HIGH PERFORMANCE WORKING IN A HIGH-PERFORMANCE CULTURE UNILEVER CASE STUDY - Essay Prowess

HIGH PERFORMANCE WORKING IN A HIGH-PERFORMANCE CULTURE UNILEVER CASE STUDY

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HIGH PERFORMANCE WORKING IN A HIGH-PERFORMANCE CULTURE UNILEVER CASE STUDY

PART ONE: THE PORTFOLIO

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Reflective Statement

A passionate Human Resource Manager interested in working with fast-paced organizations to develop and promote a high performance working environment within the workforce that will increase employee engagement at work and a competitive advantage for the organization.

Skills and Attributes

As a Human Resource manager, I have skills and attributes that are necessary for the management of the vast number of employees in the organization and also for the needs of the organization.

Communication Skills – as a human resource manager, I foresee part of my roles being the link between the managers of the organization as well as the employees. The company has three divisions and each division has its own management and employees. Communication is therefore a key skill to manage the different needs of the three divisions and also to communicate the needs of the employees to top management and also the strategies and regulations of op management to the employees.

Conflict Management – Due to the diverse natures of employees at any given organization, conflict is bound to arise within the work environment. Conflict management is required to make sure that such situations are handled quickly and efficiently to create civility at the work place which in turn leads to productivity at work.

Organizational Skills – HR not only manages the people within an organization but also the ease of carrying out their activities to meet the objectives of the organization. The HR is tasked with making logistical arrangements for employees as well as any other plans that affect their well-being at work.

Multitasking Skills – business needs and priorities change fast and especially in an organization with multiple employees and managers with diverse needs. Having multitasking skills is essential in meeting the needs of various people in the organization in real time.

Ethical Skills – Human Resource managers are in contact with personal information of their colleagues and in some cases are involved in the personal lives of both employees and managers. The HR department is the conscience of the company and is mandated to be a keeper of confidential information on behalf of the organization. Human Resource managers are bound by the ethical code of the profession which call for all practitioners in the profession to remain discrete at all times.

Personal SWOT Analysis

Strengths

I have acquired great educational qualifications in the field of Human Resource. Not only am I an alumni of a prestigious educational institution of reputable Human Resource graduates, but I also successfully carried out internships at big organizations during school breaks. Over these internships, I have gained the requisite skills to run a Human Resource department as well as manage all the people involved in the organization.

Weaknesses

I have been considered a perfectionist which makes it difficult for me to delegate tasks for fear that the work may not be done to my level of satisfaction. This has in the past meant that my workload piles as I attempt to do everything alone. With a big organization like Unilever, any delay would have have diverse effects in the efficiency of production within the company.

Opportunities

Working at the Unilever Company provides opportunities to practice my skills in a competitive and fast moving company. The different roles required to be fulfilled within the company are essential in presenting an opportunity for new challenges that better my skills. There is also an opportunity to learn to work with different departments to gain skills outside that of my profession but still useful in the practice of HR.

Threats

The opportunity to work for firms like Unilever requires not only good academic qualifications but also qualitative and quantitative work experience in similar positions. The Human Resource market is also flooded with many graduates seeking job opportunities. The high supply of applicants in this position is a threat to my chances of getting the post.

Personal Development Plan

The personal development plan is based on the SWOT analysis with a focus on increasing the strengths, taking advantages of the opportunities and working to improve the weaknesses.

The first part of my personal development plan is to increase my organizational skills by training in various IT related applications that simplify management of large volumes of data and help to manipulate data to useful information for the organization. Not only do I hope to learn these skills from online resources but I hope to take advantage of the skills of the IT department in the organization.

I intend to gain mentorship from the senior HR members of the organization. From the mentorship, I am hoping to learn tricks of the trade from well-seasoned professionals and also be exposed to the changes in the professional and opportunities within the profession. Mentors also give guidance and insights into matters better that when studying from books.

PART TWO: LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT TO SUPPORT HIGH PERFORMANCE WORKING IN A HIGH PERFORMANCE CULTURE.

Introduction

Every organization requires high performance working for its employees which in turns results in a high performance culture at work.  Achieving high performance working requires an organization to continuously utilize learning and development for its employees.  As the Assistant Manager, Human Resource Development at Unilever UK, I intend to use this report to illustrate the importance of implementing continuous professional development (CPD) in the organization. The report will also address different approaches to High Performance Working (HPW) and how HPW would contribute to increased motivation and employee engagement in the organization as well as increase the competitive advantage for the company in the market.

