Building a coveted workplace through a people-oriented culture


In an era of unpredictable market and organizational changes, Philips Innovation Campus at Bangalore has created a culture where talent can thrive. A case study by Raj Karunakaran, Director Human Resources at Philips Innovation Campus, Bangalore, India.

If you have worked in more than one organization, you would have recognized that there is something different about each one. It is sometimes hard to describe what the differences are, but it feels different. These differences are around the norms, shared sets of beliefs and values, that each organization embodies, and are reinforced by an organization’s symbols and structure. It manifests in the way people think and behave.

Philips Innovation Campus is one such place where you get to feel a high level of employee engagement, energy and passion. You will find many happy faces eager to take risks and open to collaborate across sectors, geographies and businesses. Philips employees, visiting Philips Innovation Campus from other locations, often share this observation with me.
I would like to present a view on organizational culture and how it is shaped. Through my experience at Philips Innovation Campus, I have attempted to uncover the various aspects of Philips Innovation Campus’s culture and organizational initiatives that have had a positive impact on employee engagement and retention.
Philips Innovation Campus is located at Bangalore city, the IT capital of India, that has presence of almost all major IT and R&D organizations – Google, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, GE, Siemens, Samsung to name a few. In spite of being present in this highly competitive job market, Philips Innovation Campus has one of the lowest employee attrition rates in the industry and has lost very few employees to its competition.
One well-known multinational technology company, who started its healthcare operations in Bangalore couple of years back, tried hiring Philips employees (sometimes at significantly higher rates of compensation) and they failed. Almost all the employees returned back to Philips Innovation Campus in few months. Philips Innovation Campus is an exciting place for technology professionals because it provides an opportunity to create products and services by leveraging competencies across Healthcare, Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting – all under one roof. And the glue that keeps the employees engaged and makes Philips Innovation Campus an even more exciting place is its culture!
What is organizational culture?
So what is an organizational culture and how does it get created? According to one of the foremost experts on organizational development, Edgar Schein, organizational culture can exist on at least three different levels: surface artifacts, shared values and underlying assumptions.
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(Adapted from E. H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership)
As can be seen in this picture, like an iceberg, what we first see are the visual artifacts of culture like happy faces, office layouts, manners of interacting etc. Lying just below the surface are the core values shared by all the employees reflected in the “way things are done” in the organization. At the very deepest level of culture are the underlying assumptions. These assumptions begin as values but, over time, become so well ingrained that they become givens – firm beliefs about the way things are. An example might be the assumption that people in this organization “are like family”. Others might include beliefs about the equality and inclusion, and the importance of maintaining tradition. These underlying assumptions guide decisions about how the organization functions.
Two central cultural elements at Philips Innovation Campus that I have observed are…
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  1. A culture of facilitation: Employees are engaged in a participative and person-centered way. Employees are expected to be adaptable, collaborative, supportive, constructive and open to influence when interacting within and outside their teams.
  2. A culture of internal cohesion: Employees are encouraged to gain fulfillment from their work, develop themselves, think in unique and independent ways based on values like enthusiasm, passion, trust, creativity and individual growth.

At Philips Innovation Campus, you can expect to see visible signs of these value priorities. Among other things, the HRM practices get aligned to these. For example, a high value on collaboration gets translated in the recruitment and selection of employees who are team players, adaptable and not self-centered. The discussions around these values get importance during Performance assessment. These values and the underlying assumptions (amongst many) start guiding decisions about how the teams are structured, the strategy, the right way to select and develop people, etc.

