What would you say to a graduate who asked exactly what Philips does to save lives, and how a new hire might participate in that?
Our technology in the catheterization lab, and also our defibrillators, are saving lives every day in an immediate and dramatic way. I receive letters each week from people thanking Philips for the fact that they’re alive and able to see their grandchildren.
But saving and improving lives goes beyond treatment. It starts with prevention and healthy living, where we have great assets. It goes to diagnostics, which typically hasn’t been efficient or accurate enough, and to treatment. And it goes outside the hospital into the support of chronic diseases. We can give very concrete examples of our life-saving effectiveness in each step in what we call the health continuum. Our people do get excited seeing that their projects and activities are contributing to better lives across the entire health continuum. That sense of purpose drives us whether you are in sales, whether you are in marketing, whether you develop products and systems.
When I interview people, I say, “Think about yourself or somebody in your family who recently had a medical issue, a hospital visit, and the challenge that person faced in navigating the healthcare system, getting reimbursement, finding the right advice.” I can easily convey how an individual I’m interviewing would be helping Philips address each of those frustration points.
Do you yourself interview graduates?
Quite a lot. It’s important to show the relevance we attach to that topic. But it’s also important for me to understand what they’re asking for, what their concerns are, what attracts them to Philips, and what they are seeking from the labor market.
I could imagine a young graduate being impressed that he or she is being interviewed not only by a recruiter or HR professional, but by a senior executive.
Today’s graduates are self-confident and have options. They don’t have this kind of hierarchical view that we saw 10, 20 years ago, where they would be timid and so impressed that they’re talking with a C-suite leader. They know the labor market is good for them. They’re looking for things which used to be less on our HR agenda. We used to say, “This is your career path. You’re starting here, and these are the five steps you need to reach the director level,” or whatever. When you try that out with graduates today, they’re not interested. They’re like, “I don’t want a fixed future. What I want to know is what impact can I have, how can I bring what I learned to make an actual difference, how can I concretely improve the world we’re living in?”And they ask about work-life balance, which is something that would not have been brought up 10, 20 years ago.
Are you seeking Ph.D.s, undergraduates or both? With what degrees?
We’re seeking graduates at all levels. Obviously software engineers are in high demand. At Philips, 60 percent of our R&D engineers work on software, with a large number of them working on the application of Artificial Intelligence.
But we’re also looking for other types of engineers, quality-control experts, economic experts, marketing experts and business graduates.
Even so, it’s less that we are looking for one or two specific functions and more a certain mindset. A key factor is cooperation. Many years ago, there was a transparent organizational chart, and a defined team, and it was clear who you had to interact with. Now, you have to influence people who might not report directly to you. You have to cooperate not just across the organization, but also with startups we are partnering with. You have to cooperate even with competitors. This collaboration mindset is a key focus of the interviews.
Is it a challenge to explain the mission of Philips, a name that over the decades was attached to a variety of products?
We took the decision three years ago to fully focus on healthcare technology. We sold our audio business, our video business, our TV business. And we IPO’d the lighting, and took all the money we received from these sales to invest fully into health tech. We think it’s a very important area and also an area that needs focused investment.
As a health tech company, Philips has a very strong brand name, top of the list in many markets. Certainly in Germany or India, and of course the Netherlands and some European markets. That also comes from our consumer brand, where we are known for oral healthcare and other products.
For people who have some sense of medical device technology innovation, Philips is one of the top brand names. We have leading market shares or are the market leader in a number of fields – patient monitoring being one, for example.
If you are talking about graduates who don’t have any medical background, I think we might score lower than other firms. But when you bring in the purpose, our promise and mission of saving and improving billions of lives, it shifts the ground.
"It’s less that we are looking for one or two specific functions and more a certain mindset. A key factor is cooperation."