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Philips Life is better when you are you
9mo Story
Creating a balanced workplace that mirrors the society we operate in

Author: Jonathan Coles

HR Director, Jonathan Coles, talks women in leadership and his journey to help make Philips the destination employer for women, at all levels

From millennial entrants to our executives and ExCo, Philips often tops the rankings as a great place to work. We’re helped, of course, by our heritage of people-centricity and meaningful innovation, as well as The Netherland’s reputation for equality and inclusivity. And yet, we know the global world of work still falls short in terms of true representation.

At Philips, we’re always looking for ways to make life better and, within our talent management and culture, this means challenging ourselves to make sure that every voice is heard and valued. We want our company – our offices and people throughout the world – to mirror the society in which we operate and foster an environment of inclusiveness where everyone can be themselves.

Throughout 2018, we will be continuing our initiatives to further embed gender diversity, building internationally diverse teams, celebrating uniqueness and removing unconscious bias throughout our company.

As a fair employer, we always hire and promote the most qualified candidate but we still have work to do to achieve gender parity. That’s why we’ve set ourselves the goal of growing the percentage of women in senior leadership to 25% by 2020.

And so, on International Women’s Day, HR Director for Philips UK&I, Jonathan Coles talks people strategy and shares his focus on attracting more women leaders:

“At Philips UKI, we’re heavily focused on supporting women in leadership. Our Women’s Leadership Program has been running for 5 years. Part of its focus has been on how can we develop female leaders but also enrich succession planning, we realised we needed to start with early career professionals to build talent from within and empower our employees at every stage in their career. That’s why we specifically set up the Women’s Future Leaders Program.”

One of the interesting elements the program considers is the importance of a balance between ‘typically’ masculine and feminine traits.

“Studies by Catalyst and McKinsey have shown convincing correlations between gender diversity in leadership and bottom line results. Both masculine and feminine approaches have strengths and limitations but having them in balance tends to lead to better results. Our program incorporates this thinking but without stereotyping as, of course, male and female traits can interchange. Understanding and recognising these traits is a real breakthrough for leaders on the program as they work to build awareness of both male and female traits.

As well as raising awareness of the benefits of better gender diversity, the UKI Women’s Future Leaders Program also looks to change the language of inclusion and help our female colleagues build their personal branding skills:

“When it comes to female leaders, the terminology is always the same. Phrases like, ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ come to mind but we want to move away from this old fashioned, limiting thinking. As a result, our programs focus on building your personal brand. Understanding your strengths. How can you network to build your profile? For example, in relation to more typically female traits, data indicates that female employees are less likely to negotiate on salary when they join a new company. How do we counter this? After all, if men are more likely to negotiate at interview stage than women, this has long term effects. Viewed within a career span of, say 10 / 12 years, it will result in salary disparity.”

And it’s a program that is embedding significant results:

“During the program, we spend time looking at their brand and exploring how they network and influence. For example, what is their power network? Who can they influence and how do they ensure that they put themselves in the best light? In the first program we ran, we had something like 90% promotion rate in the following year. It was fantastic and so rewarding. That’s how you really measure the success of this program – in real terms. In promotions and career progression.”

In the last 2 years we have developed a men’s future leaders program that focuses on similar areas, which is key if we are to embed results and change attitudes and behaviours in the organisation. Male leaders of the future should understand unconscious bias, work on how they can role model inclusivity and support and embrace diversity in the workplace. 

It’s not just about programs though, it’s about a culture and a mind-set. Women within our business see its possible and the norm:

“We have lots of inspirational women leaders throughout the business talking about their experiences and sharing their tips. We have to give our people an opportunity to think and ask all the questions that they need to get them to where they want to be.

This takes me back to recognising traits that may hold you back. Maybe you notice in some cases women being reluctant to put a hand up and take on a project while men will push themselves forward in team environment. Sometimes you see women not taking personal credit, attributing success to the team etc. By opening up the dialogue, raising awareness and providing training and support, our program seeks to highlight challenges where they might exist, address them and encourage action.”

Strong gender diversity commitments also have to take into account families and encourage family friendly working:

“I think we’re successful at being a flexible place to work and we make a conscious effort to make sure that we have family friendly, not “female” friendly policies. From enhanced maternity and paternity leave to flexible and agile working, we make sure there’s a wealth of policies that make Philips an attractive and rewarding place to be. For us though, it goes beyond policy. For example, when a woman is on maternity leave, it’s about making sure she’s not forgotten for up to 12 months, but continuing to engage regularly. Do you want to do something the same or different within the organization? How can we can support you, just because you are on maternity leave your career ambitions don’t stop and we want to engage with women to bring out the best in them during this period.

Family – and life - friendly working policies fit our belief that, ‘when you're at your best, we're at ours’:

“We offer a variety of benefits and health programs to help keep our people strong, mentally, physically and emotionally. This helps them perform to the best of their ability at work, while also making them more able to manage the rest of their busy lives.

Just one example is our resilience and health checks programs for all employees, and initiatives in carers and mental health networks – all to help balance home and work commitments in a way that maintains productivity. We're serious about offering an inclusive workplace that is both engaging and which leads to personal growth. In fact, we believe that by providing the right environment, with the experience you have, you can continuously grow as a professional as well as a person.

And, of course, while we’re growing women leaders, we’re also looking to reduce unconscious bias:

“As well as providing senior opportunities for women, our male leaders need to be role models for diversity in the work place. After all, male and female traits apply to everyone, regardless of gender.  For example, it’s all very well having great policy like shared maternity but unless it becomes the norm in our workplace nothing is going to change. We’ve worked to impress upon our current and future leaders that when a woman is pregnant, the question is NOT, when are you going on maternity leave? Instead, it’s a conversation about shared maternity. Do you know we have it as an option? Are you thinking of sharing? The same conversation should happen with a male employee that tells his manager his partner is pregnant– this needs to become the norm and not the exception if we are to become one of the best diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Policies are great for embedding language and new mind-sets. If we get our future leaders thinking about shared family responsibilities more naturally, then we start to remove unconscious bias by thinking differently, both for men and for women.”

We’re on a journey to embracing diversity in its broadest sense. An ever more diverse and inclusive workplace is a great place to be as well as a commitment that makes good business sense.

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Life is better when you are you

Philips is a world leading health technology company with a vision to make life better for people worldwide through meaningful innovation. Making good on this promise depends on our inclusive, passionate, inspirational, collaborative and diverse team.

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