Task
A: Brief
introduction of the company i.e. history, their services etc.

Unilever is an international consumer goods
manufacturer with over 400 brands of food, beverages, households and also
personal care products. Unilever embraces that Unilever Sustainable Living Plan
(USLP) is the central of its business model to achieve balancing in accomplish
its business profit and also make good use of natural resources in its
industrial manufacturing process.

            The
founding of Unilever is based on the innovation of Sunlight Soap, the first
tablet soap by William Hesketh Lever in 1890, which succeeded in popularising
the importance of cleanliness and hygiene among people in Victorian England. So
far, Unilever is still implementing his deeds of making sustainable living
commonplace as its business purpose.

            Unilever
is looking forward for implementing a sustainable and better future which can
improve people’s health and reduce any environmental issues while in developing
of its business as well. On the way of creating a brighter future, it invokes
different parties such as its own related management departments, consumers,
government, non-governmental organisation and other business operators to work
together in building the safe and sound place for every creature.

            To attain
its vision, Unilever enforces a comprehensive strategy for its long-term
business growth. Given the highest standard of cooperate behaviour it has,
Unilever can make a positive social impact by building the steady relationship
with the entire society. With the change of time, Unilever intends to fulfil
customers insight to maintain its competitive and profitable long-term growth
by its perfect combination of science and technology and also its supply chain
management.

 

 

Task
B:
Conduct an extensive research using internet, academic journals,
textbook or reliable resources on how the company implements its Management
functions i.e. Planning, Organizing, Controlling & Leading.

The four
traditional functions of management – planning, organizing, leading, and
controlling – are the fundamental management principles that are still relevant
in the rigorous business world today. It is widely practiced by executives
across industries, including Unilever, which operates in the fast-moving
consumer goods (FCMG) industry that is extremely large and competitive.

 

          Planning
 

 

         Organizing

           Leading

         Controlling

 

Planning is the process of establishing the goals
of an organization and developing in advance the appropriate activities that
should be executed in order to achieve said goals. Thus, this traditional
function of management consists of various levels of decision making. (Bateman
& Snell, 2015)

Unilever’s vision is to grow our business,
while decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our
positive social impact (Unilever, 2017). Unilever’s Corporate Purpose states
that to succeed requires “the highest standards of corporate behaviour
towards everyone we work with, the communities we touch, and the environment on
which we have an impact.” These lay down the groundwork for the
organization to come up with milestones and procedures for their employees so
that they could contribute in the achievement of their organizational goals.

In
2009, Unilever launched The Compass, a strategy detailing sustainable growth;
and in 2010, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was introduced, and it laid
the groundwork in achieving Unilever’s goal in causing positive impact
environmentally and socioeconomically in line with the United Nation’s
Sustainable Development Goals. The four Compass Pillars are: (1) Winning with
brands and innovation, (2) Winning in the marketplace, (3) Winning through
continuous improvement, (4) Winning with people.

Before deciding on the direction of the
company, Unilever first did a thorough situational analysis on their market,
and access various challenges that their company might face in their
operations. Then, they come up with strategies and plan to address these
problems.

In
Unilever’s 2016 Annual Report, Unilever identified the social challenges in the
consumer market. Even though the older generation has significantly more spending
power than younger generations who are exposed to higher levels of
unemployment, research shows that by 2025, Millennials may spend more in
natural and more authentic products. Interest in sustainability issues has also
skyrocketed, and Unilever found that 54% of consumers are either buying or are
open to buying sustainably. Thus, in order to adapt to this ever-changing
consumer demand, Unilever has focused more in producing and innovating products
with natural formulations, such as food with organic and traceable ingredients.

