“Attracting, developing & retaining the best people will always be at the heart of winning organisations”: Harish Manwani

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At its 84th Annual General Meeting, chairman of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), spoke about the need for companies to reflect and reinvent their growth strategy

It is time now that companies reimagine their business models, keeping in mind their larger roles in the society. It is like viewing yourself as that important block that completes a building, without which the foundation suffers. At its 84th Annual General Meeting, held in Mumbai recently, Chairman-Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), Harish Manwani, shared his views on the fast changing and increasingly complex global environment.

“Attracting, developing and retaining the best people will always be at the heart of winning organisations”, Manwani said.  He elaborated on how Unilever has built a holistic approach towards honing the talent pipeline and developing organisational capabilities for the future.  Manwani shared that HUL’s training programmes are beginning to reflect the needs of the millennials who are going to form 60 per cent of its workforce by 2020.

“While the youngest population can become a demographic dividend for India, the challenge is also two-fold: of creating enormous employment-generation opportunities and raising the employability and skills of the Indian youth.”

According to him, India has the advantage of having the youngest population profiles in the world with over 65 per cent of its population below the age of 35. “While this can become a demographic dividend for the country, herein also lies India’s biggest challenge. The challenge is two-fold: of creating enormous employment-generation opportunities and raising the employability and skills of the Indian youth,” he added. He further suggested that businesses must step in to lift the capabilities and put as much emphasis on developing shop-floor workers as managerial talent.

Manwani specifically emphasised the need for companies to reflect and reinvent the way they work towards their own growth alongside considering larger societal benefits.  He stated that in order to grow, companies need to constantly innovate across their value chain, invest in new business models, create non-hierarchical outcome-based organisational structures and build a diverse talent base that has skills and capabilities to operate in a digital world. “Most importantly, business needs to reimagine their role in society and commit to doing well by doing good”, he concluded.

He also talked about the challenges the world faces today — growing inequality, technological unemployment and resource scarcity.

Companies need to create non-hierarchical outcome-based organisational structures and build a diverse talent base that has skills and capabilities to operate in a digital world.

In India, a country well-poised to leapfrog into the future, the challenge is two-fold: that of employment generation and employability. He said that businesses will have to work with educators and the government to develop skill development programmes, which will ensure that the workforce of tomorrow has future-ready skills.

Talking of technological advancement and its potential of restructuring not just global business models but the nature of work, he said, “Companies will need to stimulate innovation, accelerate digital transition, reduce costs and run their businesses more efficiently to face the challenges of this new world.” He mentioned how India is uniquely positioned to leapfrog with the technological advances and at the same time avoid the trap holes that the rest of the world has experienced in their journey from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’.

While emphasising the need for reimagining businesses, Manwani spoke about how businesses can grow, remain relevant and at the same time earn their right to exist within the communities. In his own words, “Business should be able to do well by doing good”. He further added, “We have to move from the 3G model (consistent, competitive and profitable growth) to a 4G model where the 4th G recognises the importance of ‘responsible’ growth.”

“Innovations for the changing world need to be underpinned by an organisational structure that fosters agility, connectivity and diversity.”

Reflecting on the importance of innovating for the future, Manwani shared that in order to grow, businesses need to constantly innovate. “This requires companies to embrace technology and creativity and bring both ‘magic and logic’ into their product experience and go-to-market models” he said.

Sharing a holistic approach to growth, Manwani said “Innovations for the changing world need to be underpinned by an organisational structure that fosters agility, connectivity and diversity”. He cited the example of Winning in Many Indias that has made the business even more agile and responsive to the evolving marketplace. He also shared how Unilever’s Connected For Growth initiative has further brought national and global category teams together to promote a culture of collaboration, experimentation and empowerment, and enable faster decision-making with speed and agility.

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