“It's been a hard road but I'm almost home As the lights fade to black Hear the roar of the crowd Ten thousand loud It's good to be back” - From the Song ‘Back In The Game’ by Airbourne
That last line, “it’s good to be back” is playing in the minds of the women resuming their careers after a personal break. While they aspire to contribute in their respective roles in a big way, not every one of them is lucky to receive a supportive environment. With job roles transitioning rapidly, it becomes largely difficult for these women to adapt. While the better organisations have initiatives to offer sufficient hand‑holding and mentoring for such women employees, the journey has only begun for organisations, and it will be some time before women actually feel that “it’s good to be back.”
Human Capital interacted with Armaan Seth, Head, Human Resources, Philips India Subcontinent, who spoke about the “Back Inthe Game” initiative launched by Philips India, which is mainly focussed on preparing women who intend to restart their careers after a break, and make them on par with the current needs of the industry. He also spoke about various diversity related initiatives that have been launched by Philips to ensure that women are not only made a permanent part of the workforce, but are suitably spruced for leadership roles as well.
What is Back In the Game? What is the principal idea behind this initiative?
Back In the Game is a returnee programme launched by Philips India which offers live strategic projects for 3-6 months across HR, finance, marketing, sales, R&D, supply chain, and procurement. Back In the Game (BIG) is an internship initiative driven by the India Leadership and the Diversity Council at Philips India. BIG aims to empower women who are looking to restart their careers, by providing them with an opportunity to get back into the workforce. The initiative aims to rehire women on a sabbatical, re-integrating, and bringing them up to mark with the current industry trends.
Who is the audience for this internship? What is the eligibility criteria for the said internship?
Anybody who is eager to return to make a career after taking a break in their employment; due to life cycle changes or any other reasons could be the audience for this internship. We are looking at professionals from different backgrounds. Candidates who are available for a full-time (in-office) internship for a duration of three plus months, have relevant skill sets and interests are eligible to take the internship.
What is the duration of the internship? Is this a global initiative? How does it help in strengthening gender diversity in the company?
BIG is a Philips India initiative, aligned with the policies at the global level. It is a paid internship programme for 3-6 months. The live project is evaluated by the Business through the course of the project, and can transition into full-time employment at Philips India. At times, after taking a career break, women find it tough to get back to their careers, especially at the right level. Due to this, the workforce tends to lose a huge chunk of talent. Increasingly, more companies are making a strong commitment to strengthen female participation in the workforce. Business leaders recognise that gender-balanced companies achieve greater economic results.
What are some other unique HR initiatives that have been undertaken by Philips?
Strong and sustainable human resource policies provide consistency and fairness in an organisation. Philips takes these policies very seriously, and has recently launched some programmes for its employees.
- REAP: To provide a conducive environment for women employees, Philips launched the inclusion and diversity programme named REAP (Respect, Empower, Acknowledge & Persevere) on International Women’s Day.
- Unconscious Bias Workshops: Philips conducts workshops across sites to educate people managers on building awareness and suggesting ways of overcoming these biases
- Wo-mentoring: The initiative was launched to serve as a mentorship platform for women employees pan India. Ten mentors from various walks of life have been identified to provide guidance to our future women leaders.
- Wo-mentoring 2.0: Philips identified 8 additional mentor-mentee pairs pan India to provide guidance to our women employees on key issues like - Leadership Qualities, Career Growth guidance, how to build professional network, developing business acumen etc. identified through a pre‑programme assessment survey.
- He For She stories: The idea of this initiative was to engage with men in removing social and cultural barriers that prevent men and women from achieving their potential, enlisting men as equal partners responsible for crafting and implementing a shared vision of gender equality.
- Crucial Conversation workshops: These workshops offer a short module to engage with our women employees across functions to develop them on traits such as persuasiveness, decision making, and building acceptance/ buy-in.
What according to you are the most important skill sets needed by an employee to re-enter the workforce?
The skills sets might vary from roles to jobs. However, certain skills are always crucial to any job that one enters into. One of most important abilities is to believe in their professional self, especially when they are re-starting their careers. The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most essential skills for the workforce. Secondly, teamwork and collaboration play a vital role in the acceptance of a re‑entrant in an organisation. Most jobs will require some sort of teamwork and collaboration between employees. The eagerness to learn and scale up quickly is essential to be successful.
What are the key responsibilities that are given to the participants during the internship?
Considering each of these interns are assigned different roles across business groups like Philips India Ltd., Philips Innovation Campus, and Healthcare Innovation Campus, the skill set and deliverables for each of them will be different. In order to streamline individual responsibilities across divisions, we have designed project charters for each of these roles that are clear and objective in nature. Each BIG Intern also gets a full-time mentor for their projects.
