Human Connect Between HR And Employees Will Remain Same For Next 10 Years: HR, Philips India
Armaan Seth, Head of HR at Philips India says, “We have not been used to it in the past, but Philips now has 65 percent millennials, who prefer benefits more than take-home pay. And we realize that perhaps it's time to change"
Big transformation over the last many years where Philips India has become a much leaner organisation, has been about being a health technology company driving strategic and business discussions impacted by the kind of people in Philips.
An employee base of around 10,000 people in India, Philips has a huge amount of scope in terms of the employee base in India, and because of transition into a much more health technology-focused company, the profile of people hired is also changing.
Armaan Seth, Head of HR at Philips India says, “We have not been used to it in the past, but Philips now has 65 percent millennials, who prefer benefits more than take-home pay. And we realize that perhaps it's time to change; for which we did a series of focus group discussions and surveys across the office locations who came up with flexibility as the biggest things as a value add to their benefits. This transpired the entire context of how ‘My benefits’ came in.”
Philips tied up with the right partners and gave its employees the flexibility to choose the benefits for themselves, however, kept a certain amount fixed in medical insurance for people might miss that out in enthusiasm.
There are a fixed amount of points that everyone gets, but the spending habit is entirely upon the employee. The organization has seen much enthusiasm about actually taking these benefits because the organisation brings them at a much better rate and has now given a provision of investing part of the salary also, because of being cost-effective through Philips ‘My Benefits’.
Technology in HR
Technology has been helpful to the HR, especially in making data-based decisions, however, Armaan believes the human connection between HR and the employee base is still very much there and he doesn't see that changing at least for the next ten years as well.
He added, “You could have any number of chatbots, but it will still not have that human touch which happens during a face-to-face interaction with a person and we notice here in Phillips that employees prefer human interaction.”
Technology has helped in coming up with flexible initiatives like ‘My Benefits’, but Philips is very much focused on partnering and ensuring the employee connect is very strong which reflects in its engagement scores as well.
Philips is planning to add learning benefits next year, which will allow employees to use their points in learning a new skill. Armaan Seth opines the organisation has already been quite progressive, but of course, can always keep getting better.
Organisations need to keep pace with the changing expectations of employees and constantly innovate. Everything starts with having the right concept and Philips came with the new paternity leave policy last year, but the differentiator here is the employees need not take it within the first six months.
The organization allows employees the flexibility to take it after their spouse joins back because that is when the mothers actually need their spouses most during the transitioning back into the workplace and the husband can chip in right and Philips allows that kind of flexibility as well.
Armaan says we literally talk to employees and keep getting those ideas quarter after quarter from employees who also keep rating us. This is one way we are actually making ourselves accountable to ensure that we are keeping up with the changing expectations of our employees.
Speed and flexibility
He adds, “The HR function is very flexible and we actually asking them for a score every quarter. So if you think we are just taking feedback for the heck of it, you can always give a lower score next quarter and enquire about the implementation of idea. We also keep ourselves very accountable of how HR is doing, whether HR is flexible enough and coming up with inspiring benefits to keep up with the time.”
Armaan however adds that implementing an initiative which has a huge cost implication will take much more time, which entirely depends on approvals but Philips tries to be as quick as possible to make that change wherever there is a much wider impact of a benefit in terms of other departments coming in which obviously takes more time.
Hiring and Skillset
The skill sets Philips focuses are around digital, which essentially has to do with the digital space. The second is solutions; so having that end-to-end view of conceptualizations to sell solutions is a difficult skill as well.
And the third one Philips actually looks for very closely is a continuous improvement which helps the businesses get more operational efficiency and has not gone out of fashion.
Armaan said, “Looking at the software side of things we are talking about machine learning, AI and data analytics. While hiring a candidate, we would focus first on the cultural fit for Phillips followed by the harder skills.”
He added, “Hiring and retaining is a continuous journey because we are not trying to hit a number for the heck of it. We are trying to get women in the right rules and continue creating a platform to hire women and retain them by giving the right opportunities to grow. We are trying to get more women participation in succession planning talent management, which is mandatory for every role in Phillips at the middle and senior management.”
Other activities like learning leadership program training follow suit and ensure people are actually getting ready. So it's a journey and Philips is trying to change almost 200 years of culture in two years right where women have not been.
Armaan vocalizes about some functions like sales, operations, and customer service have a smaller talent pool in the market and it's important to both build and buy talent.
What Philips does is being quite flexible with the working arrangements even after the six months of maternity break, allowing work from home where employees are allowed five days a month work from home. At the same time the management still misses out on a large pool of talent outside Phillips, who would want to return taking a longer break, and have a program called ‘Back in the game’, where Philips actually reaches out to women who have had to take a career break because of maternity or other family matters and want to transition back into the workforce.
Women actually decide whether working in Phillips is something that they would continue doing again. It all goes back to the culture that we have created.
The last thing we want employees to worry about is if the company has my back or not, which allows employees to give their best. We are focusing on inclusion and diversity to really bring about a change in the way we work and make it sustainable.
Armaan believes an ideal corporate wellness program has to be holistic, and not just physical because he sees a lot of organizations get caught in just giving a gym membership and saying it's done and is very holistic. He feels the whole mental part of it is as important as physical because of the fast-paced lives, having very little mental space for different things.
So it needs to be a mix of emotional physical and financial aspects, hitting milestones in each of these three areas. And again it comes down to flexibility again, without the assumption of ‘one size fits all’.
“There are only a handful of companies who are fully flexible and we have to be one of them and we are very proud of it as well.
Armaan believes the HR has changed not into a more strategic role but in the business decisions for people. The business leaders have also evolved over time to understand the importance of HR and what HR can contribute and how they can contribute.
HR doesn’t need to be confined to just operational things like payroll and surveys but has moved to the very next level creating positive employee experience across the life cycle of an employee and coming up with ideas to align with the vision in terms of capabilities in terms of skill-building. HR is one of the most strategic functions in any organization now and there are people who are actually contributing and making it happen across sectors.