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by Brenda van Leeuwen and Jo Pieters, Philips

and Tom Crawford, Bernard Hodes Group

Building Philips
employer brand
from the inside out
How to create an employer brand and instill it
throughout the employment lifecycle
Your employer brand
should be a distinct and
compelling way to
express what makes you
unique as an employer,
highlighting the employee
experience you offer. Find

out how Philips



researched its position in


the employment market







to create an employer
brand that reflects its
corporate reputation.


from the heady days of the late 1990s, but the
competition to attract and retain the best
employees hasnt. One company thats highly
active in the fight for talent is Philips, one of the
worlds biggest electronics companies and Europes
largest, with 161,500 employees in more than 100
countries. Indeed, with its commitment to becoming a
leading solution provider in the areas of healthcare,
lifestyle and technology, theres a good case for arguing
that hiring and keeping the best people has never been
more important. The question, of course, is how.
Work on finding the answer began in 2002. In view of
the ongoing war for talent, recruitment was naturally one
of the key processes we investigated. Our global
recruitment redesign program had shown that the quality
of service could be improved in meeting the needs of
both candidates and the business. We also realized that
we needed to pay more attention to talent recruitment
instead of focusing on the issue only when vacancies
emerged. We wanted to manage the inflow of talented
people into the company talent pipeline more proactively.
Chasing out inconsistency
We identified early on that wed been inconsistent in
our positioning and messaging and therefore our
communications with prospective employees. We
werent addressing them as one Philips, and we
werent reaching the targets wed set ourselves to attract
and retain the best talent.
Volume 4 Issue 4 May/June 2005

Melcrum Publishing Ltd. 2005 For more information visit www.melcrum.com or e-mail info@melcrum.com

Our traditional way of working was for every

country to look at recruitment from their own
perspective. This had led to different processes that
meant Philips was being positioned differently in each
labor market. The objective for the project team was to
find a solution that created consistency without
preventing tailoring, while also improving service
quality and operational efficiency.


Selling Philips to prospective employees

From the start, we took the approach of considering
recruitment as a sales and marketing function, and
thinking of the employee experience in terms of the
customer experience. If we were to attract and retain
the best people we needed to sell Philips to them as
an employer they would find attractive. This meant we
first needed to know how existing and potential
employees regarded the company as an employer. The
questions we asked ourselves were what does the
company want to be recognized for, and how does it
differ from its competitors in the labor market?
The first step to find out how Philips could attract
more of the right people was to dig deeper into how
the company is perceived. We needed to know what
drives potential employees to join the company and
what motivates existing employees to stay with us and
exert discretionary effort.

Gaining external insight

By using external consultants, Philips could be
guaranteed of the objectivity of the research data, as
having a Philips employee facilitate the sessions might
have influenced the opinions of participants. Both the
external and internal aspects of the employer brand
were analyzed. This was vital as the key to success was a
proposition and set of fundamentals which could
harmonize both the external promise in the
recruitment marketing, and the internal reality of the
recruitment, selection and employment experience.
The key to credible and highly-effective research was
to get good insight into the organization. Researching
with Philips colleagues globally gave us this insight, but
it also gave those involved in the process the sense of
being included in the change program.

Volume 4 Issue 4 May/June 2005

Uncovering attraction factors

The research findings raised some interesting
differences in opinion. In terms of what attracts people
to Philips, graduates, for example, while not necessarily
perceiving Philips negatively, often feel no strong desire
to apply. When you asked what Philips stands for as an
employer, they see it as a large, international
technology company, but thats all.
The research also uncovered significant differences
between the target groups, not only in terms of career
goals, but also in how they look for job opportunities,
and even the way they like to be approached. Students
and recent graduates, for example, see the internet as a
key way to obtain information about prospective
employers, but for people with work experience, word
of mouth is a more important source of information.
The key factors in the employer proposition also differ
between groups. Priorities for graduates include
working with increasingly challenging tasks, working

