Amplifying Talent in Sony Music Entertainment

Sony Music Entertainment is a global recorded music company based in over 40 countries with over 3800 employees. It’s heritage is traced back to 1887.

Amplify was introduced for the first time in 2013 – in less than 2 years we have had 130 participants from around the globe conducting 130 experiments to improve the future of our business and their leadership potential.

There were 2 simple goals of our Amplify program.

  1. Getting the most out of an engaged workforce. People love what they do at Sony Music – so it is not about getting them to stay but more about discretionary effort and joining up a global business to excite people with the cool things that go on everywhere. That is where our innovative edge will come from.
  2. Continued investment in our early career pipeline. Not because every organisation says the same but more so that this is our differentiator. In order to attract artists to work with us, we should be able to show that we are investing in our own talent who can come up with great ideas and love their job. This is attractive to artists who want the best to work with them. We need to help them be the best they can be. Simple as that.

Strategy

The strategy for the development program was created with the following in mind:

  • Personal relationships are key – who you are, what you bring, what you stand for should be front of mind.
  • We have real advantage in being a global company – we need to capitalise on this.
  • We’re not constrained by hierarchy – our MDs look to the business for new ideas and innovation. Being disruptive will sustain our future

For the first time we brought together like minded, motivated and talented employees to focus on 2 things – who they want to be as a leader and how they can disrupt this business as an innovator.

The strategy was to give attention to both of these in equal measure. Being an innovator requires amazing leadership awareness and being the best leader requires you to constantly evolve and innovate.

So the response to all of this was the development of an experience that worked on an individual level – personal time for me (who am I, what do I stand for, why will anyone want to be led by me (you know the standard questions of life!), on a regional level (developing the relationships you need to do your job even better – in some places these weren’t working due to time for networking etc.) and on a global level – giving our best people the platform to showcase themselves and their potential – we wanted our MDs to get to know this talent (and not just through a succession planning form) and also compete for this talent in the future.

The real key part of the strategy was experimentation. How do you make all of this (both leadership growth and innovation) safe? Using the idea of experimentation – thinking small, to think big was critical in helping our executives teams take their leap of faith with this work and be open to the various ‘experiments’ the participants would undertake to move our business forward. Learning from the best on ideas such as lean start up and divergent thinking was critical.

Implementation

The program took place over a period of 7 months and covered the following elements:

  1. Personal development coaching – all about the individual and getting them in the right space for working with their peers and coming together as a global group.
  2. Regional work – small tight networks of people they will learn to trust as they work on various projects.
  3. Experimentation – one of the core threads to this was getting every member of the program to work on something they were personally motivated to solve – no matter how big or small but that it would have benefit for SME at the end of the day. This was a huge connector back to the business and how we got our execs excited about the work.
  4. Global exposure – how to deal working in a global and culturally diverse group for 7 days – being immersed in experiences – creating memories so the things they were going through about the business, about innovation, about themselves would stick. Working with charities, going to a forest, working with street actors – all of this was about being out of the comfort zone but at the same time recognising what your own zone was.
  5. Regional and personal work continues by working in small ‘home groups’ to coach one another as well as being exposed to external exciting thinkers in the space of innovation.
  6. Global platform – showcasing their experiments – pivotal moment for execs to see what can be done with minimal investment, concept of smallest possible thing you can do to prove an idea. De risking innovation. The momentum from this has been huge and impact amazing to see.

All of the above was delivered in true partnership with our internal HR teams acting as coaches as well as partnering with the best external thinkers to play their role in the program. Bringing together external experts to form the Sony Amplify coaching team and creating a real cohesive group who were happy to play their role in the experience was no small achievement! A model which we now replicate on other work we do.

Results

In a business context the program has produced some amazing innovation stories – new ways of developing artists produced a Latin Grammy nomination for best newcomer, thinking around new partnerships created a deal with Uber and Sony Music to release the new Britney track, individuals moved into new roles to maximise untapped revenue in our Catalog Legacy division, new deals with High Net Worth clients in Asia, new strategies on converting the older generations to streaming in the Nordics. The list goes on! Our current program is already producing exciting opportunities with app development and teaching languages, the future of Vloggers in a music company and the use of data to predict hits!

We have also seen results on a broader cultural level around:

  • Changing perception of innovation and risk. Giving every person the choice to do something they are personally motivated to work on and improve from where they sit in the business – empowering everyone. It is also recognising that innovation can come from anywhere and can start small. By observing how these individuals were going about making things happen, not asking for money or resources – inspired many that they could do the same just as easily. A great example of how the learning can get transferred easily when it is the right thing and right time to learn it. One quote “seeing this has reenergised me about my own role in the company and as an MD I can absolutely make a difference.
  • The power of stories – “have you heard what x worked on”, have you heard that they got a new role as a result … – shows that things are possible in a global business and removes this notion somewhat of “it can’t be done”.
  • Connecting young and seasoned execs. Facilitating a conversation – making something happen that should be. Our job is to sustain this – one gift we give everyone involved in the programme and our execs around the world is our Little Black Book of Talent – a means to show off the great people we have, what they have achieved through their experience.