The HRM Issues in Contemporary Organizations: Unilever Australasia

Introduction

Human Resource Management (HRM) and personal management are a part of one science thus they differ in their scope and goals. The main difference between HRM and personal management is that HTM concentrates on organization, workplace, and relations between employees while personal management deals with personal relations only. Critical Academic theory of HRM questions its relation to postmodernism which sees a man as an individual (Beardwell et al 2004). The main limitation of the Critical Academic theory is that it sees employees as the subject and a computer as a subject of organizational relations. A great deal of commentary and research in HRM and industrial/organizational psychology points to the importance of establishing trust–a quality relationship– between management and workers (Campbell et al 1994). Perhaps this is a reaction to the vastly increased instability and reduced tenure of workers in their jobs. On the other hand, perhaps it is a recognition that the productivity and quality required to compete in today’s global marketplace is not likely to be attained and sustained without workers who trust management to recognize and meet their needs. Many studies show that management knows this and is struggling to achieve compatibility between this recognition and the demands of the bottom line (Armstrong 2001).

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Company Background

Unilever Australasia is one of the biggest companies in the region. The main division has 1200 employees. The department is responsible for the management and coordination of the marketing activities of Unilever across the country. Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch company founded in 1911 by William Lever. Today, Unilever is the largest producer of branded consumer goods. Unilever operates in around 100 countries worldwide with 227,000 employees. Unilever is designed to assist this market by providing timely and critical market intelligence necessary to aid in strategic and tactical planning for the fast-growing market in the world (Unilever Australasia 2009).

At Unilever Australasia, the task of the department is to recruit, train, motivate, promote, reward, and support employees. Each dependent manager is responsible for the complete operation of his organization, including planning its growth in sales and profits. These managers, closer to the competitive conditions in their segment of business than anyone else in the company, constantly get ideas for improving their respective product lines either through internal developments or through the acquisition of other companies in related businesses. This is an important part of their general management function. But unless their authority to investigate, evaluate, and negotiate for the acquisition of a promising company is circumscribed thoughtfully, unforeseen and undesirable company liabilities can be created quite innocently. Unilever is one of the unique companies aimed to create a positive and favorable environment for diverse employees. Its strategic plans are to support all employees and eliminate gender and racial differences (Unilever Australasia 2009). Management and organized labor in Unilever Australasia have also embarked on cooperative efforts under less pressing circumstances. The potential benefits to management from joint action with organized labor include a decline in costs of production and an increase in product quality, which, in either case, ensures a greater competitive advantage for the firm. In particular, a reduction in absenteeism and low motivation among employees is likely to occur out of programs associated with more efficient use of materials, a decline in accident and error rates, or an increase in output per unit of labor (Reed 2001; Armstrong 2003).

Current HR Problems

The five main problems that affected Unilever Australasia are:

  1. poor organizational culture,
  2. lack of training,
  3. low motivation among employees,
  4. inadequate labor-management relations,
  5. weak leadership style.

At Unilever Australasia, training and career development are not the main priorities of Unilever. At Unilever, aspects of corporate identity include values, the collective unconscious, the history, the coping and defense mechanisms, the decision strategies, the self-imposed rules and regulations, the habits, the norms, the goals, the attributions, and the self-evaluations. Two main issues that required immediate improvements are:

  1. labor–management relations
  2. additional training for employees.

It is assumed that these two areas of change will help the department to improve motivation, leadership, and organizational culture. Labor-management programs should not lie outside the traditional bargaining relationship as well as those associated with cooperative contract negotiations (Armstrong, 2003).

Analysis of Labor-management relations

For Unilever Australasia, the labor-management relations assume that interactions between labor and management can be characterized as falling along a continuum that ranges from adversarial or uncooperative, where at least one of the parties takes a strong competitive stance against the other; to cooperative, which involves an attempt to work with the other side in the hope of achieving mutually satisfying solutions to problems. Parties that elect to engage in cooperation, on the other hand, view their relationship from a win-win perspective (Campbell et al 1994).