Internal and external research

The ensuing research program, carried out by employer
branding specialists Bernard Hodes Group, began with
an internal study. This involved 29 focus groups
totaling some 250 Philips employees in the US, China,
India, the Netherlands, France, Germany, UK and
Poland. There was also a web-based survey of a further
3,500 employees around the world. These employees
represented a variety of grades and varying lengths of
service, including some employees from the companys
existing talent pools.
The same exercise was also conducted externally to
measure how students and employees of other
companies perceive Philips as a prospective employer.
Externally, 18 focus groups were undertaken, totaling
180 participants. Again, this qualitative research was
complemented by a web-based survey, hosted on a
series of specialized job boards, with over 1,000
completed questionnaires returned for analysis.
Hodes managed the selection of individuals based
upon a detailed person specification of the types of
individual which Philips sought to employ. Wherever
possible, research participants were those employed by
Philips competitor companies. Within the focus
groups, this allowed the creation of a detailed picture of
what working life was like at these competitors,
enabling Philips to effectively benchmark against its
competitors in the employment marketplace.

Royal Philips Electronics is one of the worlds biggest electronics companies

and Europes largest, with sales of EUR30.3 billion in 2004. With activities in
healthcare, lifestyle and technology, and 161,500 employees in more than
60 countries, it has market leadership positions in medical diagnostic
imaging and patient monitoring, color television sets, electric shavers,
lighting and silicon system solutions.

Jo Pieters

Brenda van Leeuwen

is VP global recruitment
at Philips. He has led
many projects including improving graduate
recruitment, reorganizing the recruitment
function and strengthening talent
management. His key responsibilities are in
employer branding, recruitment and selection,
induction, onboarding and retention.

is the employer branding

manager at Philips. She
has been with Philips for nine years, both
within product divisions and more recently as
part of corporate HRM. She has been
responsible for developing and deploying the
global employer brand.


Melcrum Publishing Ltd. 2005 For more information visit www.melcrum.com or e-mail info@melcrum.com

Figure 1. Philips toolkit for employer branding

a companys success and its financial

t internationally,
health. Yet for people with work experience, priorities
include career development, working atmosphere,
leadership style and management development.
Uncovering retention factors
The research also looked at what keeps people at
Philips or causes them to leave. For existing employees,
the focus is on career development, good
communication with their manager and feeling
involved and motivated and thus engaged and
inspired. The common theme connecting these
elements is the goal of creating an engaged workforce.
Management, HR and employees themselves all have
responsibility for ensuring we reach this objective.
Overall, the research found that employees
sometimes perceive a mismatch between what has been
promised by the company during their recruitment,
and what they experience they join us. Managers, not
surprisingly, were found to be critical to the day-to-day
working experience.
Positioning ourselves as an employer has to be a total
Figure 2. Philips employment lifecycle


approach. It must apply consistently to the whole value

chain of employment otherwise we wont be strong
enough to win the war for talent and become and stay a
great place to work.
Introducing touch lives every day
Perhaps the most unexpected research finding, however,
was that people inside and outside the company feel
Philips could do better at celebrating its achievements
in improving peoples lives through its technologies and
products. This finding helped define what Philips
positioning as an employer should be, which is the
realization that through working for Philips the
companys employees touch lives every day.
With this proposition we can show, both internally
and externally, that Philips has an enormous impact on
the world. Philips can be found in a number of rooms in
houses and offices, as well as in public spaces, almost
everywhere. If our products arent there, the technologies
weve developed will be. And were there because of the
work of our employees. So Philips employees touch the
lives of people all over the world every day.
The appeal of the touch lives every day concept has
since been confirmed in a pilot study in China. This has
involved presentations at top universities, student visits to
Philips factories and R&D centers, and the creation of
brochures and posters that adapt the touch lives every
day message to the Chinese market. The results from the
first two months have been extremely promising.
Worldwide rollout
Based on what has been learned in China, an online
toolkit (see Figure 1, above left) has now been
developed to facilitate its use elsewhere. The
communications toolkit plays an important part in
making the Philips employer brand a reality. It ensures
that Philips communicates its employer proposition in
a consistent and high-quality manner, everywhere,
every time, both internally and externally.
Delivering on promises
touch lives every day is more than just a nice way of
describing the concept. It describes the essence of
Philips as an employer and summarizes the promise we
make to potential employees about the opportunities
they will be given and the environment in which theyll
be working. Secondly, the essence is all about delivering
on our promises to current employees. How are we
touching their lives with positive experiences, thus
creating reasons for them to stay?
touch lives every day is therefore not only a
description of how Philips should approach prospective
and existing employees, but also a call for managers to
ensure the company delivers on its promises. Regular
employee engagement surveys are now being
administered in every region, replacing the previous
employee satisfaction surveys. Measures around
Volume 4 Issue 4 May/June 2005