How do you think that this initiative will help in breaking the stereotype around women resuming work after a break?
Several women returnees face the after effects of unconscious bias. Often, they are tagged with a certain stereotype, which in most cases, is untrue. Organisations realised a few years ago that a substantial percentage of their highly educated, skilled, and experienced female employees were leaving the workforce at some point. It was established through a study that between 2004 and 2009, a large percentage of these high-achieving women opted out of work, mostly to care for their children. Philips understands that it is crucial to look at hiring these women back into the workforce because they make for a significant portion of the brain power in a company. Back In the Game demonstrates that talented women are perfectly capable of coming back into senior jobs in the most demanding corporate environments. Over time, broader adoption of this initiative could transform employer perceptions and societal stereotypes around women resuming work after a break.
As an HR, do you have any tips to improve the chances of getting hired after a career break?
There are certain skill sets that can enhance the chances of an individual getting hired after taking a career break which can be imbibed before, during, or after joining an internship.
- Have the right attitude: Whatever the reason - family, health, or education, an applicant who has taken a career break makes recruiters apprehensive, even if one manages to convince them about their ability. So, one must be prepared to explain the reasons for the break.
- Analyse your appetite: Analyse what you are capable of handling. This is crucial if you had quit due to personal responsibilities. Assess your current interests. It is not necessary to return to the old role. You can use this stage to make a career shift.
- Remain up to date: Employers want people who remain abreast of the latest trends related to work. Therefore, stay updated during the break. The traditional ways to brush up skills and knowledge, books, magazines, and courses help. However, staying in the field through freelance work is the best. This will also give the impression that you have used the break well.
- Network: Keep in touch with old colleagues and employers. Networking will help you search for an appropriate opening or get good references that can increase your chances of getting selected in a job interview.
Additionally, it is easier to get into roles that focus on individual skills and competence, and not so much on the ability to manage teams and organisational structures.
What does Philips do to promote women in leadership roles?
Gender diversity could be that key for the success of any company. With women accounting for less than a quarter of management positions globally, Philips is committed towards strengthening its women workforce in order to create a balance between both the genders. It has been observed that the disparity is even greater when it comes to higher-level management positions.
Women leaders today are at the forefront of redefining the business landscape. We, at Philips, encourage women to reach leadership positions by providing them with the right support when they require it the most. To promote gender diversity, we aim to create an ecosystem which would help women workforce to thrive and reach out for higher goals. Philips has various active diversity policies to support women balancing their work-life, including flexible work schedules, child maternity policies (including adoption policy), sabbatical policy, and late evening travel policy. Philips with its women friendly policies is committed to support working mothers for their return to work so that they can continue to build a fulfilling career with its programme ‘Back In the Game.’ We are also working towards strengthening the women workforce by providing them with mentorship, and helping them to take leadership positions in India as well as globally.
The government has already taken initiatives like 180 days of maternity leave, crèche facilities, and day care. While policies, laws, and recommendations are good, our ecosystem needs to provide them with equal opportunities too. We all need to come together to conquer barriers faced by women in the workplace.
“Women leaders today are at the forefront of redefining the business landscape. We, at Philips, encourage women to reach leadership positions by providing them with the right support when they require it the most.”
Can you elaborate on the initiatives taken by Philips to promote reskilling and upskilling within the company?
It has been seen that amongst the major obstacles to restart career, outdated skills are one of the biggest deterrents. As the Future of Work changes rapidly, individual workers will have to remain engaged in lifelong learning if they have to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical, if they have to find the required talent.
Solely relying on new workers entering the labour market with the right readymade skills will no longer be sufficient. The growing job-seeking population is driving the demand for industry relevant training, as there are skills gaps that need to be bridged before getting back into the workforce. The need to reskill these women and make them part of the workforce provides a huge opportunity.
Philips India, with its Back In the Game campaign, supports these women by helping them upskill and be at par with industry developments. Reskilling ensures smooth transition to full time employment after a career break. Philips also provides systematic access to suitable candidates and help to ensure good integration, boost productivity, and in turn retention.
How do you promote diversity and inclusion at Philips India?
At Philips India, we believe a diverse, inclusive, and an engaged workforce is the essential element to a thriving innovative business, and we strive to attract employees from a wide range of backgrounds.
Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our talent life cycle, and helps us to enhance employee engagement and drive performance. Valuing diverse perspectives, we leverage diverse thinking, skills, experience, and working styles, while simultaneously fostering an innovative, collaborative, and high energy work environment. To promote diversity in the workplace, we provide opportunities for work arrangements that accommodate the diverse needs of people at different career and life stages.
Do you look forward to permanently working from home after the pandemic subsides?
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