TalentSony Music: Recruiting and empowering talent in emerging markets

Sony Music: Recruiting and empowering talent in emerging markets

In a world fraught with uncertainty, a one-size-fits-all approach to talent is simply not an option; organizations must nurture their employees in order for them to realize their true potential. Jennifer Moon, VP HR, Continental Europe & Africa, Sony Music Entertainment, outlines the importance of this mantra, and how it has allowed Sony Music to discover and grow talent in an emerging market.

When your goal is to empower your talent on a global scale, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all. This may seem obvious, but over my career I have seen some companies try to enforce the same off-the-shelf approach globally; more for ease of management and efficiency than to do what’s best for employees.

Whilst there is a strong rationale to keep things consistent wherever possible, when looking at emerging markets, there is a need to strike a balance with protecting and enhancing the culture of the business at a local level. It’s therefore crucial to take the time to get to know local cultures and challenges to ensure the HR approach and solutions are effective.

This can be achieved by investing heavily in key relationships, being flexible and adaptable with your time and never rolling out something new before you’ve really understood each office in your business. Of course there does come a point where you need to be able to move forward with initiatives and changes without doing everything by committee, otherwise nothing would get done. But finding that balance of making changes where necessary, and sticking to your plan when you need to whilst adhering to what makes a local business successful, is the sweet spot to aim for.

A more creative and innovative approach to talent

Sony Music operates in more than 60 countries worldwide with over 5,000 music industry professionals and supports thousands of artists. Each of those countries has different levels of maturity in the music industry. As such, when working in emerging markets where the industry’s infrastructure may still be in its infancy, finding and discovering the best and most creative talent is a real challenge.

This has required us to think bigger and understand that the ‘best’ talent doesn’t always come directly from the music business or have to be parachuted in. In creative industries like music, diversity of thought, diversity of background and diversity of experience is crucial. Our employees must not only understand their audience, they must also reflect the artists we represent and think differently to be ahead of the game.

That’s why we made a decision to significantly scale our dedicated, in-house International Talent Acquisition team, to widen our reach and enable us to be much more creative and innovative in how we recruit in emerging markets. The world of A&R is different to that of a Software Developer so we have had to be more creative and tailored in our approach. That’s why our team launched a number of new initiatives to discover new talent: building strong, long-term relationships across multiple sectors in emerging markets by having a presence at events they attend, integrating into their networks and increasing our profile in their online spaces.

We have also worked to build a pipeline of future leaders in the music industry in emerging markets through internships and mentoring programs. These initiatives, led by local leaders, have been great at providing a roadmap for successful music industry careers in more mature markets and (when properly tailored to local cultures and dynamics) are also proving fruitful in discovering new talent in emerging markets.

Focusing on strong interpersonal skills, creativity and a passion for music rather than being too prescriptive on qualifications, has allowed us to widen our pool. For example, our internship program at Sony Music Africa, ran in partnership with youth organisation Digify Africa, provides practical real-world experience to disadvantaged youths, and helped us find a permanent employee. Additionally, we have been able to recruit a permanent member of staff through our Sony Music A&R Academy in Russia, who after just 18 months signed one of the now number one artists in Russia.

Nurturing key talent and realizing potential

The challenge in emerging markets is not just how to expand the talent pool. Once you get great talent, it’s important to nurture and empower that talent to ensure they have sustainable careers in the music business.

For example, our Learning & Organisational Development team support all our emerging markets with training and skills enhancement, covering creativity, productivity, and innovation. Employees from all over the world participate, and a key part of the experience is for the attendees to connect with people in other countries to build their networks and learn from each other. We’ve also begun expanding opportunities for employees to work in different countries – both mature and emerging – to share knowledge and diversify their thinking.

When it comes to building sustainable careers for our employees, some of the best work and breakthroughs I’ve seen have emerged once those barriers between countries have been broken down, to make it easier for people to talk and share their learnings.

In multi-national companies with a complex matrix of communication channels, HR can provide great clarity and simplicity by bridging gaps to ensure everyone feels informed, and understands why certain business decisions are made. HR professionals are key to supporting emerging markets, and to be the conduit to advise the business on global initiatives that may not translate to every country in an off-the-shelf way. We’re always working to find that balance and, to be honest, it’s what makes our profession so exciting.

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