Paradoxically, as influential as these assumptions are, they are often difficult to identify and articulate. There is an old adage, “Fish discover water last” – some things are just so “obvious” that they become “invisible.’ Most of us at Philips Innovation Campus might find it difficult to articulate these assumptions – nevertheless they influence us strongly.
Attraction, retention and engagement
In my quest to understand what attracts employees to Philips Innovation Campus, I spoke to employees who re-joined Philips Innovation Campus after working in other organizations and they had some interesting observations to share. Employees who worked at one of our competitors in the consumer electronics and healthcare industry said they were frisked at the entrance, had baggage screened, their time in and out checked, had no access to personal emails, etc. The underlying assumption seemed to be ‘caution’ and ‘control’. The lack of humane treatment and a high focus on compliance came as a strong reason why these employees decided to let go of lucrative offers and join Philips once again.
Employees who re-joined from a global competitor in the healthcare industry said they disliked the culture of high task orientation with less focus on people development. At Philips Innovation Campus, all of them felt they were making a difference, making a higher contribution and felt they are recognized for it. They are encouraged to learn new things and they felt a high sense of independence and autonomy. They also felt a high level of congruence between their personal purpose and organizational vision and values.
Philips Bangalore4 1.jpg Above: Employees outside the Philips Innovation Campus, Bangalore
Organizational values
Many studies on organizational culture have found that the organizational values that contribute to fair and humane treatment of people are ‘universally’ linked to commitment and retention. Studies have also suggested task-oriented values are not unappealing in and of themselves. Rather, it is a focus on these values to the exclusion of relationship-oriented values that is most likely to be a problem.
Robert Blake, in his book “The Managerial Grid,” states that the most effective organizations are those that balance people-oriented issues with task-oriented issues. Employee-oriented values are likely to be universally appealing and to contribute positively to commitment and retention. Task-oriented or rule-oriented values that take precedence over all other values, particularly employee-oriented values, appear to be unattractive.
Philips Innovation Campus has embraced a culture with a right balance of result orientation as well as people focus. The key underlying assumption is that “People are important to achieve our ambition.” This assumption drives relationship-oriented values and behaviors of treating people with dignity and respect. This has been an important factor in influencing employees’ commitment to the organization and their willingness to remain and work towards organizational goals.
Here are some of the examples of how this assumption translates into organization initiatives and behavior…
People-oriented leadership culture
  • Leaders at Philips Innovation Campus believe that “people are important to achieve our ambition.” There is an open-door culture where employees can walk to any senior leader and have a conversation with them. There are no hierarchical barriers and leaders are seen on the floor, having lunch with their teams and they involve employees and seek their opinion on organizational initiatives.

Collaborative culture

  • The office layout encourages collaboration and less silos. Various business groups sit under the same roof in open office set-up creating opportunities to team-up across diverse teams.
  • Philips Innovation Campus promotes cross- teams like forums for project managers, clinical, hardware, architects, product development etc. Employees with similar domain regularly meet to discuss the latest trends, brainstorm and share best practices.
  • Events like “Hackaton” promote a culture of boundary-less innovation.
Inclusive culture
  • All employees at middle management and above participate in creation of Philips Innovation Campus’s organizational road-map and strategy. They own elements of the strategy and its implementation.
  • Employees at all levels meet periodically to give inputs on HR policies. A good example of employees’ involvement in HR policies is that the Annual Holiday list at Philips Innovation Campus is decided by employees each year.
  • Employees are encouraged to volunteer to organize engagement initiatives, cultural programs and events to contribute to society.
  • Internal Social Website called ConnectUS is widely used in Philips Innovation Campus where employees share their views and opinions openly.
People development culture
  • There is high focus on talent development. Talent reviews are done for all from grade 60 and above; and Individual Development Plans developed for all employees and rigorously implemented.
  • Leaders are trained to be coaches and mentors and they invest significant time and effort in developing employees.
Culture of trust and accountability
  • There is a high level of trust around policies like sick leaves, work from home, working hours etc.
  • Huge emphasis is given on hiring people who share the same values as the organization. Hiring process includes values-based assessment.
One of Philips Innovation Campus’s aspirations is to be seen as a “Coveted Place to Work” by any talented person either internally and externally. To unlock its greatness, Philips Innovation Campus needs to continue building a spirited organization based on its strong foundation of “people-oriented” culture.
About the author:
Raj Karunakaran is the HRBP for Philips Healthcare at Philips Innovation Campus, Bangalore. He is an HR professional and an ICF certified coach. He specializes in business partnering, organizational development and leadership coaching.
About Philips Innovation Campus:
Philips Innovation Campus (PIC), Bangalore is an innovation hub creating next generation solutions and services for health and well-being. It is one of the largest and strategic ‘innovation to product’ R&D centers for Philips employing around 2000 employees, with in-depth expertise in software, technology and application domains. Over last 18 years PIC has evolved as a key partner in Philips business development, business processes, software services, electrical and mechanical hardware and product developments for global and emerging markets.


E. H. Schein, Organizational culture and leadership Robert Blake, The managerial grid Dr Jon Meyer & Laryssa Topolnytsky, Western University Canada, Employee Retention Richard Barrett, Barrett Value Center

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