Also,
even if the economical growth in the European continents was slightly slow due
to external factors such as Brexit, the emerging markets, where Unilever has
around 70% of its volume in it, will generate higher levels of consumption per
capita, that would both boost demand for FCMG products in the long run. Thus,
the Annual Strategy Report noted that the company has reinvested in rebalancing
portfolios to ensure the long term growth of the organisation, and that cost
reduction was a major factor in the decision making process. Unilever’s four
category strategies – Personal Care, Foods, Home Care, and Refreshment – each
has specific priorities aimed at growing sales and delivering improved
financial metrics to sustain the company against the low global market growth.
One of the significant efforts of Unilever in market development is the
acquisition of the Dollar Shave Club, which grew the E-Commerce of the company
as much as 47% year-on-year.

The
meticulous situational analysis and detailed business planning of Unilever has
resulted in a total turnover of € 52,713 million. It also generated a total net
profit of € 5,547 million in 2016 for the company.

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing concerns the assembling and coordinating
of the human, financial, physical, informational, and other resources needed to
achieve goals, including activities such as attracting talent, specifying job
responsibilities, and allocating resources. 
Organizing also means creating an organization chart that views human
capital as their most valuable resources, and is flexible and adaptive in
response to competitive threats and consumer needs. (Bateman & Snell, 2015)

In
2016, Unilever underwent a major organisational change through the Connected 4
Growth (C4G) programme, which aimed to create a faster, more agile, and more
competitive organisation. Unilever seeks to empower people through C4G by
encouraging entrepreneurial thinking and action, which in turn will indirectly attract
the right talents from the increasingly competitive labour market.

            Unilever N.V. and Unilever PLC
operate as a single economic entity since 1930, and this was possible due to
special provisions in the Articles of Association of NV and PLC, and the
Foundation Agreements (The Equalisation Agreement, the Deed of Mutual
Covenants, the Agreement for Mutual Guarantees of Borrowing between NV and
PLC). With this, the unity of management, operations, shareholders’ rights,
purpose and mission can be achieved. As seen in the diagram to the left,
Unilever is currently reviewing their legal structure in an effort to simplify
and increase flexibility so that there is more options for strategically
portfolio change in the future.

The
Boards of NV and PLC are responsible for the corporate governance of Unilever,
and are accountable for the company’s management, general affairs, direction,
performance, and long-term success. The Boards are one-tier boards, where the
same people are on both Boards. Directors, which consist of Executive Directors
and Non-Executive Directors, have a collective responsibility in running the
company with their supervisory role.

There
are four established Board Committees: the Audit Committee, the Compensation
Committee, the Corporate Responsibility Committee, and the Nominating and
Corporate Governance Committee. The CEO will be responsible with the
operational running of the company, and are able to delegate any of his powers
and discretion to members of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), where
each member has different job descriptions and departmental responsibilities.
The Board will be required to have a minimum of six physical meetings to
consider any strategic, transactional, and governance matters. In 2016, the
Non-Executive Directors held 6 meetings to discuss specific agendas. The Board,
on the recommendation from the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee,
will nominate a Non-Executive Director to be the Chairman of both NV and PLC.
The Chairman will then lead the Board and conduct shareholders meetings for the
company.

Outside
of corporate governance, Unilever also utilizes a number of effective
organizational strategies to boost their business performance. According to
Thompson (2017), Unilever’s operational management (OM) is one of the main
reasons for the high productivity of the company. By focusing on short-term and
intermediate schedules for resource utilization, it enables the company to be
flexible in its operation in satisfying target consumers. As an example,
regional operation managers will adjust schedules based on the relevant market
conditions. Besides, Unilever handles its slack resources by utilizing
effective inventory management, where the company aims to maintain an adequate
inventory to respond to sharp peaks in demand. Thompson notes that Unilever
applies the perpetual method and periodic method of inventory management. The
just-in-time (JIT) system minimizes holding time and corresponding costs in
inventory operations.

Leading, on the other hand, is the manager’s
efforts to stimulate high performance by employees. Good leaders stimulate
people to be high performers through motivating, communicating, guiding, and
inspiring employees towards achieving team and organizational goals (Bateman &
Snell, 2015). The ‘Winning with People’ pillar in Unilever’s Compass indicates
that the company are aware that human capital is essential to their companies’
growth, and that efforts are made to attract and retain talent into their
business. The development of the C4G programme is the best proof for the
statement.

