In this third interview in a series behind-the-scenes at Sony Music Group, Martin Staudigl, Vice President People Experience (HR) at Sony Entertainment in Germany, shares with Alan Hosking what is being done to eliminate bias in the hiring process.
How have you been getting diverse employees on board at Sony Music without using bias in the selection process?
We launched a program this year which has a comprehensive selection method, and our approach was very different. We said to ourselves that we need more young, diverse people on board, and we want to give them a certain experience.
Sony has managers who have been with the company for many years, so we wanted to think out of the box. We promoted the programme through the national media. Our message was that we do not want a CV, we do not want a resumé and we do not even want your identity in the first stage of the process.
What we requested was a video or something creative, telling us why the applicant would want to work with Sony Music. We wanted them to tell us about their passion, their “idea”, what their contribution could be. The amazing thing is we got about 300 applications, which was a lot for us! And we were really very happy and surprised by how much creative input we received. We had established a website for applicants to upload their videos, and selection was only based on the creative input of these videos. We therefore didn’t know who was behind the scenes until later in the game, when applicants had to reveal their identities. So that’s how we managed to exclude initial bias!
What kind of people applied?
We received applications from people aged 50 and over, and from people all over the world. Originally, we had decided we wanted to fill two positions, but we increased that to three because we got so many good applications. After the initial video, the applicants had to do another comprehensive case study, which was also fun to do. It was in essence an online assessment.
Having come through the whole process, we decided to also select the top 30 applicants because we had so many good ones, and invite them to a two-day Sony Music experience in Berlin in October last year. This involved a mix of networking, some speeches and some behind-the-scenes experiences to give them an idea of how a music company works. They were exposed to the business side of the company – we showed them how we get to make money, how the legal side of things works, how varieties work and how we manage all of these. Of course, we also wanted to be able to connect with these people as we wanted to expand our network with diverse young people.
You talk a lot about wanting to eliminate bias. Tell me more about that. As you know, we often make decisions just with our subconscious and unconscious bias. So, how did you try to eliminate that?
You’re totally right. When we have interviewed for traditional positions, we have been inclined to ask, “How old is she?” or “How much experience does he have? Where does he come from in terms of his previous company?”
We’ve tried not to allow any of this identity data to be revealed by candidates. And we even do it now for all our positions. So our job descriptions now say that we don’t want your nationality, we don’t want your age and we don’t want your picture. We also don’t want your ethnicity. More senior managers who have been used to focusing on this data have had to learn that it’s irrelevant. And we believe this has helped to increase diversity.
We also have leadership training with a focus on unconscious bias as we want our culture to get to a position where we do not care about who you are and where everyone feels included, where there’s a sense of belonging. The music industry is still also a traditional industry in many cases, and there’s been lots of challenges with artists, but we also need our artists to be very diverse. So, if our artists are diverse, and our audience and our fans are diverse, our employees need to be diverse. And the industry is still in many ways dominated by white males aged 50 plus – at least at top management – but that’s changing.
A particular culture has been prevalent in the business up until now, and you’re wanting to move to a more diverse, open accepting culture with limited bias. How are you going to manage that change in terms of some of the old-school people and their resistance to change?
That’s a good point. The change needs to start from the top and our management team is pushing very hard for that. We have created a new set of values and one value is that “Diversity matters”. These values were developed through a workshop process over a whole year, basically conducted by the employees themselves. It wasn’t something the management team invented and forced down the line. There was a huge effort with an external agency to get these values established and valued, like “one team”, then “diversity matters”. We are still in the process of communicating these values, trying to integrate them in everything we do.
It involves a change process, of course, and I have ongoing conversations with some of the more old-school leaders. It has been tough in some ways, but they are starting to see the advantage of having a more diverse workforce on board. I think we are already very diverse, but we want to be more diverse because we are in entertainment. We need different sets of people.
So that’s the way we’ve been doing things – as a change process with lots of training, leadership, discussions, workshops, focus groups and so on!
Martin Staudigl is Vice President People Experience (HR) GSA at Sony Music Entertainment in Berlin, Germany.