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Building African talent for Africa

We must develop and utilize the abundant talent that Africa can offer the world.

Mechell Chetty Durban heritage employee Durban hub group employees

Africa has Talent! Our continent is the second most populous made up of 54 countries with over 1.1 billion people. Over 50% of Africans are under the age of 25 and the continent’s population will more than double by 2050.

These numbers reveal a unique opportunity for Africa to build and grow leaders who can solve the world’s problems. We need to invest in growing and building the powerhouse of African Talent to the same degree that we are investing in infrastructure and brands.

My ambition is for to Africa provide the world with a unique talent pool that is diverse, passionate, resilient, has an insatiable hunger to learn and progress coupled with a can do attitude and a warmth like no other. Honing and building these attributes alongside skills and capabilities should be the ambition of every HR professional.

Unilever believes that everybody has potential and it is our role as leaders to ensure that we create the environment for our teams to be the best that they can be and to THRIVE.

We are a purpose-driven organisation. We know that by helping employees discover and achieve their unique personal purpose, we are able to have a far more engaged workforce. My purpose is to build African talent for Africa and we have a massive opportunity to positively impact the growth story of our continent through an inclusive and collaborative approach by providing the right development opportunities for the talent we have.

We as Unilever have sent more than 350 Africans on development assignments since 2012, more than 85 % of our managers are Africans, we are the Number 1 Top Employer in Africa and our leaders engage in live digital connect sessions sharing their lessons and tools. We are also innovating and learning. Most recently going live across Africa with our digital recruitment selection programme.

Our ultimate goal is to build African leaders for Africa and we know that we can’t do this alone by offering Unilever employment but rather we need to be upskilling and building talent across the full spectrum and our Youth Employability programme that we launched this year is how we plan to do this.

Youth Employability

Youth employability is a strategic priority for us in HR, as it not only builds our own talent for the future, but gives our businesses the opportunity to invest in future leaders that will contribute to the African economies we do business in. 

Companies looking to build youth employability need to take a holistic approach and assess each touch point they offer, and whether each of these provide an opportunity to add additional value. At Unilever, we believe we can positively impact the employability of youths through building skills, providing opportunities to gain employment experience, providing jobs or a space for entrepreneurship.

Our partnerships with various universities, NGOs and student associations means that we’re able to start preparing students for the world of work whilst they are completing their studies. Providing opportunities to get exposure to employers – whether it be business games, open days, leadership connects, learnerships, internships or mentoring opportunities - are critical steps in beginning to shape the understanding of young leaders on what is required for the working world.

As an employer of choice, we are fortunate to receive thousands of applications annually for graduate jobs for which we simply do not have enough opportunities to accommodate. 

However, we have identified this as an area where we still have the opportunities to add value to young talent by leveraging our digital tools to drive a human-centric experience where unsuccessful candidates are given access to a greater level of feedback than ever before. From helping them identify their areas of strength and development, we endeavour to provide them with insights and preparations which will ultimately help them succeed in the future.

Our youth employability mission has expanded to the creation of a new online platform which will provide free access to a suite of employability modules that are designed to aid and prepare youths for success as they start the early phases of their careers. Furthermore, this platform will host a series of live online leadership connects with Unilever leaders, who will share their leadership journeys and guidance for young talent.

Throughout Africa, we work with our teams to explore opportunities to spur entrepreneurial activity. In South Africa, we have seen tremendous success in this space through the Ola Vendor project where the development of ice cream entrepreneurs has seen the creation of over two thousand jobs across the country. These are snippets of work which we are doing as one organisation, but I firmly believe that an amplification of this approach in market development work for talent will have an exponential impact in a brighter future for Africa.

Experienced Professionals

Having purpose guide everything we do.

We define an employee’s purpose as “who are you and what makes you distinctive”. Your purpose is your brand, what you're driven to achieve, the magic that makes you tick. It's not what you do, it's why you do it, the strengths and passions you bring to the table no matter where you're seated.

We want each of our employees to bring their complete selves to work. This is driven through the execution of a diversity and inclusivity agenda, which aims to ensure that all employees feel supported in bringing who they are outside of work, to the workplace. Furthermore, we want them to integrate their personal purpose into their careers. So much so that we offer a program that assists them in finding their purpose. Our leaders are encouraged to share their purpose with their teams, and vice versa, to unlock how teams can work towards reaching their purpose together.

We also recognise the business advantage of this, as we know that having an organizational purpose drives business performance.

The successful deployment and execution of a consistent inclusivity and purpose driven agenda across the continent, entrenches our organisational culture in each African country within which we operate. We offer employees out-of-country experiences, which further contributes to solidifying our organisation’s culture. In addition, the transfer of knowledge and best practice across countries throughout Africa is critical for success.

Africa has talent. Its people have the potential and ambition to achieve great things. Our mission is to unleash that potential by tapping into the youth that will become leaders for the future. By unlocking our employee’s purpose and guiding them on their journey to reach their full potential, industry can reshape the narrative of our continent.

By Mechell Chetty, HR Vice President at Unilever Africa

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