Gordana Landen is the Chief Human Resource Officer of Philips Lighting. She was previously the SVP of Human Resources at Svenska Celluslosa Aktiebolaget SCA and has also worked with Ericsson in leadership roles.
Q. The brand Philips has had a history of over 85 years in India. How has “Philips Lighting” managed to retain the status as an employer of choice in a disruptive marketplace?
Ever since ‘Philips Lighting’ became a standalone company, we have had the privilege to make quicker decisions. As a standalone company, there’s a global process, but it is locally executed. Previously, there was a tendency to keep decisions at the executive level, now we go deeper into the organization to make sure that we provide our talent with the right development and grooming opportunities, and that’s where we have sharpened the talent management process.
Whenever there is a vacancy, we prefer to first communicate internally and match our internal candidates first before we look for talent externally. Two-thirds of our internal movement should be from internal candidates, and one-third should be infused through external talent. This gives us a great opportunity to use the entire company as a development space, and that is where we also provide global development to our talent.
If you look at the leadership team of Philips Lighting, 30 percent of the executive management team are Indians. Approximately 25 percent of people on international assignments come from India. We view India as a talent pool with people who have great skills and who have the ability to adapt and absorb new cultures.
It is critical to provide the right support when people are about to take up international assignments
Q, There seems to be a lot of focus on providing ‘global opportunities’ for employees in your organization. How does the HR function support a commitment like that?
As a company, it is critical to provide the right support when people are about to take up international assignments. For instance, at Philips Lighting there’s a global health insurance program which is provided to the entire family. And families can pre-visit a location and find out whether they could stay in that particular country.
The company also provides school support. There are assigned school coordinators who take parents around different schools and give them a flavor of the schools they can choose from.
Another important policy is that of spousal support. The company follows a philosophy of a global open job market, which gives the spouse the opportunity to apply for certain vacancies through the company. So, in short, there are processes, tools and also a philosophy through which we make sure that we provide the right support for our talent to take up a number of global roles.
Q. “Improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation” is the company’s vision. How do you align HR policy and programs to support this vision and could you share some examples?
At the end of the day, it goes down to providing the right environment for people to groom and develop. And build a work culture around that. It also needs leaders with the right mindset. Our goal is to inspire our employees to take part in a number of global projects. The focus is on enabling employees to think beyond, to have an entrepreneurial, solution-focused mindset. To ensure that the company is focused on innovation, 5 percent of the revenue of the company is invested in R&D spend.
There’s a Philips excellence program, where employees are invited to present innovative ideas. It could be an entrepreneurial idea which has global market relevance, or it could be a current process improvement. Projects are done on a local level, and there’s a grand finale at the global level. The programs are presented for a jury consisting of the leadership team and a final winner is announced, who also win funding from the investment board. CSR is another example, employees are encouraged to take time away from work to participate in CSR activities.
At the entry level, for interns, there’s a Blueprint program where we actually invite ideas from Campuses where teams come together and they present innovative ideas. It’s a great opportunity to see the kind of ideas you get from young talent.
The focus at Philips Lighting is on enabling employees to think beyond, to have an entrepreneurial, solution-focused mindset
Q. There’s a lot of concern on the redundancy in an AI-dominated world. How are companies such as yours managing the learning agenda and re-skilling employees?
As a company, we are investing in a new learning technology, and it will be as personal as your own Spotify for music, or Netflix for films. We are experimenting to understand how humans and machines can work together. According to a research, an employee only has 40 minutes in a week to learn apart from ‘on-the-job’ learning. Our goal is to optimize that 40 minutes and to make sure that an employee is not searching for content, it should be curated and mapped to their personal learning environment.
Philips Lighting’s organizational structure allows the company to experiment with new ideas and to incubate new ideas outside and bring them in and vice versa. The jobs at risk are currently low-end service-related jobs and the goal is to enable employees in these jobs to develop new skills. The potential assessment framework in the company measures two things: employee’s aspirations and learning agility. What we want to create is a learning experience that will open the employee’s mind.
Q. What are your plans for the future in India?
Our agenda is growth. We have employees based out of Gurgaon, Noida, and Bangalore in addition to our regional offices across India. About 400 people are in product innovation, systems and services and innovation. We have two large factories. And we recently opened a remote operations center that will have employees based in Bangalore. There are also going to be more global jobs that will be based in India.
Every 3- 7 months we hear of more jobs moving here from the perspective of R&D and innovation and we also add new partners in the ecosystem to extend what we do for our teams internally.
From an HR support standpoint, not only do we support internal needs of the company, but we also build the value proposition with our co-makers or partners in the ecosystem by helping them with their talent challenges and co-creating success.