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Lack of training

Information systems and computer literacy skills will help Unilever to improve the professional skills of employees. The problem is that many employees in this region have poor internet communication and HR management skills. They cannot easily adapt to a new environment and respond to cultural and economic changes in the region. It is known that adaptive Skills have their origin in an individual’s experience in growing and adjusting, and like Functional Skills, enable an individual to deal effectively with the physical, social, and interpersonal environment in which activities are practiced. Another central idea is that work is a holistic experience. Workers do not bring all of themselves to the workplace. Each individual worker has a pattern of needs and capabilities with regard to physical, mental, and interpersonal involvement. Still, depending on the opportunities, facilities, and challenges available in the job-worker situation, each worker juggles these needs and capabilities to achieve balance, satisfaction, and wholeness (Bartlett and Ghosha 1999l).

Careful planning and analysis of the situation are also important for Unilever Australasia. Human resource planning can be defined as an increased ability of managers to evaluate, select, and implement alternative approaches to the financing and delivery of needed public services. Such application of HR planning, thinking, and management–drawing upon the vast resources of a variety of organizations and institutions–can have significant positive effects on the efficiency of the company, the improvement and simplification of selected service delivery functions, and the financial viability of individual agencies and jurisdictions. The HR department should make it imperative for planning to be a continuous activity, especially responsive to measurement indicators and feedback monitors. Principles that reflect values, policies that implement principles, and procedures that implement policies are the day-to-day activities of the operating system. A conscious recognition and means must exist to resolve the problems that inevitably occur between the various components of the operating system.

Solutions to the Problems

Change relations

To change labor-management relations, a change model should be introduced. “The proposed change model consists of seven components: boundary-role factors, background factors, environmental factors, grievance process, joint labor-management programs, contract negotiations, and labor-management outcomes” (Schuler 1998, p. 65). Each of these components should be briefly discussed by the HR department including labor-management outcomes, which have already been introduced. For Unilever Australasia, the boundary-role factors involve representative functions that at first glance appear to be at odds with each other. Specifically, the grievance officials represent their groups’ positions and interests to the other side; hence, their bargaining orientations will be influenced by constituent demands and expectations. But they also represent the views of the other side to their constituents, and in doing so, the officials are likely to be familiar with the other side’s priorities, strengths, weaknesses, and predilections (Armstrong, 2003). With this special knowledge, they are bound to alter how they approach the resolution of grievances (Campbell et al 1994). Unilever Australasia labor and management rarely perceive collective bargaining as having cooperative potential; rather they automatically assume that it is an adversarial exercise aimed at dealing with divergent interests. Thus, the key to cooperation is to convert a win-lose relationship into one where both sides can potentially benefit. In the remainder of this section, two major types of incentives for cooperative collective bargaining will be explored: controlling issues and establishing and maintaining integrative frameworks (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1999; Unilever Australasia 2009).

Training Initiatives

To improve the professional skills of employees, Unilever Australasia should introduce on-job training programs for all staff members (from top managers to middle managers). Each of the Unilever Australasia staff members should contribute to organizational objectives and goals fulfillment. Different departments should be provided to workers during orientation and specific IS job training. It is one of management’s ways of providing leadership, particularly if the procedures and their method of presentation and follow-up are consistent with policies and principles. The development of a strong culture can be aided, As “levers” human resource managers can apply to influence values, discuss programs to clarify and communicate values; recruitment, selection, and orientation; training; reward systems; and counseling support (Unilever Australasia 2009).

Each component of IS practices as adopted by Unilever Australasia should have a different origin and serves a different objective. Functional Skills should originate in the physical, mental, and interpersonal capacities of the individual and manifests in how individuals grapple with the Things, Data, and People in their environment. Although few in number, these are “enabling skills” essential in processing an infinite number of specific content areas in the world of work. Specific Content Skills originate primarily in an activity situation (work, study, or leisure) and are the competencies necessary to master the requirements and standards of particular crafts and/or areas of knowledge (Rosow and Casner-1998). This information allows prospective employees to decide for themselves whether they can identify with these stated values and is, therefore, an important element in enabling self-selection.

