Close up of the top of a tea plant in a tea field on a Unilever plantation

Providing skills for life

Average read time: 5 minutes

Ongoing learning is at the heart of our culture – and our commitment to helping people stay fit for the future of work.

A diverse group of Unilever employees holding a Unilever sign in front of a red wall

There’s no such thing as a job for life in today’s world. Automation continues to advance in manufacturing, and people in all industries are having to learn new skills as technologies, the economy and jobs evolve. It’s more important than ever to have a plan for the future and the skills to match. So our first commitment is about helping our people equip themselves to pursue their idea of meaningful work in an ever-changing world.

Our goal

Reskill or upskill our employees with future-fit skills by 2025. 

The idea of continuing to learn to stay fit for the future is at the heart of Unilever. And two core beliefs lie behind our approach to this: one, that people with purpose thrive – and two, that we have a duty to help our people adapt to the impact of evolving technologies and ways of working. Importantly, this is not something we’re doing to people. We’re doing it with them by working closely with individuals and with employee and union representatives to find solutions that work for everyone – not just for our business.

behaviour psychology

50% Of the global workforce will need to reskill by 2025 (World Economic Forum)

We’re supporting every single one of our direct employees as they proactively develop an individual Future Fit plan. They start by clarifying their purpose – the things that are most meaningful to their lives and work. They then use this plan to guide their career path and identify and develop the skills they’ll need to succeed.

This might involve enhancing their skills for their current role (upskilling), training to move to a different role in Unilever (reskilling), or preparing for careers and opportunities beyond our business.

Through Degreed, our online learning hub, people can access personalised learning materials and engage with others on a similar learning track. And through our Flex Experiences programme, people gain hands-on experience through work assignments with other teams around Unilever.

This Future Fit planning enables our people to embrace and benefit from change. It shows them that, even where we can’t protect specific jobs, we can help protect their livelihoods. And it helps us make sure we have people with the right future skills in place. Our ultimate goal? For no one to be left behind as the world of work continues to change.

Flex Experiences

Our in-house flexible working programme matches people with project opportunities in other business areas and geographies to create mutual benefit. The AI-powered platform allows team leaders to resource projects at speed and helps employees develop their skills and build experience in line with their Future Fit plan.

Flex allows our employees to work on projects for a small or large proportion of time, increase the depth of their current skills or build new skills and experiences in a flexible way.

Yanpi Oliveros-Pascual, HR business partner

In 2020, more than 20,000 people used Flex to match their skills and capacity with business-critical demand in other areas of the organisation.

Flex Experiences in action

Image of Vanessa Otake

Vanessa Otake: Aligning purpose and career

Vanessa has worked for Unilever for 18 years in R&D. Following a 'Discover your Purpose' workshop, Vanessa was inspired to look at alternative career paths focused on her passion for learning and development and female leadership. She came across a three-month Flex project with the Global Diversity & Inclusion team and after impressing her colleagues she managed to secure a new permanent role in the team.

Flex Experiences gave me an opportunity to bring my purpose and work closer together. It's been a great tool to connect with people to learn more and was instrumental in supporting a shift in my career.

Vanessa Otake, Global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager

Responsible automation

Automation is a key part of the fourth industrial revolution – where many jobs are changing or disappearing due to things like technology, new employment models and shifting workforce demographics. According to the World Economic Forum, the integration of automation into working practices is expected to create 97 million jobs at the same time as replacing some 85 million jobs. And by 2025, the time spent on current work tasks by humans and machines is expected to be equal.

This is, of course, changing how we work – in some areas faster than others, like manufacturing. We have a duty to help our people – including those in our supply chain – to adapt. So through our Future Fit planning, we’re also helping them identify future employment opportunities and develop their skills and capabilities. Not only is this important for employees, but also for the communities in which our people live and work.

Responsible automation in action

Wesley Korir: From Kenyan tea plucker to small business owner

Wesley Korir: From Kenyan tea plucker to small business owner

For 17 years, Wesley was a tea plucker at Unilever Tea Kenya Ltd (UTKL) in Kericho, before applying for early retirement in 2018 as a consequence of the field operations becoming more automated. Working with an NGO, we supported Wesley and others with an intensive two-week employment transition workshop covering financial management, techniques for starting agribusinesses, small business financing models and business incubator networks.

Wesley has since started a small dairy and poultry farming business, bought a maize grinder for his wife to use to make money, and bought a truck to use on his farm. He’s part of a network group which continues to receive business management training and support from the NGO and the Ministry of Agriculture in Kericho.

The training was really important in helping me to believe in myself and giving me the confidence to start my own businesses. These ventures have made life much easier and created a seamless transition for me and my family. I can confidently say that I’m able to meet my family’s needs and pay my children’s school fees.

Wesley Korir, small business owner