Our strategy

We are developing the right people, teams and structures to enable us to succeed in doubling the size of our business.

A values-led approach

The number of people we employ worldwide totalled 167 000 at the end of 2010, up from 164 000 in 2009.

We believe in providing an environment where individuals can achieve their goals, both professionally and personally. To attract and retain the best people, we need to offer people room to grow and succeed, and a varied set of career options.

Our Corporate Purpose and Code of Business Principles commit us to treating our people with respect, integrity and fairness. We in turn expect all our employees to observe high standards of behaviour and integrity in their everyday work. Similarly, Unilever’s Supplier Code outlines what we expect of our suppliers.

Our new Compass strategy

Our mission aims to double the size of our business while reducing our environmental impact. To achieve this we have placed a renewed focus on the consumer and customer and on driving a performance culture. We have called this our Compass strategy.

Having the right people with the right skills is essential if we are to deliver on our ambitious growth plans. So ‘Winning with people’ is a core part of the Compass strategy. We are reshaping our organisation to support our vision by creating a simpler, more streamlined structure, developing the necessary talent and skills, and embedding a performance culture that rewards success.

Making the most of the size & scale of our business

A key element of our Compass strategy is to get better efficiencies through our global scale. We need to get the right balance between becoming more efficient and remaining close to the local nuances of our consumer needs. In 2010 we assessed the effectiveness of some of our most critical teams, such as the global and local marketing teams.

Our focus has also been on streamlining essential business support functions, such as procurement and supply chain, HR, IT and finance. This not only helps save costs but also makes us better able to respond to our customers and consumers. For example, during 2010 we made important changes to how we run our supply chain function, bringing in common systems and processes across the whole of Unilever. This helped us save €300 million. For more see Suppliers.

The Compass builds on the work we have been carrying out over the past few years under our One Unilever programme (see below).

Developing a team fit for growth

In some countries we are doubling the size of our business every five to six years. Having enough people with the right skills in the right jobs is a challenge. Getting the number and quality of people in the pipeline requires an understanding of what skills we already have in the business and what more we need as our business grows.

See Developing & engaging our people for more.

Building a performance culture

Building a culture in the business that inspires and rewards performance has been one of our key areas of focus during 2010.

This year we changed the incentive and reward structure for all our managers. Reward is now based entirely on the achievement of individual business and personal development goals.

To help our employees understand how to succeed in this tougher environment, we developed a performance culture toolkit and held workshops for all our managers. The toolkit and workshop are designed to help managers identify the small changes they can make in their behaviour that will help to bring about a more fundamental change in the culture of the business.

To help us monitor this change we have enhanced our Global People Survey (GPS) to provide feedback about the culture that our leaders create. The results of our GPS in 2010 showed that the employee engagement score, which had hovered around 65% for a number of years, rose to 73%.

Our analysis shows that an increasing confidence in senior leadership and strategy is largely responsible for the strong result. Many of our leaders now also have sustainability goals as part of their overall responsibility.

Changing a company’s culture takes time. We are looking at a period of sustained effort to get all our people to work in new ways.

A safe & healthy workforce

Creating a safe working environment for our employees remains a top priority. We are also making an impact through our employee health and well-being programmes. As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, launched in November 2010, we set ambitious targets. See Employees safety, health & well-being for more.


Unilever needs a diverse team – across gender, nationality, race, creed, culture – to be able to connect with the widest range of consumers. Read more about our efforts in Promoting diversity.

Compass awards

In 2010 we launched our first Global Compass Awards to recognise significant performance improvements and those who are successfully implementing our new Compass strategy. Award categories reflect key aspects of the vision including Winning with Brands and Innovation, Winning in the Marketplace, Winning through Continuous Improvement, Winning with People, Consumer and Customer Connectivity and Sustainability. In total we received 1 400 entries, representing every part of our business. Our sustainable sourcing commitments on tea and palm oil were shortlisted for the sustainability category and the entry for sustainable palm oil sourcing came out top. See Sustainable agricultural sourcing section for more on palm oil.

A responsible approach to restructuring

Our Compass strategy builds on the One Unilever transformation process, which ran from 2005 to 2010. Its aim was to simplify our business structure, speed up decision-making and improve competitiveness.

After creating One Unilever (ie single) operating companies in each country around the world, we moved swiftly to establish multi-country organisations (MCOs) in all our geographies, with a single management team leading a cluster of countries. We have 23 MCOs. Our operating companies are now much leaner and better equipped to focus on serving local consumers and customers competitively.

At times our transformation process has meant taking difficult decisions. Where job losses have been necessary, either as a result of disposals or closures, we have sought to take a responsible approach. We follow agreed consultation processes and recognise that organisational change is a source of concern for our employees. We communicate regularly to ensure that people understand what is happening and where redundancy is necessary we make every effort to help them find alternative employment.