Unilever is one of the biggest producers of consumer goods in the world economy. The exponential growth of Unilever has a lot to do with its organizational culture along with the activities and policies implemented by its leaders over time. The culture of an organization, its leadership, and human resources are all linked together. Unilever is a global firm that is integrated. Change implemented in one section of the global entity results in changes or developments in other sections. The features of these components affect one another and the entire organization as a whole. The success of the company is attributed to Unilever's leaders having overall effectiveness in offering support towards the improvement of the organizational culture. The corporate culture of Unilever contributes to improvements in other sections like sales and human resources (Alvesson et al., 2015).
Unilever is known for its organizational culture of performance that emphasizes significant output by employees. The culture is also about providing an environment that allows employees to be the most productive they can be without imposing restrictions on them. For example, unlike in other organizations, it is not mandatory for employees in Unilever to go to work in official wear or even work from the office full time.
Growing up, I used Unilever products almost every day, from margarine to bathing soap to detergent, name it and I enjoyed using every one of the company's products. Back then, Unilever was a mere shadow of the global superpower it has become now, but one thing that has remained unchanged is the knack for quality and customer satisfaction. As a teenager, I grew curious about the company and decided to do research on the internet about it. One of the things I found out was that Unilever was one of the best employers in the country so I decided to apply for an internship when in college. Luckily, I got in and was amazed by the organization. Its size, diversity, wide range of products, level of professionalism, versatility and course rewards to employees. Unilever is truly the place to be as far as working the right job and getting experience are concerned. Also, I once bought their margarine and found that the actual weight was less than that indicated on the pack. So I called their customer care and reported my issue. I was greeted by quite a pleasant person on the other end that was very apologetic about the incident; they got my address and on the same day sent another pack of margarine and an extra one for my trouble. As a customer loyal to the Unilever brand for many years, I felt valued and appreciated. For those reasons and many more, Unilever is a company that is close to my heart.
Unilever's Organizational Culture
Unilever is a multinational organization which means that it has employees from all over the globe. It is a diverse company that has employees from different ethnicities, races, and backgrounds. The general culture in Unilever has a lot to do with the Unilever brand which has gained popularity and recognition as a quality brand over the years. The company has received numerous awards which make anyone working in Unilever, even as a genitor, talk about it with pride. Employees communicate a certain sense of pride when talking about the company and its products. They all attach a degree of quality to Unilever products that they say is incomparable to none. They believe that Unilever is the best employer and to them, there is no refuting that. The Unilever culture allows employees to wear anything to work which means that they can go official or casual any day of the week (Alvesson et al., 2015). Unilever has what is called "global bosses" where anyone above a managerial position is the boss of everyone below their rank in the global company regardless of the country they operate in.
That means that they have the power to hire and fire subordinate Unilever employees. They assign tasks to Unilever employees across the globe which they expect to be given priority. These senior employees can communicate directly to the junior employees without following any protocol. The junior employees, however, cannot make direct contact with the senior employees. They are required to talk to their immediate bosses, who then talk to their immediate bosses, and this continues until the boss in question is arrived at.
The company is divided into different departments- quality, engineering, production, HR, sales and marketing, and so forth. Each department is on their block so that members of one department sit and work in one place. Different departments have different cultures (sub-cultures). Employees in different departments communicate with each other mostly via emails, telephone calls, and the messenger. These employees rarely see one another. During meals- tea break and lunch, it is common to see employees from one department seated together in one place having conversations (Alvesson et al., 2015). What is also common is hearing them talk about issues about their department. Their goals, what needs to be done, who needs what among other things. They have a common language, common things they talk about and a common way of seeing things. It is not surprising to get them badmouthing a different department or blaming something that went wrong in the company on the department even when they do not have the facts yet. It is also possible to see people from different departments talking and spending time together. These people are especially those that have known each other for a long time, have been in the company long or knew each other outside of the company (are friends). Their conversations are almost always informal where they talk about issues outside of work, their families, their plans and so on.
