For decades, India’s largest FMCG firm, the ₹50,333-crore Hindustan Unilever (HUL), has been a sought-after day-one hirer on B-school campuses. What makes the company a preferred employer of the future for generations? The secret lies in constant innovation in policies to keep pace with the times, says Anuradha Razdan, executive director, human resources (HR). “We have always focused on bringing in stunning talent into this business. We believe that having an employer brand that is relevant and grounded in business reality and is in sync with what the talent wants today and tomorrow is important,” she adds.

The two years of the pandemic have helped HUL re-examine its talent hiring process to make it more rigorous. With hybrid work culture becoming a way of life, the company is experimenting with employment models which Razdan believes would give it a distinct advantage in terms of attracting talent. Its ‘You Work’ programme allows employees to take up project-based roles. “They have to work a minimum of six weeks but can do so according to their own schedules. We give them the flexibility to not just tailor their work, but also the security of retirement benefits, medical etc,” explains Razdan.

Its other initiative is ‘Open To You’, a kind of gig model. “We want to bring in quality talent and have access to skills of the future like digital specialists who needn’t work for us full time. We have hired someone who is an expert in disability. We have access to high-quality talent and they have flexibility. This helps us attract talent and give people the choices they want,” says Razdan.

Embracing Technology

The company was among the first to move its hiring process to digital platforms when the pandemic broke out in 2020. That, says Razdan, helped overcome several unconscious biases, thereby making the selection process more scientific. The company has been using platforms such as LinkedIn not just to strengthen its employer branding, but also to reach out to a wider talent pool, which is not necessarily in the top business school. “We have seen a 30% growth in our LinkedIn followers,” claims Razdan.

Technology has also enabled HUL to take early bets on talent even before they have made it to B-schools. The company has evolved a digital algorithm, which empowers it to target the top 1,000 business school aspirants who have taken Common Admission Tests. “We start engaging with them so that we are able to build a relationship,” says Razdan.

The company is also looking to tap Indian students who have gone overseas to study. “There has been an exponential rise in Indian students going abroad for higher studies, therefore we are tapping into the top schools and looking at students who are passionate about coming back and making a career in India,” adds Razdan.

Image : Photograph by Nishikant Gamre

Diverse Talent Pool

In an environment where volatility and uncertainty are a way of life, business centricity becomes key. For that, organisations need a talent pool that is equipped to embrace uncertainty. “We have a simple agenda for our people —everything we do should drive the business forward and must be owned and integrated with the business. The focus of our people’s agenda can be summed up by saying that it is about employee centricity and business centricity with an eye on the future,” says Razdan.

The workforce also needs to mirror its consumers. While 44% of HUL’s managerial cadre already comprises women, the target is to take it to 50% within the next few years.

The company also plans to bring in people with disabilities as well as those from the LGBTQ community as part of its initiative called ‘#Belong’. The target is to ensure that 5% of its workforce by 2025 comprises people with disabilities.

‘#Belong’ is also about forward-looking policies that encourage diversity. “We would want men to play as much role in household chores as women, so there would be policies around that. We would also come up with eldercare, virtual childcare policies,” says Razdan. Its project ‘Ahilya’ in 2020 trained 500 women as frontline salesforce. “Our goal is to have 5,000 women in frontline salesforce by 2025. We would be hiring 3,000 women within the next three years in factories,” says Razdan.

With digitisation being at the heart of businesses today, companies need to upskill their employees so that they don’t become redundant. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) major has set itself an ambitious target of upskilling not just its employees but also over a million youth to drive up employability for the country. “Last year we had a virtual learning week where we invested 10,000 hours towards digital learning. Over 3,000 employees have done ecommerce certification programmes,” says Razdan.

The company has 10,000 blue-collared workers and by 2025, almost 70% would be skilled, claims Razdan. Hiring the right talent that would impact the growth of the business has never been as important as it is now. At HUL, talent attraction is no longer the business of just the HR function. “Talent attraction is serious business and it is everybody’s business. Our leaders are held accountable not only for their businesses, but also for the pipeline of future leaders,” says Razdan.

After all, it’s about being a part of a winning business.

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