Article: What makes HUL a breeding ground for leaders


What makes HUL a breeding ground for leaders

Nitin Paranjpe, MD & CEO, Hindustan Unilever, in conversation with People Matters about building leaders
What makes HUL a breeding ground for leaders

Mindfulness to raise ‘self awareness' is the first step. Compassion for those who are suffering is the next. Ethics which make us arrive at the ‘right' choices will give us the questions that we need to address. Leveraging our uniqueness and gifts - Diversity will enable us to find the right answers. Using means that balance the needs of ‘today' with


As a CEO who started off as a Management Trainee 20 years ago, you are an example of HUL’s philosophy of grooming leaders. What is that key element of the company’s culture that enables this process so successfully?

The key elements would be HUL’s values & ethics, the trust that we place in our employees & the Integrity & character which we expect from our leaders.

How do you hone the leadership potential of young talent that you bring in?

HUL recruits management graduates from Top B-schools of the country, like IIMs, FMS Delhi, XLRI,ISB, JBIMS etc every year, in the realm of Marketing, Finance, HR and IT. Apart from this, HUL also recruits engineers from the Tier 1 engineering colleges like the IITs and IT BHU are some of the brightest amongst those who qualify as CA/ICWA. All these recruits are taken into our Business Leadership Trainee Program, which is a robust one year training program, post which they are placed as managers in their respective functions.

The BLT program is an extremely comprehensive training module, designed to groom young talent for taking up challenging roles ahead. They get in-depth functional as well as cross-functional exposure through various stints, travel through the length and breadth of the country and outside, understand company values and ways of working while they undertake live projects in each stint. There are senior coaches, mentors and tutors assigned to each intern, ensuring that the learning objectives of each stint are met, and suggesting any course correction which may be required for a particular intern. All this ensures that our young talent is honed to take up the challenging assignments in the later stages of their career.

What role do you think HR should play in the identification and grooming of potential leaders?

The Leadership program is a business initiative, owned and driven from the board. HR facilitates the process and partners with the leadership team in ensuring objectivity and fairness of the process.

At HUL we have rigorous processes and HR practices in place to identify, monitor and nurture key talent or high potential employees (Listers). The company invests an enormous amount of time in the first 3-5 years of the employee to understand their strengths and identify who needs to be nurtured for the future. Through these processes, we not only identify our ‘Hot people’ but also ensure that they occupy ‘Hot jobs’ in the Organization to maximize their potential. We also follow a robust framework called ‘Standards of leadership’ to nurture our talent and this is completely aligned to our business realities.

Professional aptitude and the ability to generate business and profits can be easily identified. How do you look for the soft aspects of leadership - like ethics, ability to groom others, retaining poise under severe stress?

We at HUL believe that performance and behaviour are equally important. Therefore, as an Organization, we lay equal emphasis on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of performance as we seek to earn respect by our consistent superior performance. But, we strongly believe that we will be loved only if this performance is achieved in consonance with the needs of the society we serve. We must do good and do well. At HUL, we understood and embraced this in our operations long ago, and serving the larger interests of society has been at the core of our work all along. The value of the business goes well beyond the balance sheet it delivers quarter after quarter. The conduct of a business impacts the wider community of stakeholders.

What obstacles have you encountered in identifying, grooming and retaining women leaders in your group?

Our diversity indicators have improved tremendously in the last few years. Today we have 18% of women in management roles. The trend has been increasing for the last ten years. We want those numbers to continue to grow. There are many Best in Class initiatives we have initiated to create more flexibility & greater inclusiveness. We recognise the need for women managers to have a certain amount of flexibility as they grow in their careers.

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Topics: Leadership, Culture, Learning & Development, #BestPractices

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