Unilever’s
Human Resource has three priorities in working to accelerate business growth.
Firstly, they focus their activities on Wellbeing, Talent, Learning, and
Reward. Second, they build teams and connect them with technology to foster
empowerment and agility. Thirdly, the Human Resource department seeks to power
the organisation with purpose so that all employees are able to reach their
potential. Leaders in Unilever are adapting new performance and reward systems
to provide more career development opportunities for high-performing employees.
Besides, they implement C4G in attempt to improve top-line growth by
encouraging the workforce to experiment and collaborate.

C4G
acknowledges the importance of democratic leadership, which then explains how
Unilever is working to remove labels and categorisations in their talent
process and promote individuals’ development needs. Instead of an autocratic
approach, Unilever managers need to understand their subordinates’
requirements, and link them to Unilever’s Learning Hub to receive the right
training and support so that they could adapt to future market changes and
excel in it. C4G also aims to push a more entrepreneurial approach and an
owner’s attitude to the employees, and are now assisting them to generate a
strong sense of purpose in their daily work. The reward principles that the
managers adapt are also becoming simpler, with fewer reward elements that focus
on short-term performance, and more that pushes employees to create their
long-term value. Managers are also required to join a mandatory safety
leadership programme, where they will be tasked to instil best practices in
their teams to protect the wellbeing of their subordinates.

Gregory
(2017) observed that Unilever’s leaders are able to use market-based and
results-based approaches to motivate and boost employee performance. These
strategies fall in line with Unilever’s culture for high performance and
quality. Market-based management is an approach which utilizes market data to
alter management strategies, while result-based management focuses on the
achievement of desired outcomes. Unilever also practices transparency and
integrity in their leadership culture, which is essential for the implementation
of corporate governance, and to maintain a healthy, positive workplace. These
qualities ensure that the company’s leaders would be able to continue in
maintaining high quality performance even though there are major business
changes, such as mergers and acquisitions.

 

The
above diagram denotes Unilever’s business plan, which seeks to achieve a
sustainable and equitable growth. This continuous cycle deploys numerous
control strategies where Unilever alters its business decision to best suit the
situation at hand. Bateman & Snell (2015) explains that controlling is where performance is
monitored so that appropriate changes can be implemented. 

Unilever’s
business model has integrated their USLP goals into its operation, from aspects
such as sustainable sourcing of agricultural raw materials, to the
eco-production in manufacturing to marketing brands with purpose.

The
controlling process of Unilever starts by the collection of consumer insights
through focus groups and quantitative studies. This enables the company to
detect how the market is changing and segmenting, and whether their previous
business approaches have been as effective as it could be. Besides, the
Consumer and Market Insight (CMI) group in Unilever monitors data about
consumption patterns and social media dialogues. After the necessary
informational collection, Unilever will then seek to collaborate with different
institutions to tackle issues that have surfaced, such as environmental
sustainability. Then, Unilever will go into their research and development
process, where further product innovation are encouraged so that product
benefits are altered to fit to the best of the consumer’s wants. Then,
subsequent measures to alter the business plan are went through by the
different departments in the company, namely sourcing, manufacturing,
logistics, marketing, and sales. Then, the cycle starts again to ensure values
are delivered to Unilever’s stakeholders.

The
control process of Unilever has been found effective, as their products are increasingly
responsive to local needs, and results are landing faster in markets. As an
example, the innovation of Sunsilk Hijab product line indicates that Unilever
is aware that the Muslim women desire better formulated hair products that
could suit their needs. Besides, the Aguai factory in Brazil now sets the new
benchmarks in sustainability after Unilever deployed control measures to
improve their manufacturing sectors. Unilever also has achieved a 7.5% of
carbon dioxide emission reduction in 2016 as compared to 2015 by reducing truck
mileage, and improving the energy efficiency in warehouses. Their Marketing
department has also adapted to the ever changing digital economy by investing
more in their digital platforms, with U-Studio and U-Entertainment for content
creation. Unilever’s sales department has also increased their focus in small
and convenience stores in response to the annual 5% growth they experience from
consumers. All of this are reviewed and certified by the 2016 Independent
Limited Assurance Report to the Directors of Unilever, produced by auditing
company PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Task
C:
Based on task A&B, advise the company on the usage of technology in
improving management efficiency and overcoming obstacles

In this age of science and technology, it
is necessary for a company use advance technology to improve their management
efficiency and overcome obstacles faced by the company. On top of that, there
are four management functions that need to improve to increase management
efficiency.

