People Experience at the heart of the Sony employee journey

One of the best ways to retain talent is to align DE&I with employee experience, says Sony Music Entertainment's Wendy Weehuizen.
By: | March 2, 2023

Operating at the intersection of music, entertainment, and technology, as well as boosting a diverse roster of thousands of artists from all over the world and a presence in more than 100 countries, it is perhaps not surprising that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is never far from the thoughts of Sony Music Entertainment (SME).

For Wendy Weehuizen, VP, People Experience, Asia and Middle East for Sony Music Entertainment, another thought comes easily to mind: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Speaking to HRM Magazine Asia, she explained, “This quote from management consultant and author Peter Drucker is what guides my team and I in formulating and implementing policies for the region, spanning 12 culturally rich and diverse markets. Our artists, songwriters and creators are keen for their labels, publishers, or distribution partners to best reflect them and the markets they serve.”

“In turn, Sony Music Group has embraced our responsibility to move music forward in creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organisation, industry, and society. We develop initiatives, experiences and programming to actualise and advance our core DE&I values and beliefs.”

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“We develop initiatives, experiences, and programming to actualise and advance our core DE&I values and beliefs.” – Wendy Weehuizen, VP, People Experience, Asia and Middle East for Sony Music Entertainment.

Sony Music offers education programmes and inclusive mental health and benefit offerings to help shape an empowering culture where employees of diverse backgrounds and personalities can thrive.

The Artists Forward Programme, for example, provides wellbeing support to Sony Music’s artists and talent in all aspects of their careers, while the Global Social Justice Fund emphasises SME’s commitment to promoting positive societal change around the world by supporting social justice, equal rights, and anti-racist initiatives.

Weehuizen said, “In doing so, we hope that our people are motivated to support the development of local talent and artist communities, and work towards providing artists with the platforms and tools they need to reach their audience and grow their careers regionally and globally.”

“We aim to be the destination company for the most creative and diverse talent in the entertainment industry, where every employee and creator feels a sense of belonging and are empowered to amplify their creative potential.”

Retaining talent by aligning DE&I with employee experience

Like many organisations, Sony Music is today managing a multi-generational workforce comprising of four different generations of employees.

As the talent landscape continues to evolve, SME is proritising gender equality in its leadership pipeline and enabling diverse experiences to support a high-performance culture. In this environment, employees are engaged, performing, and thriving, and encouraged to  drive innovation, creativity, and growth by actively collaborating to overcome challenges and work towards shared goals.

Instead of being just a lofty corporate ideal, diversity is increasingly becoming a strategic imperative alongside Sony Music’s need to understand local audiences, Weehuizen revealed.

“Our people are the ones who reach out to and reflect the artists we represent. That makes creating a diverse workplace one of the many factors that influence our talent acquisition and retention strategies, alongside our strong commitment to develop and invest in local artist communities around the world,” she said.

In 2022, SME rebranded HR as People Experience (PX) to reflect a people-centric focus, which means putting people and their experiences first to grow brands and careers and attract talent to fuel sustainable business growth.

At the heart of this strategy is proactively creating transformation to enable impactful and informed decision-making from a position of strength, as Weehuizen described, “Marrying how we work and how we experience work is a powerful combination as we evolve in how we show up for our employees against our long-term vision towards being a future-hit organisation.”

This was aptly demonstrated at the height of the pandemic when Sony Music faced the challenge of managing the transition to remote work. For some employees, especially those with client- and artist-facing responsibilities, not being able to hold face-to-face interactions took an emotional toll and created stress.

Other employees, meanwhile, were looking for more flexibility at work and wanted their needs and priorities as individuals to be recognised. “These factors gave us the push to enhance our employee experience, with the intention to build trust, commitment, and enthusiasm among our people and foster a caring environment in which they can feel safe and perform at their best,” said Weehuizen.

Today, besides providing flexible work arrangements, offering mental health support and wellbeing programmes, SME also ensures that training and development opportunities are accessible to every employee.

The key, according to Weehuizen, is maintaining a hyper-localised approach when engaging employees across different markets. “Gathering feedback from the ground and being intentional in taking action to address real employee concerns is something that we are heavily prioritising, along with focusing on the moments that matter in our employee experience,” she said.

Capability building a top HR priority in 2023

While more organisations will look to prioritise employee wellbeing and create purposeful work in 2023, Weehuizen sees capability building as equally critical as companies ready themselves to leverage HR technology to build an agile, data-driven organisation to build tomorrow’s digital and data demands.

Such competitive advantages that may surface as a result include skills-based hiring, greater transparency in career pathing to facilitate self-driven, self-paced skills development in line with future business needs, and building in-market capability with a global growth mindset.

As for Weehuizen, a People Manager and HR Business Partner with over 20 years of experience working with global organisations such as Kantar, Maersk, Credit Suisse, and BP, prior to her current role with Sony Music, it is clear where her passion lies.

“In addition to continuing to cultivate a positive and people-centric work environment, I love to champion purposeful work as we offer flexibility, care and support to help our people achieve their personal and professional goals during their Sony Music journey,” she concluded.

Join Weehuizen at HR Tech Festival Asia 2023, where she will be participating in a panel discussion on May 11 (2.30pm SGT) that examines business trends in 2023/24 and key forecasts for the HR industry.