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Future of work

Strategy and goals

We’re shaping the future of work through three big commitments.

The future of work is here

Jobs of all types are evolving at ever-increasing speeds. We have a duty to help people adapt and be ready for change.

Unilever employees in meeting

148,000 people work directly for Unilever around the world – and many thousands more indirectly through our supply chain. We are, without doubt, a sizeable employer and we take this responsibility seriously.

The future of work is one of the focus areas of the Unilever Compass . We look at the future of work through three different lenses – the work, the workplace and the workforce – and our three big goals relate to the future of work in each of these areas.

Helping our people become future-fit

What jobs or accountabilities will people be responsible for in the future? Technology such as robots and artificial intelligence will continue to change the nature of many jobs, particularly in manufacturing. Some will disappear, and others will need new skills and ways of working. That’s why we’ve committed to reskill or upskill our employees by 2025 so they have future-fit skills for roles inside Unilever or beyond.

We can’t promise anyone a job for life, but we can do everything possible to equip our people with the skills and awareness to pursue meaningful work, whether at Unilever or elsewhere. That’s why we’re beginning to think about each role at Unilever as a collection of skills, rather than simply a job title. We’re piloting the use of AI and data analytics to help us define these skills, with some surprising results that show skillsets from different functions actually overlap more than we anticipated. This means skills are transferable, making potential transitions to new roles easier and quicker for our employees.

Providing our people with flexible employment

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that people don’t have to be sitting together to work together. Fixed ways of working – roles, places, hours, skills – no longer reflect the way the world works. We believe in the power of flexibility and choice, so we’re thinking differently about our future workplaces and pioneering new models of employment.

This means offering more flexible project-based roles that still have the benefits of permanent contracts. It means giving our people more options for managing the balance between work and home life, such as letting them choose where they work and when. And it means giving people time off to study or retrain.

Our ultimate aim is to be a workplace that embraces openness and adaptability so that our people can do their best work wherever and however it suits them.

Developing young people’s skills

Who will be doing the work in the future and what are they looking for? Young people want jobs – and they also want more flexibility and new ways to relate to employers. Yet many leave education without the skills or knowledge to succeed in today’s working world.

We’re developing apprenticeship schemes and working with our suppliers and distributors to build vocational skills and share job opportunities to help young people to get into work. And our business and brands are working with many other partners to build programmes to help young people become ‘work ready’. Our LevelUp programme in South Africa is a good example.

Creating momentum around the future of work

To create more widespread and meaningful change around these and other elements of the future of work, we’re working closely with others. In December 2021, we hosted our first Future of Work Summit – an interactive conference for business leaders, policymakers, academics and thought leaders. This involved two days of debates, panel discussions and workshops exploring the trends and innovations that will define the future economy and our place in it.

Four people sitting on a stage discussing the future of work at our Future of Work Summit

Our Future of Work Summit Report (PDF 1.34 MB)

Our Future of Work Summit participants believe there is irreversible momentum driving the changing practices of work, driven largely by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Summit Report explores what we discovered about current practice and implications for the future across six themes spanning topics such as new employment models, inclusion and technology. It concludes with the five big ideas we believe have the widest implications for the future of work.

Looking at the bigger picture is crucial, because for business to thrive, society has to be thriving too: from our employees and consumers to suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Alan Jope, our Chief Executive Officer

Our strategy is explicit that figuring out the future of work is a strategic imperative. When we get it right, we believe it will be a source of strategic competitive advantage.

Alan Jope, our CEO
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