During corporate parties or dinners, these people arrive together to the party, sit together, make merry, they are friends. In the different departments, there are different sub-groups where people in these sub-groups have more in common than with the general department.
As mentioned earlier, all the employees in Unilever regardless of the departments they belong to communicate with one another from time to time. They communicate through phone calls, emails, written memos among other modes of communication depending on how fast feedback is needed. When in need of immediate feedback, Unilever employees prefer to make calls as opposed to sending emails or texts. When feedback is not required immediately, they send emails. In the case where a boss wants to send a common message to their subordinates, they write memos or send one email and copy everyone the message is intended for (Bolman et al., 2017).
Employees in one department share an office so they need not make calls unless they are not nearby in which case they use the messenger. When it comes to communication between two or more employees of Unilever in different countries, the mode of communication depends on their ranks and how important or significant the subject matter is. For example, a senior employee in the US and another senior employee in say South Africa talking about the rebranding of Sunlight detergent will most likely have the conversation over a conference call. On the other hand, a conversation between a junior employee in the US and a senior employee in South Africa will most probably happen via messenger. Additionally, the junior employee will have to first consult with their local bosses to get a consent to communicate directly with the boss in the USA otherwise they will be in trouble for not having followed the right protocol.
As Unilever is composed of employees from different countries, the International language of communication in Unilever USA is English. Different employees may have different accents and different ways of pronunciation, but they are all required to use English in both written and non-written communication. In as much as there is a common language of communication, employees in different departments use communication codes that are unique to their department and would be difficult for people in other departments to comprehend (Bolman et al., 2017). These codes give employees a sense of identity, and to them, they set them apart from other employees. Within departments, it is possible and common to get two or more employees having a one on one communication in their native language regarding work or otherwise. In most cases, these employees are in the same rank-colleagues or have a relationship outside of work. They may be friends, lovers or church mates.
In the case where a boss is communicating with their subordinates, they will always use English. Junior employees use Nonverbal emblems like the "A-OK " symbol with the thumb and forefinger among themselves or the subordinate staff. Nonverbal emblems are more common in the factories than in the offices. The reason being that there is a lot of noise in the factories caused by machinery which makes verbal communication somewhat difficult especially when people are not close to one another, and also these employees are in the lower ranks meaning their form of communication is informal. The use of nonverbal emblems when talking to a boss or someone higher in rank in Unilever would be considered disrespectful. The same applies to employees in different departments who only share a professional relationship.
Communication with customers and clientele in Unilever takes place on a daily basis. In the former case, it may be formal or informal, and in the latter case, it is strictly formal. Communication with customers is primarily through phone calls, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the television in the case of commercials and rarely through sit-downs. The sales and marketing departments mostly do customer communication. During delivery of goods to customers, for example, the language of communication between retailers, wholesalers, and salespeople is English. However, it is not uncommon to get a salesman using their native language like Spanish in communicating with a retailer or wholesaler. Customer complaints are handled by the Customer Care department (Bolman et al., 2017).
Customers may channel their complaints through calls or by posting on the company's social media pages. It is the culture of Unilever to take customer complaints seriously and respond to them quickly because they impact highly on the company's image and Unilever is a company that is not only concerned about making profits but also making customers feel satisfied. Advertising of Unilever products is done through the airing of commercials on television as well as the use of social media pages where the company interacts with a one on one basis with ultimate consumers. The company can get feedback from consumers which it uses to improve its products.
During my internship, there were several customer complaints about Unilever products that had had defects in the market. These customers aired their grievances through calls, Emails, and posting them on social media platforms. The latter could have especially had a negative impact on the company's sales and reputation, but the company handled the cases quite professionally. The Sales department withdrew the batch of defective products from the market and compensated the customers that had been affected. They went a step further to assure their customers that they were in the process of ensuring that the incident would never take place again and restore their customers' faith.
Alvesson, M., & Sveningsson, S. (2015). Changing organizational culture: Cultural change work in progress. Routledge.
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Refra...
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