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Philips doesn’t expect its staff to have all the answers; it just hopes they ask the right questions. At least, that is the impression you get when you talk to Irwin Sjafril, the Country HR Lead at Philips Indonesia. 

After spending roughly eight years studying and working in Europe, Irwin joined Philips in 2015. The company had recently decided to divest its lighting business in a bid to become a global leader in health technology. “During my interview, they shared about transformation and how they wanted to change the company’s way of working, because it had changed its focus,” says Irwin.

cpr

The team in Indonesia at a CPR training.

HR as innovative business partners
Irwin brought to the role the idea that HR leads should behave more like innovative business partners than ship-steadying administrators. And so when he joined the company, he took time to learn about the business and the challenges it faced, so that he could offer advice and formulate HR strategy that helped “take the business to another level”. 

"Because a lot of the time, we get trapped in just carrying out the same old process… but what we really want to achieve is a high level of performance,” he says. 

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A team which works hard
​​​​​​​and plays hard... 

Irwin’s approach led him to conclude that the company needed to increase its workplace diversity – not only because hiring employees from a wide range of backgrounds would send a clear message that being different is something to be celebrated, but also because it would bring the company closer to the needs of its rapidly diversifying consumer base. 

“The growth of the company means that our customers are becoming much more diverse, which means that our staff must be more diverse,” says Irwin. 

“And so we work with talent acquisition to ensure that, when we are recruiting, the candidates we pick are representative of Indonesia’s diverse population, from both a gender and background perspective. It’s a continuous project.”


The way Irwin sees it, this diversity coupled with Philips’ culture will lead to innovative ways to do things differently, which is exactly what the success of an innovation company like Philips depends on. “The more diverse the workplace becomes; the more employees will feel comfortable in their own skin. And the more comfortable they feel, the more likely they are to put their head above the parapet and suggest things that will continue the dynamic within the company.”

In addition to promoting greater workplace diversity, Irwin has attempted to change his colleagues’ perception of digitization. In his mind, rather than view the spread of digital technology as an undesirable disruption, employees should embrace it as an opportunity “to improve and be more efficient and effective”.  

“By using digital technology to an optimum, that will enable our employees to focus more on higher value-added jobs and tasks,” he explains. 

“And by doing that, our people will develop further their capabilities, competencies and skills. So digitization is actually an investment in our people, making them more competent and competitive, which, in turn, makes the company more competitive.”

Reframing technological disruption as a welcome opportunity has the knock-on effect of encouraging staff to take greater responsibility for their own careers, by tacitly suggesting they focus on matters within their control, rather than bemoaning changes beyond it. This heightened self-awareness can then be used to spark discussions about areas for improvement, and simultaneously lends itself to productive meditations on career development, by provoking employees to think about where they currently are and where they could be in a few years’ time. 

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