First and foremost, planning is the first
step required in management process. In this required step, Unilever must do a
thorough situational analysis on their market research before making a decision
on the direction of the company. Thus, I would like to advise Unilever to use
Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered information technology. AI powered
information technology is a technology that conduct large scale of data
analysis by using techniques called “model averaging” to test the importance of
each factor against all others. Thus, this technology can help managers to sift
through vast volumes of data and hence reduce the estimation time for large
scale analysis from weeks to a few days. (S, 2017) This helps managers
to make a decision faster and more accurate on their planning toward their
organization goals. On the other hand, (AI) powered information technology in
management can both help expose the long-term implications of short-term
decisions because the technology can help to identify unforeseen consequences,
or discover new sources of value of the organization. This can help managers to
overcome the obstacles of making wrong decision for the operation of the
company.

Secondly, Unilever can utilize the usage of
internet conferencing such as “Slack” in organizing departments to simplify the
data transmission within the departments. Slack uniforms entire team’s
communication to make workflow better. By using this app, employees can easily
search all files and data in one place. Slack also make conversation between
people become easier. Discussion for projects is organised into channels, so
there is place for every project, team, or apartment. Apart from that, physical
meetings between boards can be held much lesser, which will lead to a cut in
cost and travelling time. All the meetings between the boards can be held
online although they are not gathering together in a meeting room. Besides
Slack, Unilever can apply HR software solution in the organization to streamline
many of the tasks that took altogether too many hours to complete manually.
This software helps to schedule and track both manpower and jobs. With built-in
features that allow managers to schedule work hours, leaves, holiday breaks and
even paid training hours, HR software frees up managers to deal with employees
on a more personal, face-to-face level as the need arises.

For the leading part, Unilever developed a
programme named C4G programme which acknowledge the importance of democratic
leadership instead of an autocratic approach. As a democratic leader, the
managers need to understand their subordinates and requirements, hence link
them to Unilever’s Learning Hub to receive the right training and support. In
terms of that, Unilever can ultimate the usage of technology to develop the
right training and support for employees. For example, Unilever can use
technology survey such as Google forms to obtain employee’s opinion on what
training they would like to receive. Google forms create surveys and questionnaires
that gather everything in a spread sheet then manager can analyse the data
received from the surveys. The spreading of the survey forms will become easier
between employees through the usage of Google forms by embedding forms on
company website. Since the survey is published on the company’s website, all
the employees are able to answer the survey in a short time. Thus, managers can
analyse the results faster without having to send around multiple versions of
the file. This will help managers to overcome the obstacles of being struggling
to decide a personalised training programme for each employee.

The last management function will be
controlling. The controlling process of Unilever is completed by the Consumer
and Market Insight (CMI) group in Unilever by collects consumer insights
through focus groups and quantitative studies. In my point of view, I would
suggest Unilever to apply the technology in their company which is Big Data
Technology created by M-Brain. This technology contains market research
solutions can support Unilever in establishing customer or supplier behaviour
and perception analysis, industry analysis, competitive and market analysis,
and so on. This technology helps Unilever to do their consumer and market
insights analysis accurately without wasting any resources and time. Hence, it
overcomes the obstacles of the difficulty in analysing the mass of data and
information between the markets and consumers.

In a nutshell, there is variety of usage
of technologies in improving management efficiency and overcoming obstacles.
The most important point is the company itself has to ultimate the usage of
technology appropriately to achieve organizational goals of the company.

 

(3118
words)

 

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