How Sony Music Has Been Navigating the HR Landscape in 2020

8 Minutes

2020 has been a year, to say the least! For those of us in HR, we have had many looks to us ...

2020 has been a year, to say the least! For those of us in HR, we have had many looks to us for answers and support during these times. The pandemic saw many of us quickly move to remote working arrangements and then came the powerful conversations on social injustice. With both topics front of mind with many employees, I thought it would be apt to understand how some HR leaders were facing them.

I sat down with my good friend and Sony Music’s VP of HR for the Global Digital Business, Vicky Turk, to discuss what she and the HR team have been doing for their employees this year. How has Sony Music addressed and evolved its response to shifting working conditions since the pandemic began? The last few months have changed the world, and with it, the workplace. While we’ve faced new challenges, we’ve worked closely with our employees to ensure that our policies, initiatives, and company-wide efforts have enabled us to meet them. We created new resources to help ease employees’ transition to working from home and tried to remove any obstacles to help them find balance amidst the changes to their personal and professional lives.

Specifically, we have been focusing on mental health options for employees who might need them. From extra and targeted therapy sessions to sleep and anxiety remedies, as well as increased caregiver support, we have been strengthening our benefits to address the needs of our employees. We’ve recently rolled out our Refresh Fridays initiative, which asks our employees to refrain from scheduling any non-business critical meetings or calls on Friday afternoons to help our employees transition to the weekend. We also understand how difficult it is for working parents right now, so we were excited to roll out a childcare/tutoring reimbursement to help provide some relief as we continue to support each other. Considering all that has transpired in the last few months, what type of support are employees looking for right now? These are uncertain times, and employees are looking for guidance and support from their companies.

Our first priority is the safety and health of our employees. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked to create an environment that accommodates a wide variety of work-at-home situations, and the new routines and obligations many employees are facing. Our HR teams have been listening closely to employees and recognizing their differing needs resulting from their personal circumstances. While some working parents need more flexibility during the workday because of changed and increased responsibilities at home, other employees are eager for continuing their professional development. In other cases, our people just want to feel connected to each other and the organization as a whole. Given the recent tragic events in the U.S. and around the world, people are now particularly eager to feel heard and appreciated and seek opportunities to make an impact. Now, more than ever, employees are counting on their companies to listen, understand, and take action accordingly.

At Sony Music, we are actively engaging with our employees to do just that. We have adapted our methods and modes of communication to reach employees the best we can from a distance. This includes hosting informative virtual town halls, educational events featuring guest speakers, open forums for change and discussion, and more. How has Sony Music helped support employees during these challenging times? What resources are you providing? We’ve built out a range of virtual wellness seminars and workshops covering topics from mental health and relationship building to yoga and mindfulness. We’ve instituted new methods of communication for global employees to connect more efficiently across borders, and created global virtual listening parties for employees featuring our artists. We began offering access to LinkedIn Learning programs for employees who are eager to continue their professional development and build new skill sets.

Our new student loan assistance program is designed to help alleviate some financial burdens for qualified employees by providing monthly contributions towards repaying student loans. Global employees have extended health benefits and expanded coverage for emergency child and elder care services, access to free counselling associates such as grief counsellors, comprehensive legal support, anti-bias classes that champion tolerance and inclusivity, and more. Sony Music has implemented thoughtful strategies to ensure employees around the world feel informed and supported at all times. Our senior leadership responded swiftly to the racial injustices in Minneapolis by immediately communicating with employees about the difficult situation, developing a strategic action plan to create impactful change across the company, and committing to fostering an environment of inclusion and equity.

We also worked with our parent company, Sony Corporation, to unveil global matching donation programs for employees across our entire global organization to help pandemic relief efforts and support social justice programs. How does Sony Music’s response to so many recent unprecedented challenges, both from the pandemic and the recent outcry for social justice, reflect the company’s culture and values? Sony Music is a creator-first, artist-first, and employee-first company. Our people are one of our greatest assets, and we are focused on continuing to engage and unify our employees across the globe as we face these challenges together. From the beginning of the pandemic and activities in recent months, our company leadership has focused on making sure employees prioritize their health and safety first, and providing employees access to the resources they need.

Sony Music is continuing its support for multiple organizations that focus on anti-racist policies and social justice reform. We’ve been actively pursuing our commitment to fostering an understanding and supportive culture for our own employees by offering a wide range of new and enhanced benefits. What can HR professionals across all industries do to help support their employees right now as they continue to navigate new challenges? While resources vary greatly depending on the industry and company, HR professionals need to figure out how to support and create opportunities for employees to connect, engage, and educate each other. We have to determine the best ways to understand their needs, offer flexibility, and communicate effectively in order to build a productive work-from-home environment. By engaging and communicating with our employees frequently and transparently, we can make employees feel heard and valued on a constant basis. This pandemic has had a massive impact on what the future of work will look like around the world. Whether it’s the work-from-home revolution or a benefits crisis because of public health, HR is at the center. We know we need to adapt quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, as we’ve tackled the current unrest throughout the country, HR has played an increasingly pivotal role in listening to and understanding the needs of employees. Our HR teams are here to ensure that all business decisions are made with our employees in mind. We are in a unique position to provide guidance and leadership as we tackle these unprecedented challenges. It’s largely up to us to ensure a safe, sustainable environment for employees and, to a degree, their families. That’s what makes this job so rewarding. During these unpredictable times, it is great to see such people-led initiatives from a company like Sony Music.

If you would love to hear from other HR Leaders who would like to share their companies' initiatives with our HR Community. Please reach out to me on LinkedIn or at Roshan Jayawardena is the Managing Director of Elliott Scott HR US, a specialist HR recruitment agency that serves the global HR community through our offices located in Hong Kong, London, New York, Sao Paulo, and Singapore. For more information on Elliott Scott HR please visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn.