A-Z of employers: Colgate-Palmolive

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The Independent Culture
Age: 75, but with origins 192 years ago.

History: Both the Colgate Company, founded in 1806 as a soap, starch, and candle company, and its partner the Palmolive Company, established in 1864, originated in the US. The English branch of Palmolive started up in 1922; six years later, it became Colgate-Palmolive-Peet following a merger. Renamed Colgate-Palmolive (UK) in 1953, it has been based in Guildford since 1989.

Address: Around a quarter of the company's UK staff work from offices at Guildford Business Park. The rest are based at the company's manufacturing arm in Salford.

Ambience: The small number of staff at headquarters makes for an informal environment; it's a "challenging, team-oriented, young, fun" culture, says a spokeswoman. The company likes to promote a "caring, non-hierarchical" image, but though staff are on first name terms in an open-plan environment, there's no casual dressing.

Vital statistics: Colgate has every reason to be grinning from ear to ear; it has around 40 per cent of the world's toothpaste market, employs 38,000 people globally - 650 in the UK - and enjoyed a turnover last year of $8bn.

Lifestyle: While staff at the Salford factory work shifts, those at Guildford work a 9am-5pm day, and there are opportunities for travel, particularly in Continental Europe. The company's main headquarters is in New York.

Easy to get into? It varies. A four-year management development programme launched last year had more than 1,000 applicants and took just five people, all of whom had previous working experience. Colgate also takes on around four sandwich-course students for a one-year industrial placement, but doesn't advertise in colleges.

Glittering alumni: Many have gone on to greater things in the consumer world: BAT director Paul Adams, Walker Crisps managing director Tony Ilsley, Tesco divisional director Elizabeth McMeikan and Stuart Aitken, managing director of the Whitbread round the world yacht race.

Pay: Surprisingly cagey when it comes to money, Colgate says it has a flexible benefits package, and salary and bonuses are performance-related. Employees are offered a private medical scheme, dental insurance and pension scheme, as well as a share-match scheme.

Training: Consumer insight, presentation, customer focus and objective- setting are areas covered. The company is keen to encourage employees to cross boundaries, eg accountants can become salespeople. Those on the management development programme are moved around the company and are expected to progress into middle and senior management roles. Industrial placement students may be taken on after graduation into individual roles.

Canteen: Overlooks the busy A3, a view which may or may not stimulate your taste buds. It is open till tea time daily.

Who's the boss? Vice-president and general manager of Colgate-Palmolive UK and Ireland is Karen Guerra. She is married to Fernando Guerra, a former employee, now managing director of Anchor Foods.

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