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What three factors help us win and retain talent?


Business and HR professionals from around the globe gathered in London this week at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect conference. At the top of their agenda was winning and keeping talent.

Stephen Lochhead speech

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed and Vice President, Global Talent and Resourcing, Stephen Lochhead, spoke at the keynote event. They shared their three key insights on purpose, people and partnership – which contribute to our ranking 25th on LinkedIn’s ‘Most InDemand Employer’ list in North America and 5th across Europe, Middle East and Africa, based on billions of interactions from LinkedIn’s 380 million plus members.

The event was streamed live, and in a three-part presentation Keith and Stephen shared how our purpose is at the core of our business objectives. We are aligning our brands, people and partnerships in one direction – leading to winning in the marketplace. Here are some of the key insights from their talk.

“Our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace,”

Keith Weed

“We like to dream big at Unilever”

Stephen Lochhead

Purpose through brands

“Our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace,” said Keith Weed. “We are building a brand portfolio that really has purpose built into its core. Brands where purpose is an intrinsic part of the brand value, not just an ‘add-on’. We call these our ‘sustainable living brands’, and they include Ben & Jerry’s, Dove, Lifebuoy and Domestos, for example.

“There are a lot of good case studies in the sustainability area around cost-savings. From eco-efficiency alone, we have already saved €250 million. But this is also a growth driver. Last year our sustainable living brands drove 50% of the growth in Unilever and grew at twice the rate of the other brands in our portfolio. That is really an exciting way to start shaping the business case for sustainability.

“People always ask me, what is the business case for sustainability,” added Keith. “And I always tell them I’d love to see the business case for the alternative. What is the business case for destroying our planet and the society around us?”

Empowering people – forging partnerships

Today, traditional drivers such as profit and promotion are still important but not always enough to help an organisation win talent. Instead, workers are placing a higher importance on business ethics, sustainability and equality. In a recent survey by Deloitte of 7,800 new graduates across 29 countries, 61% of the millennials surveyed said that businesses must show strong leadership on social issues and 52% said they needed to act in an ethical manner.

“We like to dream big at Unilever,” continued Stephen Lochhead. "But we can only achieve that by going after what’s inspirational, at what gets people out of bed every day. We need to elevate why people come to work. If you can do that you can leave an indelible mark on the company’s culture and provide employees and potential employees with the opportunity for purpose and contribution,” he said.

Keith also highlighted how a collaborative and partnership approach is key to Unilever’s success. “Of course you want to attract the best talent,” he said. “But with the speed of change and disruption in today’s world, you need to think about innovative ways to identify and work with that new talent – without necessarily having to own it. One way we are doing this and finding inspiring new sources of creativity and innovation is through the Unilever Foundry.”

Recruitment driven by people with purpose

People with purpose are key to our growth ambitions. “In Unilever, we have a really simple formula. By putting people and brands together under the banner of purpose, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. And this is transforming the way we seek talent,” Stephen said. “When an employee makes a connection between their own personal purpose and the company’s purpose, that’s the magic moment when they become a citizen of Unilever.

“Implementing ‘why I work at Unilever’ means looking beyond products and profit, to a recruitment strategy based on three principles,” explained Stephen. “The principles are:

  • Emotionally connecting with people through a mission powerful enough to bring people together, fundamentally providing a compelling answer to the question, ‘what’s the point?’
  • Democratising our employer brand to allow employees to become our brand ambassadors.
  • Giving our employees the chance to tell their stories on platforms like LinkedIn.

“When people are proud, they’ll share it – they’ll spread the word. When you see your role in this light, talent acquisition moves beyond bringing in great talent and into being a prime mover in leading a sustainable growth strategy,” added Stephen.

Lauren’s story: From brand manager to brand ambassador

“My name is Lauren Wittig and I am currently placed in London with Unilever – on an international rotation from the USA – as Associate Global Brand Development Manager for Cornetto Ice Cream.

“Food is a huge part of the Unilever business and significant focus is placed on providing nutritious meals to those in need. Unilever has recently backed the UN Global Goals, one of which is Zero Hunger. In one of my roles on the Unilever Future Leaders programme, I had the opportunity to be a part of Unilever’s #ShareAMeal campaign to combat hunger in America. I saw first-hand the impact each person can make in their community and felt empowered to take small actions to make a big difference both in work and in life.

“I am proud to work for a company that puts the well-being of society first.”

Our CEO Paul Polman is a LinkedIn Influencer. Follow his updates here. If you are interested in any opportunities at Unilever, visit our company page on LinkedIn.

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