Sustainability gives HR teams an edge in attracting and retaining talent

Sustainability gives HR teams an edge in attracting and retaining talent

Passionate and entrepreneurial people are central to Philips’ ambitions to transform its business. Through its Accelerate! programme, the global lighting, healthcare and consumer lifestyle giant is striding towards its goal of delivering customer-focused, meaningful  innovation. The company is gaining the speed and agility to drive operational excellence, increase the pace of innovation and above all, to improve lives. And its 115,000 employees are leading the charge. Philips is committed to attracting and retaining the best and brightest brains by ‘walking the talk’ on sustainability and developing a culture that fosters creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit.

So what’s in it for the employee and does Philips’ reputation as a sustainable business leader motivate people to join and stay with the company?

“Philips is helping people around the world to live well and enjoy life in their communities, and in the same way, it looks after its employees in the workplace by prioritising health, safety and wellbeing,” explains Christina Grace, Global Head of Leadership, Talent and Learning at Philips. “Job seekers are increasingly making these values a priority, and what’s more, they want to be a part of what we’re doing. Some are inspired by a particular initiative, like bringing light to rural African communities, but many simply see their own values reflected in the way we do business.

“Our talent acquisition teams are active in seeking a diverse range of people who share our values and exhibit the behaviours we want to see in the workplace,” continues Grace. “In particular, we look for a willingness to take ownership, a readiness to collaborate and a desire to succeed.”

‘Green’ job seekers

Some 40% of job seekers read a company’s sustainability report, according to a survey commissioned by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Anecdotally, Grace agrees that today’s candidates tend to be better informed of Philips’ sustainability credentials. Prospective employees can rifle through Google in seconds and unearth a myriad of sustainability news and accolades, including an Interbrand ‘Top 50 Global Green Brand’ ranking, leading CDP performance and disclosure scores and a firm foothold on CareerBliss’ ‘Happiest Places to Work in America’ list.

“Despite tough competition and a challenging employment market, people are still interested in sustainability,” says Grace. “We believe this stems from a growing desire, particularly among millennials, to make a difference in the world through their work. But the trend is more far-reaching than that. We’re increasingly seeing people of all ages seeking companies that are leading the way in making a positive contribution to society.”

Grace highlights a recent work-life study conducted by Philips in North America, which reveals that 68% of working Americans would take a pay cut for a job that better allowed them to apply their personal interests in the workplace. Nearly a quarter (23%) would be prepared to take a cut of 25% or more. Many of Philips’ candidates in North America are attracted by the idea of helping the community through the Philips Cares employee volunteering programme.

Walking the talk as an employer

Once on board, keeping people connected to Philips’ vision is all important. Sustainability KPIs are built into everyone’s performance assessments and tailored to their role in the company. At the same time, Philips provides employees with an array of flexible benefits and has developed recognition programmes for individual and team sustainability achievements. Outside of their formal roles, it also gives people the opportunity to participate in employee volunteering programmes or help advance in-house sustainability initiatives.

Take the story of one of Philips’ safety engineers, for example. An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for sustainability and nature conservation, he created a company recycling committee. He and his fellow committee members have played a leading role in helping Philips to recycle office waste that would have otherwise had a negative impact on the environment.

“We encourage leadership and open innovation at all levels,” says Grace. “When that entrepreneurial spirit leads to a pursuit that enhances an employee’s job satisfaction and contributes towards our mission, it creates a real win-win.”

In fact, 11 months into her role at Philips, Grace recalls her own story: “I personally joined Philips due to its progressive thinking on topics that affect the world today and will continue to do so in the future. Almost a year later, my interest in these topics has only strengthened as a result of working here.”

Inspiring employees and strengthening sustainability learning

Philips’ focus on health and wellbeing is also reflected in its choice of partners. “Our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will be integral to strengthening our learning and development offering for employees and customers on the topic of sustainability,” explains Grace. “In particular, the EMF will be instrumental in helping us to develop the Philips University, our new virtual training platform.”

Set to launch later this year, the Philips University is intended to connect Philips employees across the world through interactive, collaborative learning programmes. The company will use the platform to build on its existing sustainability training and explore a range of topics critical to business performance and global wellbeing. By sharing best practice more rapidly and through multiple personal and professional networks, Philips aims to catalyse responsible action around the world, as it draws closer to achieving its vision.

This article was originally published on the Guardian Sustainable Business site.