Melcrum Publishing Ltd. 2005 For more information visit www.melcrum.com or e-mail info@melcrum.com

managerial effectiveness will help monitor how Philips

staff experience the employer brand.
The power of employer branding
Employer branding enables an organization to deliver a
consistent experience at each touchpoint. Individuals
have touchpoints with many different stakeholders during
the period they interact with a company. Philips calls this
the employment lifecycle (see Figure 2, below left).
This diagram is being used within Philips to help
emphasize that employer branding is not only about
recruitment, its also about keeping up the promise
once someone joins. The employer brand should apply
from the moment an individual looks for a
job/company to work for, until the moment they leave
the company.
For potential recruits, touchpoints are the moments
companies interact with candidates, employees or
alumni. Each touchpoint leaves an impression and is
an opportunity to have a positive impact. During each
touchpoint a perception is formed, and then
maintained or changed. Strong employer brands
manage the whole employment lifecycle consistently
and in a structured way, leaving a compelling image.
Improving induction processes
Another action arising as a result of the feedback was
to improve the Philips global induction program.
Aimed at continuing the journey from the recruitment
process, In Touch provides new joiners with a
welcome CD-ROM and access to a protected website
ahead of joining, a buddy from day one and ongoing
support through regular meetings with their manager.
This program is intended to help new joiners
understand both what they need to be doing and how,
smoothing their transition into the organization. Early
indications are that this new program is helping
achieve this and scores on new hire satisfaction in the
pilot area have already improved.
Lessons learned and key questions for HR
Now that touch lives is becoming part of the way
Philips operates, we can look back at the lessons
learned from the journey. First, dont underestimate the
size of such an initiative. Even if you clearly define
your scope, focus and approach you have to make
choices along the way.
Second, getting the whole organization behind
touch lives has been critical to making it a success.
Commitment and involvement of colleagues beyond
HR, particularly in marketing, has been a must to
learn about the organization and to create successful
Philips knows that the key to success is more about
the experience created for employees through the brand
and maximizing what this leverages than it is about
glossy, sexy advertising materials. Its exciting to see the
Volume 4 Issue 4 May/June 2005

The employer proposition (EP) needs to be a distinct and compelling way
to express what makes you unique as an employer, headlining the
employee experience you offer.
A brilliant employer proposition draws on and adds to wider brand
audiences and overall corporate reputation the best brands are built
from the inside out.
It should reflect a consistent employee experience from recruitment
through to exiting the organization as such bring marketing behaviors
into HR treat the employee experience like the customer experience.
Be measurable what does it leverage for the organization? What does it
enable the company to do differently?
It should add to your organizational reputation by embracing your
diversity and corporate social responsibility agendas.
It should not be one size fits all it should unite and motivate people
behind common values while allowing the individual to express
HR is a center of expertise that drives EP but it should be owned and
delivered by everyone. EP can therefore be used as a tool to get line
ownership for people management.

brand inform our entire HR and talent agenda as well

as internal behaviors.
Finally, if this is a project youre considering, there
are some key questions HR should be asking:
Is HR united in the delivery of an employer
Research, research, research do you have enough
data to build a core proposition and then segment it
to meet the needs of different audiences?
Have you consulted and engaged with existing talent
so the exercise becomes an opportunity to rerecruit key people?
Does your proposition as an employer have
commercial drivers and benefits such as highlighting
the link between employees and customers? Can it
add benefits to various brand audiences such as
shareholders and customers?
Who is going to manage it? Products with brands
often have several managers to ensure they are a
market leader. If employees truly are so important to
profit then does the employer proposition not
deserve a manager of its own?

Tom Crawford
E-mail: consulting@hodes.co.uk

Tom Crawford
leads the Solutions Consulting team at
Bernard Hodes Group, a business which
helps organizations to attract, recruit and retain business critical
talent. He has particular expertise in employer branding and
focusing on the link between people and business performance.


Melcrum Publishing Ltd. 2005 For more information visit www.melcrum.com or e-mail info@melcrum.com

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