A year like no other: Philips and the Black employee experience in the US
2020 was a year like no other in American history. The first months saw the emergence of a global pandemic, which has since gone on to wreak havoc in the US and across the globe. Then, on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. The outrage was felt across the US and the world. The Black Lives Matter movement re-emerged as a global call for justice and equality.
This was the reality facing the Philips team in the US. They had been tasked with delivering a roadmap for improving the work experience of Black employees within the business and driving greater equality, diversity and inclusion.
Philips was tackling probably the biggest employment issue at a time of social uprising and widespread discontent. Unperturbed, the team developed a plan to engage with a range of Black professionals in the US, both within and external to the Philips business. Truth was selected to partner Philips in this work.
What did Philips do?
It was decided that the best approach would be to conduct one-to-one interviews with employees. Philips employees were recruited through the Black Employees Resource Group – which had been set up at the beginning of 2020 (and numbered about 600 members). External interviewees were recruited through a network of recruiters in the US.
Over the course of two months, Black employees were interviewed (online) by Truth specialists. Ensuring confidentiality had been a major consideration. At no time were details of who was interviewed made available to anyone at Philips. This remains the case.
A consistent story emerged from the interviews. Black employees felt isolated, marginalised and they experienced discrimination, often on a daily basis. This wasn’t just a Philips problem; it was symptomatic of an experience that stretched across organisations and specialisms.
The interviews highlighted something else – a bravery and integrity that offered real hope. No matter how harsh the experience of Black employees had been, all wanted to move forward without recrimination. For these people, a simple recognition of inequality, coupled with tangible actions aimed at redressing that inequality, was all that was initially desired.
Philips has been brave and confronted its biggest employee issue at probably the most challenging time. Ensuring the equality of treatment for Black employees is paramount. Initiatives have been put in place to ensure recruitment, retention and career development is much improved. Change is happening.