Space for the New Generation of Leaders

Ludmila Tsatskina, Leadership Development Manager Russia, Ukraine, Belarus / Unilever

Living in times of great change is always difficult but interesting and even inspirational. We see all these changes in the market, in social life, in people’s behavior and attitudes towards life, and we can definitely see some new tendencies in the attitudes and goals for life of our young generation.

Unilever has one of the most famous and successful graduate management training programs —this why we are in close contact with young people, working with universities and student organizations and sponsoring student events.

We have run this program globally for decades and in every business, in every country, you can meet with senior leaders who started their career as management trainees, some of them now are Chairmen and Presidents of local businesses in different countries.

As an example, the President of Unilever RUB (Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Mr. Sanjiv Kakkar, started his career in Unilever as a Management Trainee.

As for our experience in Russia, we have been running our program for 13 years. And in addition to our assessment centers we always have solid discussions with students during interviews for our internship and management trainee programs, where they share their views, expectations and dreams for the future. We can see new trends in students’ ­approaches to their future and lives compared to 10, or even five years ago.  

Today young people are still looking for big professional opportunities, great challenges, the name and status of the company they would like to work for. But it has also become more important for them to keep their individuality, stay themselves, understand their natural strengths and build on that, to have time to live their life with families and friends, to have hobbies and “not live at work.” More often students express their values and it is really important for them to work in a company that shares the same values. We also see a trend for living healthy lives and a willingness to support a company that is socially responsible and brings good to people.

What do mean all these changes for us? What kind of company can fit into the students’ expectations and how could they fit into successful company?

Actually we are happy to see these changes and ready to address them and provide all expected opportunities for young people.

Our two-year program gives a lot of space and opportunities for recent graduates to test  themselves and realize their potential, get experience in different functions, develop professionally and personally and find new friends. As one of our company’s core values is teamwork and cooperation our management trainees have at least one big common project as a team (as an example, organization of Annual Unilever Student Conference), which helps them to build closer relations not only between participants, but with the previous year trainees and senior management.

What is also important is that we create an environment where young people have an opportunity to understand what they really want and where they will fit in and succeed better.

Although each student applies for some particular home function for the program, experience in different functions and projects helps to clarify a person’s strengths and talents. This is why sometimes students become managers in other areas than they initially thought they would focus on. It is simply discovered that their talents lay in a different direction than initially thought, and that they would be more valuable to the company in a different function. The unique characteristic of our corporate culture is that company endeavors to give everyone space to express their talent and strengths in the best way as well as the possibility to keep and build their individuality, stay themselves and develop their own unique leadership style for future success. We believe that this is true leadership and very much in line with what new generation of bright people is looking for.