Recommendations

The most important is to change the ideology of the organization and HR department. Unilever Australasia should see employees as the main assets of the organization. Today, as a matter of policy, it is common for organizations to advertise their vision and mission. In their annual reports, many organizations stress the importance of their human resources. They also often include a statement that their prosperity and competitive position could not possibly have been achieved without their “excellent” human resources (Reed 2001). An organization’s recruiting literature needs to include this information because it is in these representations that an organization’s values inhere, particularly as they relate to accommodating themselves to the needs of particular segments of the work population (Bartlett and Ghosha 1999l).

The main similarity between these approaches is that they see an employee as the main driven force of productivity and effective performance. Much of the work that needs to be done requires a range of skill from low to high, from relatively little training and experience to a great deal. The experienced craftsperson moves easily from one level of skill to another in getting a job done. In some instances more work can get done, greater productivity achieved, if skilled workers have assistants who can help out with the less skilled work (Campbell et al 1994). Actually, most complete jobs in any field consist mostly of low- and medium-skilled work and a considerably smaller proportion of highly skilled work (Schuler, 1998). Persons doing the lower skilled work can be allowed to do the more skilled work if properly coached and supervised. Employers are finding they can achieve greater productivity by having a flexible workforce rather than depending on IS specialists to perform specific work. Achieving this greater IS productivity requires management to contract with workers in good faith to maintain pay, benefits, and working conditions commensurate with their increasing value to the organization. In such a work situation workers grow naturally to achieve greater skill and experience. Flexibility, thus, can be an advantage to both worker and employer (Barham and Conway 1998; Storey,1989). There is some evidence that Unilever Australasia personal management is positively related to job performance, but the relationship is conflicting across samples and measures of performance? (Bartlett and Ghoshal,1999). The relationship among career pledge and job performance is also irregular across studies, with some proof that career pledge is positively related to job performance (Reed 2001). Thus, one would anticipate the dually committed to have the uppermost levels of job performance, followed by Unilever Australasia, careerists and the uncommitted (Campbell et al 1994).

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Conclusion

At Unilever Australasia, HRM can make the most of this asset, beginning with an open and wholesome interaction in a focus group. However, personal management is seen only as the starting point for building a trusting relationship between manager and worker. For personal management to take full effect, an organization must channel the energy provided by the focus group into the widest possible range of HRM applications. It is assumed that the proposed strategies will help Unilever Australasia to deliver the particular desired outcome and introduce changes in recruiting and selection procedures. It is advised that Unilever accept the changes in its selection practices and improve its recruiting procedures. The nature and focus of the HR practices process ensures that the means of creating and delivering value to the job applicants are improved. One major point of difference in the figure is that selection procedure focuses on “practices” that satisfy HR needs. While market research focuses on identification and competitive analysis is usually employed at the strategic level, selection procedure is unique contribution is in examining “how” things are done to satisfy diverse needs. The proposed changes in HR practices will provide a logical and equitable change approach and improve organizational process at Unilever Australasia.

References

Armstrong, M. 2003. Human Resource Management. Kogan Page. Behavior. 2nd edn. Boston: Kent Publishing.

Bartlett, C. and Ghoshal, S. 1999. Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution. 2nd edition, London: Ramsden House.

Barham K., Conway C. 1998. Developing business and people internationally: A mentoring approach. Ashridge Research.

Beardwell, I. Holden, L., Claydon, T. 2004, Human Resource Management, London Pitman Publishing,

Campbell, A., Goold, M., Alexander, M. 1994. Corporate Level Strategy. London: John Wiley.

Reed A. 2001. Innovation in Human Resource Management. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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Rosow, J., Casner-Lotto, J. 1998. People, Partnership and Profits: The new labor-management agenda, Work in America Institute, New York

Schuler, R. 1998. Managing Human Resources. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Publishing,

Storey, J. 1989. New perspectives on Human Management, Routledge, London.

Unilever Australasia Home Page. 2009. Web.

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