We have decided to study the company Unilever for several reasons. Firstly, Unilever is a European company that is one of the biggest multinational in the world. Secondly, as we have chosen to study the corporate culture of multinationals, Unilever presents a quite particular corporate culture. Indeed, as opposed to most of other multinationals, Unilever presents values based on human relationships and local autonomy. Finally, we had the opportunity to get an interview with a Unilever's executive called Stéphane Verhaeren. He is Brand Manager for Knorr Culinary Aids.
Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch company which owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Unilever employs more than 247,000 people and had a worldwide revenue of 48 760 million euro in 2004. Unilever has two parent companies: Unilever NV in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. The current non-executive Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Antony Burgmans while Patrick Cescau is Group Chief Executive. Unilever's major competitors include Nestle and Procter & Gamble.
Tags: Homogeneous culture, Creating homogeneous culture across boundaries, Cultural Homogeneous
[...] This type of culture is more aware of external threats than previously and has a new recognition that achievement involves an increased willingness for individual managers to take risks. According to Stéphane Verhaeren, our contact in the company, poor performance is not tolerated anymore. Although communication is very informal and the environment is friendly in his department, employees have to be effective in order to reach their goals. During our interview with Stéphane Verhaeren, he told us that there was a new concept, which had been implemented recently in every country in which Unilever was present. [...]
[...] As a consequence, everybody is implicated in the process of decision-making where Dutch managers expect to be challenged. Dutch people do not like when their managers just give them orders without explanations and consultations. That is why conflicts sometimes occur. Individualism: Individualism is very high in the Netherlands (80). Consequently, people are very independent towards each other and do not hesitate to protect their own interests. Managers know that people prefer to work alone than in team and that they will give better results if this characteristic is respected. [...]
[...] Power Distance Power distance reveals how representatives of a certain culture deal with hierarchies. Power distance shows the extent to which members of a certain society accept or even expect a not evenly balanced distribution of power in institutions and organisations. It is defined on the lower levels of the hierarchy. Power distance is also revealed in the values of people in leading positions, as well as in those of their employees. On the one hand, low power distance means that inequality in society should be minimized; that means that managers are seen as democratic. [...]
[...] Il est de la responsabilité du Board d'Unilever de s'assurer que l'ensemble des salariés en a pris connaissance, les a compris et les respecte. Cette responsabilité est au quotidien déléguée aux cadres dirigeants des différentes régions et des sociétés opérationnelles. Ils doivent veiller à la bonne application de ces principes et éventuellement, si la situation locale le requiert, les compléter par des recommandations plus précises. L'assurance de la conformité à ces principes est donnée et contrôlée chaque année. Le Board d'Unilever, assisté de son Comité d'Audit et du Comité d'Evaluation des Risques, s'assurera que le Code est bien respecté. [...]
[...] Those cultures are identical on certain points and different on others but in general, it is possible to say that those cultures are very close to each other and that working together will be simplified. The goal of Unilever is not to impose an identical management in all the countries they work in. They know that each country has to work in line with its own culture and imposing a unique culture as American firms do, is not the solution to achieve better results. [...]
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