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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

How Unilever Is Preparing for the Future of Work

How Unilever Is Preparing for the Future of Work

Launched in 2016, Unilever’s Future of Work initiative aimed to accelerate the speed of change throughout the organization and prepare its workforce for a digitalized and highly automated era. But despite its success over the last three years, the program still faces significant challenges in its implementation. How should Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer goods companies, best prepare and upscale its workforce for the future? How should Unilever adapt and accelerate the speed of change throughout the organization? Is it even possible to lead a systematic, agile workforce transformation across several geographies while accounting for local context? Harvard Business School professor and faculty co-chair of the Managing the Future of Work Project William Kerr and Patrick Hull, Unilever’s vice president of global learning and future of work, discuss how rapid advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are changing the nature of work in the case, “Unilever's Response to the Future of Work.”


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Brian Kenny:

On November 30, 2022, OpenAI launched the latest version of ChatGPT, the largest and most powerful AI chatbot to date. Within a few days, more than a million people tested its ability to do the mundane things we really don't like to do, such as writing emails, coding software, and scheduling meetings. Others upped the intelligence challenge by asking for sonnets and song lyrics, and even instructions on how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR in the style of King James. But once the novelty wore off, the reality set in. ChatGPT is a game changer, and yet another example of the potential for AI to change the way we live and work.

And while we often view AI as improving how we live, we tend to think of it as destroying how we work, fears that are fueled by dire predictions of job eliminations in the tens of millions and the eradication of entire industries. And while it's true that AI will continue to evolve and improve, eventually taking over many jobs that are currently performed by people, it will also create many work opportunities that don't yet exist.

Today on Cold Call, we welcome Professor William Kerr, joined by Patrick Hull of Unilever, to discuss the case, “Unilever's Response to the Future of Work.” I'm your host, Brian Kenny, and you're listening to Cold Call on the HBR Podcast Network.

Professor Bill Kerr is the co-director of Harvard Business School's Managin

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