“The realities of the modern world have brought a heightened awareness of the complexities of the human element in the workplace,” says Masha Osherova, executive vp human resources for Warner Music Group (WMG). And with that awareness, the executives who run the HR departments at the three major-label groups now find themselves in positions of considerable influence as they evolve from administrators of vacation policy and medical plans to the sherpas leading their respective companies across the terrain of #MeToo, equality and diversity.
“We’ve seen a major shift to a mindset where HR has a seat at the table as a strategic thought partner,” says Constance Williams, senior vp and head of human resources for the Americas at Sony Music Entertainment.
For Osherova, 2018 was the first year that she and her HR team translated boardroom discussions of these topics into office policy. They introduced a diversity task force, revised WMG’s parental-leave policy and instituted unconscious bias training to ensure that everyone, from senior management to interns, can “confidently and competently talk about sensitive issues of diversity,” she says.
At Universal Music Group, vp talent management Peggy Huck has rolled out a series of events, both internally and for outside audiences, that are meant to foster inclusion and empowerment of women and minorities. A bicoastal UMShe conference series aimed at equipping emerging female talent with career resources featured panels with senior female executives such as UMG executive vp Michele Anthony. For another project, The Belonging Table, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam traveled to historically black colleges in Atlanta to discuss African-Americans’ impact on the industry.
Finally, streaming isn’t the only technology shaping the music industry. The digitization of recruitment and performance reviews — an evolving HR tool — was a $400 million business in early 2018. “We play a strategically vital role in helping our businesses identify the competencies and talent of the future,” says Williams.