Why Signify wants to hire more women in its sales team

Since front-line sales entails a lot of travelling and working in remote areas, it is difficult to attract women talent for such roles

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Signify (formerly known as Philips Lighting) has been focusing on increasing the representation of women at the Company, and overall, the Company has been fairly successful in consciously hiring diverse talent.

The Company has seen a nine per cent rise in the number of women in the workforce from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, representation of women stood at 16 per cent, and in 2021, it reached 25 per cent.

Talking to HRKatha, Anusha Suryanarayan, CHRO, Signify Philips Lighting India, shares that while they have been quite successful in attracting women for non-sales roles, attracting women talent in front-line sales has been a challenge.

Why women are scarce in front-line sales

“Firstly, there is a dearth in terms of women talent for front-line sales roles and secondly, for women, mobility is a big challenge,” says Suryanarayan. In the electrical consumer durables sector, people in sales are required to travel a lot and often work in remote locations. Women find it difficult to take up such roles due to various reasons ranging from personal preferences to unconscious bias with regard to women being incapable of doing justice to such roles, which deprives them of opportunities.

“This problem is not restricted to Signify alone. Most companies with a front-line sales team or people working in the field face challenges in attracting women talent for such roles,” says Surayanarayan.

However, Signify has resolved to bring about a change. The organisation has set a goal to increase the representation of women talent in its sales team and prove to everyone that women can also be successful in a role, which is majorly dominated by men.

How Signify attracts more women

Signify has taken various steps to achieve this challenging task.

“Most companies with a front-line sales team or people working in the field face challenges in attracting women talent for such roles but we are determined that we can achieve this difficult task”

Anusha Suryanarayan, CHRO, Signify Philips Lighting India

 

Back in the game: One of the major programmes at Signify is ‘Back in the game’, which focuses on giving an opportunity to women employees who had to take a career break due to maternity leave or marriage. Though the programme has existed at Signify for years, it was halted during the pandemic and has now been reinitiated with a major focus on increasing the number of women in the sales team.

Under this programme, experienced women who had to take a career break can apply for roles as per their relevant skills, and receive training and orientation to get back into the groove.

This programme also offers women a chance to take on a project-based role for a few months so that both the Company and the candidates can assess their suitability and satisfaction. Additionally, a lot of flexibility is allowed to women to carry out their roles effectively, so that they are drawn towards sales roles.

Referral programme: Signify runs a special referral programme, wherein women’s peer groups are being encouraged to refer suitable talent. The Company also has a WhatsApp group called ‘women in sales’ wherein people can refer suitable talent for sales roles along with a social-media campaign to attract women talent in sales.

Currently, at Signify, the sales team consists of 10.4 per cent women, an increase of 30 per cent from last year.

Sensitisation: Signify is working towards sensitising the workforce to make the environment more inclusive and equitable for women employees. It is relying on periodic workshops and drama-based sensitisation to make people aware of their unconscious biases.

Activities: As an engagement activity, Signify has a platform called ‘She the People’ where all women employees meet and interact every quarter. It starts with an ice-breaker session and concludes by inviting suggestions from everyone on how the Company can further enhance its gender diversity agenda. This acts as a roadmap for the Company to set its vision and goals for the future. During this process, people are organised into groups to discuss their challenges and what all the Company can do to mitigate those challenges.

Suryanarayan does agree that the task of increasing the number of women in the sales team is a difficult one. However, the Company is determined to increase women’s representation by another three to four per cent by the end of this year.

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