VP Future of Work, Unilever
The pandemic has emphasised the importance of viewing employees as assets, rather than a cost. By investing in human capital, organisations will create a better workplace — and business.
When the pandemic began to devastate the jobs market, women and minority groups were particularly affected. It’s one of the reasons why organisations must redouble their efforts to contribute to a fairer and more socially inclusive world, believes Patrick Hull, VP Future of Work at Unilever.
“We know we can’t afford to operate with a broken labour market because if people can’t earn a living wage, they won’t be able to afford the products and services we produce,” he says. “It’s bad for society and bad for business. So we’ve made commitments to raise living standards, provide opportunities through inclusivity and prepare people for the future of work.”
To an extent, companies are being forced to reinvent themselves, because the pandemic has made many of us reassess our working lives and look for more satisfying and flexible careers. But for Hull, that’s a positive. “Over the last year, many organisations have moved towards virtual and flexible working,” he says. “As a result, they’ve had a big opportunity to reinvent their workplace, put more focus on wellbeing and make their workforce more diverse.”
We know we can’t afford to operate with a broken labour market because if people can’t earn a living wage, they won’t be able to afford the products and services we produce.
The importance of investing in human capital
Ultimately, businesses need to pay more attention to its ‘human capital’ by tapping into employees’ knowledge, experience and skills, and respecting them as an asset, rather than a cost. “When we invest in our people, our engagement scores go up,” notes Hull. “We have a stronger brand — 14 million people now follow us on LinkedIn — and we attract and retain great talent.”
Embracing a new future does mean doing things differently. But that’s exciting. “For example, we’ve made a commitment to reskill and upskill our people by 2025,” says Hull. “We’re doing that by working closely with them to find out more about their skillsets, strengths and desires and put them on the path they want to be on. If people have more agency over change, rather than having change forced on them, they’ll embrace it.”