The HR Expertise team handles, in my (bias) opinion the most interesting segment of HR. They deal with Early Career Talent Acquisition and Learning and Development for the UK and Ireland, this means they look both inside and outside the business to find the best candidates to fill positions within the business and help to develop them to their full potential.

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Although based in the UK and Ireland HQ my role does have European and Global focuses, within my current work plan I am heavily involved in the Unilever Future Leader’s League a global marketing competition. One of themain benefits of working for Unilever is the amount of responsibility you receive and the opportunities you are given, all of which have their own impact on the company. Currently I am working with an external agency to redesign the European website used for the competition, this will be seen and used by candidates around Europe and I have the privilege of saying it is my design and my ideas. In the process of creating this website I have linked with members of several Global Unilever teams including Vietnam, China and Singapore.

Another of my responsibilities is the organizing and running of the Unilever Future Leaders Program induction, whereby we introduce the new graduates to Unilever by showing them the best of Unilever. Organizing accommodation, catering and travel for 45 people has been a challenge, but a great learning experience. I have learnt the importance of time management, forward planning and negotiation techniques. In addition, I have had the opportunity work with a wide variety of personnel of different work levels and from functions including members of the Country Leadership Team. Unilever offers an amazing level of exposure which you can’t find anywhere else and staying in some lovely hotels isn’t a bad perk either!

Unilever focuses on the development of its Industrial/Summer placements. It is important we see a wide variety of areas for our own benefit and learning. This is why we are given ‘+1’ in order to not only utilize our knowledge of our target markets (Undergraduates and Graduates) but also allow us to see how we communicate with the rest of the world and how important this is. My +1 role is the Digi(tal) Team, within this team I will have full control of the graduate YouTube and Google + pages. Again this responsibility is very big, it is important that we communicate to potential employees and the world in general with the right tone and portray the correct messages and ideals we have at Unilever.

These ideals are based around the 5 standards of leadership; growth mindset, consumer and customer focus, bias for action, accountability and responsibility and building talent and teams. Despite only being 7 weeks in (which has flown by!) these have been at the forefront of all my learnings. Since arriving I have had certainly had my hands full with various projects but the support from my team has been incredible. From day one I have felt welcomed and comfortable in asking questions, developing myself and trying new things. So far I have already tackled jobs that prior to starting sounded incredibly daunting and I have enjoyed them immensely.

Unilever offers an opportunity unlike others presented with a focus on developing us as employees. From day one you are integrated into the culture, you become part of the Unilever ‘we’. So far it has been very enjoyable and I cannot wait what awaits for me in the remainder of my placement, with a great team and the daily free ice cream I am sure I can tackle any challenges that I will face.