We go out of our way to build personal networks throughout the company, not just in our area of responsibility.
4. Our people have a passion for achievement, strive for outstanding results and are determined to get things done.
5. To make sure that happens each and every day, we have created a working environment in which you can be yourself. After all, as a business we need to be as diverse as our millions of consumers around the world.
6. Finally, we believe in everyone's ability to develop and grow. Whatever our function, role or level, we all have an equal right to take advantage of learning opportunities and progress how we want to in our chosen careers (the important things in life 2012, p. 2).
In their online posting concerning, "Fostering a performance culture," Unilever stresses the globalized nature of its performance management processes and emphasizes that these are internalized throughout the organization's culture. According to Unilever's Web site on its Agile Working culture: "By giving people freedom around how and where they work, we're creating a culture focused on performance and results rather than time and attendance. To enable Agile Working, Unilever is investing in new collaboration technologies, innovatively designed workplaces, and highly flexible and empowering HR practices" (Agile Working 2012, p. 1). By promoting and actually maintaining its image as an enlightened employer, Unilever is strategically aligning its recruitment and selection process with its larger corporate goals. In this regard, the company adds that, "We believe doing so improves business productivity, increases employee engagement and vitality, and helps ensure that we have the very best people working for us. With less travel and more efficiently designed workplaces, Agile Working is also helping Unilever benefit the environment" (Agile Working 2012, p. 2). With more than 170,000 employees, measuring performance at Unilever represents yet another challenging endeavor, an area where the company excels as discussed further below.
Task 2: Performance Management Practices at Unilever
Corporate giants such as Unilever must employ a flexible approach to performance management based on the unique conditions that exist in the geographic regions in which it competes (Gorelick, Milton & April 2004). For instance, according to the company's most recent annual report (2011), "Unilever operates a wide range of processes and activities across all its operations covering strategy, planning, execution and performance management" (p. 33). Beyond this generalization, though, there is some indication that performance management processes throughout the company are ultimately approved at the appropriate corporate level based on its specific needs at the local and regional levels, while maintaining a focus on improving its supply chain operations across the board and eliminating waste at every opportunity. Identifying appropriate and effective ways to measure the performance of its far-flung enterprises, though, apparently remains a relatively localized affair. At present, the company is controlled by a board of directors that has ultimate responsibility for the performance of all of the company's business units, but these are divided into two major groups that have fundamentally different missions and goals (Annual report 2012). In sum, performance management practices throughout the company are based on the preferences and specific requirements of the type of industry and culture in which the company competes, making this aspect of corporate governance an especially challenging endeavor for this company's top leadership team.
While specific performance management practices vary, a general corporate performance management program is in place at Unilever that provides a framework in which employee expectations can be measured against performance to identify strengths and weaknesses and improve job fit to promote individual growth within the company. This overall approach includes a standardized development evaluation form that is used throughout the company's global enterprises (Kiger, 2005). The company's entire description of its performance management approach is concise and worthy of quoting here:
Your progress is important. That's why we invest a lot of time & effort in supporting you to perform well and in building your capabilities. Performance and Development Planning (PDP) helps you make the most of your working life at Unilever. The process supports you in identifying and delivering against challenging goals that impact the organization. It helps you plan how you'll develop skills and leadership behaviours for your current position and for the years ahead. It also gives you the opportunity to clarify expectations and discuss future opportunities. PDP provides a continual process that allows for a thorough evaluation of your...
it's an approach designed to encourage clarity and transparency throughout the year. The key thing to remember is that this is an ongoing dialogue between you and your manager. it's about listening, sharing and accepting feedback, and taking responsibility for the next step in your career. (Performance management 2012, p. 3)
This overarching performance management process is responsible in large part for the company's successful integration of its broad-based enterprises within its corporate umbrella. For instance, Kiger (2005) reports that, "Unilever, whose products include food, home and personal care products, made a successful union with Ben & Jerry's, a rare story in the highly charged world of mergers and acquisitions. Only about 15% of corporate mergers achieve their financial objectives, and about half result in culture clashes" (p. 33). Like Roman conquering its neighbors and allowing them to retain their chieftains and religion, Unilever has harmonized its human resources practices by allowing its subsidiaries to apply its performance management practices in ways that are best suited to their individual needs. In this regard, Kiger (2005) emphasizes that, "Unilever allowed Ben & Jerry's to pick which parts of the parent company's human resources policies it wanted to adopt. When Ben & Jerry's did implement a Unilever program, it was free to modify it. In the case of Unilever's standard global development evaluation for employees, for example, Ben & Jerry's shortened the document and added the company's social mission as one of the performance goals" (p. 33). An executive at Ben & Jerry's said of the company's global development evaluation performance management approach: "Unilever had a good process, but we needed to make it ours" (quoted in Kiger 2005, p. 33).
Moreover, the company's globalized but flexible performance management approach has paid dividends in other ways as well. For instance, Kiger reports that, "While Ben & Jerry's did go through downsizing, its integration with its corporate parent also has created opportunities" (p. 33). These opportunities included applying the company's organizational culture to its new acquisition in ways that were consistent with both organizations' core values -- a daunting prospect by any measure. Nevertheless, Unilever's performance management approach was up to even this major challenge. For example, Kiger (2005) notes that following the acquisition by Unilever, most of the employees at Ben & Jerry's were more interested in whether the parent company would continue their social activist approach and emphasis on quality, while virtually none of the employees were interested in how the acquisition would actually make money. According to Kiger, although Unilever assured Ben & Jerry's employees that their interests would be protected, they needed to help the parent company achieve the fundamental goal of generating revenues in the process. In this regard, Kiger (2005) reports that the new CEO for Ben & Jerry's made it clear that in order for both companies to succeed in promoting their social activism goals, they would have to focus on performance and making money from the outset. In this regard, Kiger (2005) emphasizes that, "Unilever used persuasion rather than coercion. The new CEO argued that the best way to spread Ben & Jerry's enlightened ethic throughout the business world was to make the company successful" (p. 33). This approach to implementing new performance management processes in another enterprise with a proven track record of success requires a delicate balancing act, but Unilever's leadership team appears to know what is needed in a given situation. For example, Kiger also notes that:
Changing mind-sets [at Ben & Jerry's] wasn't easy. The workforce, though skilled at making quality ice cream and ereative at marketing it, wasn't up to speed on boring stuff such as corporate finance. Unlike other bottom-line-conscious companies, Unilever didn't require Ben & Jerry's to quantify the dollars-and-cents impact of its human resources policies. Instead, once management decides a program is needed, the only charge is to deliver it within budget. We measure return by whether or not the company achieves its overall goals. (emphasis added) (quoted in Kiger 2005, p. 34)
Although the process has not been without its problems, the transition to Unilever's performance management approach by Ben & Jerry's has produced some unexpected benefits. In fact, despite eliminating more than 50 jobs (primarily at Ben & Jerry's headquarters) and 69 elsewhere in the system and the closure of several facilities as part of its consolidation of its North American ice cream operations, Unilever allowed Ben & Jerry's to use the approach it deemed best suited to its employees and their situations to facilitate the transition. For example, Kiger (2005) notes that,…
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