About Unilever

The Unilever Company needs no introduction. In fact, in every household globally, there is bound to be at least five items in use that are linked to the Unilever Company. This is because the company deals in the manufacture of common consumer goods like food items (cheese, margarine, chewing gum, breakfast cereals, pet food and soft drinks), cleaning products like detergents, beauty and personal care products like soaps, deodorant and toothpaste and healthcare products. Unilever has over 400 brands spread across 190 countries in the world. To manage its products, the company is divided into three divisions; Home Care Division, Food and Refreshments Division and Beauty and Personal Care Division (Unilever 2021).

The Unilever Company was founded in 1929 through a merger of the Margarine Unie Dutch Company that largely manufactured margarine and the British Lever Brothers who were soap makers. It has over the time divested its interests by acquiring different corporates. Unilever’s international competitors are the Procter & Gamble Company, Colgate Palmolive, and Nestlé among others regional companies in the countries where Unilever operates (Daneshkhu 2014). 

The need to implement HPW in the company is of importance not only to help the company remain ahead of its competitors but also to ensure efficiency of operations in a country with global reach and to effectively manage the large workforce within the company.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD as a form of life-long learning refers to the documenting and tracking of the knowledge, experience and skills an employee gains either formally of informally from the workplace which is beyond their initial training. It can be viewed as the development portfolio of an employee that documents their professional development since joining an organization (Collin, Van der Heijden and Lewis 2012). CPD is of importance to both the individual employee as well as the HR department of the company. For the individual, CPD helps to record the achievements of the employee which can be used as a basis for promotions or also included in their curriculum vitae to seek other career development opportunities of even a career change (Collin, Van der Heijden and Lewis 2012). CPD is also helpful for the HR department as it is a record of the possible skill and knowledge gaps within the organization. Such information is a guide to areas where trainings are required for the employees to increase their performance at work.

Engaging CPD at Unilever

While some profession offer CPD for people registered with professional bodies, it is important to establish a form of continuous learning programs at the workplace. CPD sessions need to be properly scheduled to allow the employees to prepare in advance and make time from their duties for the sessions. The topics to be discussed in the various CPD programs need to be based on the purposes to improve the skills of the employees. If the themes are chooses arbitrarily, CPD sessions become either boring or irrelevant to the employees (Ramasamy and Gilbert 2017). In the case of Unilever, topics favourable for CPD could be on new technologies in the market, new methods of manufacture or understanding the nature of products of the company.

To establish CPD at Unilever, the first step will be to create a CPD Committee at work with employees from different sectors within the organization as members. Having such a team creates champions for CPD within the organization who are able to reach out to their colleagues and promote the need to participate in CPDs within the organization (Ramasamy and Gilbert 2017). The committee will also create a plan for the communication, delivery and follow-up of CPD programs and their impact in the organization.

The next step will is to carry out a training needs analysis for all employees. This means that the HR department will review the initially skills of the employees and those learnt while on the job to identify training needs gap for the employees (Ramasamy and Gilbert 2017). The HR department can also create development plans for the employees based on their training gaps, areas of interest and the overall goals and objectives of the organization in a consultative manner with the employees to customize CPD for the needs of the employees.

The last step is to identify the design principles, learning objectives and expected outcomes of the CPD. CPDs are more effective if they are designed to be engaging, practical and interactive. Since the employees will most likely have experience and baseline knowledge of most topics, the CPD sessions being interactive helps employees learn from each other. The CPD training sessions should contain an assessment element to gauge the understanding of the subject matter taught during , creating accountability for CPD programs  and also to be a basis of evaluating the performance of an employee (Ramasamy and Gilbert 2017). The CPD at Unilever has to be designed in accordance to the Kolb’s learning cycle to make if effective to the employees.

The learning stage starts at concrete learning which is where the educator passes down new information to the learner. The next stage is reflective observation where the learner tries to put the new knowledge into perspective by applying it to their personal experiences or to already existing knowledge. The third stage is the abstract conceptualization where the learner now starts to form new ideas from the information received or may modify the previously existing ideas to suit the new information received. The last stage is the active experimentation where a learner applies the new ideas to their daily tasks (Mcleod 2017).

The design of the CPD should also take into consideration the different learning styles of the employees. According to Kolb’s learning styles, individuals understand and process information differently and this should be reflected in the method of teaching. Learning styles can be diverging, assimilating, converging or accommodating. Learners who prefer the diverging style will prefer to watch activities in the learning process rather than carrying out the activities. Assimilators will prefer to use analytical models in learning as they are interested in the abstract or conceptual ideas within any given information. The converging style is preferred by problem solvers who prefer technical tasks where they can apply information gained to a problem at hand. Lastly the accommodating learning style is preferred by people who like practical learning than theoretical learning (Mcleod 2017).

In the Unilever context, employees involved in the mechanical operations like engineers and technicians of the organization are likely to learn through the converging and accommodating styles and the HR department should make sure that their CPDs are designed in line with their preferences.

