How Signify lit up employee experience in a dark 2020

The Company did not ignore its third-party sales personnel either, extending them insurance cover during the pandemic


Open channels of communication, addressing grievances in real-time, easy access to leadership and taking the company’s extended network into consideration is how Signify enhanced employee experience in this year of working remotely and virtually.

Human and real-time listening

Pandemic or not, Anusha Suryanarayan, CHRO, Signify, believes the key to employee satisfaction lies in direct human contact, whether in-person or virtual. “For the times we live in, a survey — even if it’s real-time — may not always help. You need to have a real connection,” notes Suryanarayan. “Most of the time, half the problem is solved when a person feels heard. The other half is whether their problem is addressed with action,” she notes.

This is one of the reasons that a ticket-based approach to addressing employee grievances often fails, believes the HR leader. “People want a live face, a voice and a body at the end of the line to listen to what they have to say. This whole thing of putting a ticket when I have a problem and waiting for it to be picked up — nobody wants that,” points out Suryanarayan.

Grievances also require prompt action, she notes. “If one is feeling something today, it’s immediate to them, and if it doesn’t get picked up then where do they voice it?” That’s where open channels of communication play an important role. “That is why, we did all of these virtual campaigns of engagement. Talking and listening to leaders, live sessions and conversations, global webinars and cafe corners,” informs Suryanarayan.

Talking to leaders

Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, introduced a ‘Virtual Cafe’ to engage employees working remotely. “In these live and interactive monthly sessions, we virtually engaged over 1,200 people across India,” states Suryanarayan. It has evolved over the months and has come to be known as ‘Leadership Connect’ in its latest avatar. “A mail goes out informing the workforce about the available time slots for interacting with a particular leader. People then sign up and attend to have a conversation with the leader on whatever it is they want to talk about or address,” she explains.

The hour-long sessions are limited to 25 participants to keep the quality of the discussions intact. The interactions are also recorded and made available to the rest of the workforce for access at their convenience. The virtual informal discussions have become a way for the lighting company to stay in touch with its workforce in a remote-work environment. “It has become a force in itself and continues strong even today,” informs Suryanarayan. “It has helped us collect feedback from employees on what’s going on, and recognise our high-performing and high-potential talent. It is also used as a fireside chat to share the global strategy and how we’re bringing that to life.”

“Most of the time, half the problem is solved when a person feels heard. The other half is then whether their problem is addressed with action”     

Back to business

The company also introduced a back-to-business programme called ‘Get Set Glow’ to keep employee-engagement up. “We launched it around the credo of resilience and recognition early in Q2, which was also our biggest hit,” informs Suryanarayan. It involved theme-based dialogues and activities around newer ways of doing things and giving back to society. “We invited strong and influential voices from outside the Company to talk to us about what’s happening in the world around, and how we can reinvent ourselves and the way we work,” illustrates Suryanarayan.

It is not just the leaders who did all the talking, even employees shared their stories. “We invited inspiring stories from our employees who were pushing themselves, taking risks on their own and yet ensuring that business kept running,” says Suryanarayan. Signify was also conscious of those sections of society that were worst hit. “There were conversations around how we can support them. Again, we had wonderful stories of employees who had gone the extra mile to inspire others. We had someone from the Robin Hood Army talk to us about what they were doing,” she adds.

Extended network

Signify extended its virtual-engagement activities not just to its own workforce but also to the families of employees and the company’s third-party staff and business partners. The company introduced a ‘Flash Forward’ programme that enabled family members of employees to receive career guidance. “Leaders and employees volunteered their time to counsel families and spouses of colleagues that had lost their jobs,” informs Suryanarayan. “The family member can sign up for a session — with either an HR member or leader who supports them — on their interviewing skills and how to shape their career going forward,” she shares.

When the lockdown was at its peak, the Company took note of the high-stress environment and made virtual-wellness sessions available to its business partners too. “We hosted virtual yoga sessions with many of our retailers, distributors and channel partners,” informs Suryanarayan. “We organised painting competitions for their children. We also connected them to doctors because we thought they may not have easy access to such facilities,” she adds.

The Company went ahead and extended its COVID-19 insurance cover to its third-party sales teams as well. “We thought that these guys were exposing themselves in the market, and because they’re third-party, they may not be covered as they should be, so let’s cover them too.” While these initiatives may not directly benefit employees, they go a long way in improving employee morale, believes Suryanarayan. “Such gestures provide assurance that even if one is not getting directly benefited someone one knows is now better placed, thanks to the facility. It makes one feel good about the company one works for.”

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