High Performance Working (HPW) Systems

HPW systems are an accumulation of efforts and practice by an organization to enable their employees perform their best at work. It is a form of an emerging work model. In general, HPW systems are designed to promote motivation, commitment and employee knowledge while working in an organization (Pichler et al. 2014). Human Resource departments are tasked with the role of promoting HPW systems at the work place.

Approaches to HPW

The approaches towards HPW are centered on employee involvement in the workplace both in decision making and in carrying out tasks assigned. Unilever can incorporate a combination of all the approaches to promote HPW at work for achievement of the company’s goals.

The first approach of HPW is ensuring employee security. Many companies are now offering part time employment contracts to cut costs on labour. However, such practices do not promote employee security and this removes the focus of the employee from working to constantly looking for new areas of employment. Job security helps to create high-trust partnerships with employees and this subsequently translates to employees going the extra mile at work. The Lincoln Electric company in the US attributes its success in the industry to this approach and guarantees up to three year of employment for employees (Caldwell and Floyd 2014).

The second approach is selective hiring. A company has to be precise in identifying the skills, knowledge and attributes they require from their employees and not just focusing on academic qualification. The focus on the attributes is important because while skills and knowledge may be taught through training, attributes are inherent in a person and may be crucial to employee retention. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has used this strategy to hire people based non attributes by seeking people with great interpersonal skills to join their organization (Caldwell and Floyd 2014). To recruit such people, the organization hires former sorority of fraternity leaders and college athletes who are likely to give good customer service while working at the organization. The use of this approach, the company is rated as the largest car rental company in the US.

Once a company has selected its employees, there is need to train the employees. The training should be based on the need to empower employees for conflict management, quality output and promoting self-initiative at work. The training has to be suited to the employees and to the organization’s goals and objectives (Caldwell and Floyd 2014). Involving employees in such trainings increases their ownership to the company hence increasing commitment to the achievement of organizational goals.

Decentralized decision making is a key pillar for HPW. When decision making is delegated to employees, they feel empowered to deliver at work and demonstrate high trust in employees. This also requires that the employees are trained to handle the autonomy of decision making. The Ritz-Carlton, famous for its exemplary customer service employees this strategy by allowing the employees the discretion to spend up to $2,500 towards service for customers where it meets the hotel’s mission (Caldwell and Floyd 2014). The decentralization of decision making is also linked to sharing key information with the employees. Not only do employees feel trusted by the sharing of information, but also require this information to help the organization reach its goals.

In order to promote HPW at the workplace, organizations need to develop a compensation system to reward employees when the organization succeeds. In this way, employment awareness in their role as part of the company’s success is heightened and it promotes commitment to the goals of the company (Caldwell and Floyd 2014).

Conclusion

The evolution of the economic sector requires companies to have a competitive advantage to succeed. While product and price may be areas of competitive advantage for companies, the largest asset a company has towards achieving its goals is its employees. Organizations like Unilever operating in multiple countries are especially at risk or losing their competitive edge if human resource sis managed. The need for continuous training as part of an approach to high work performance in the organization is required for the organization to meet its goals.

Bibliography

Unilever.com. 2021. At a glance | Unilever. [online] Available at: <https://www.unilever.com/our-company/at-a-glance/> [Accessed 21 March 2021].

Caldwell, C. and Floyd, L., 2014. High Performance Work Systems: Building Commitment to Increase Profitability. Graziado Business Review, [online] 17(3). Available at: <https://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2014/12/high-performance-work-systems/> [Accessed 20 March 2021].

Collin, K., Van der Heijden, B. and Lewis, P., 2012. Continuing professional development. International Journal of Training and Development, [online] 16(3), pp.155-163. Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263066208_Continuing_professional_development> [Accessed 21 March 2021].

Daneshkhu, S., 2014. Stiffest competition from local business, says Unilever chief. [online] Ft.com. Available at: <https://www.ft.com/content/38ec7140-17d6-11e4-b842-00144feabdc0> [Accessed 21 March 2021].

Mcleod, S., 2017. Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: <https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html> [Accessed 21 March 2021].

Pichler, S., Varma, A., Yu, A., Beenen, G. and Davoudpour, S., 2014. High performance work systems, cultures and gender demography. Employee Relations, [online] 36(6), pp.693-707. Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280193169_High_Performance_Work_Systems_HPWS_Cultures_and_Gender_Demography> [Accessed 20 March 2021].

Ramasamy, D. and Gilbert, S., 2017. How to ‘do’ CPD with your team (from the organisation’s perspective). Community Eye Health Journal, [online] 30(97), pp.9-10. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461513/> [Accessed 21 March 2021].

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