Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) is front and center for music streaming service Soundcloud.
Its director of Total Rewards and People Analytics Isha Smith shares that the company “is an amazing community…[that] brings fans and artists together. We provide tools, services and products for artists to advance their career, at every stage.
“And these creators come from diverse backgrounds, often from historically marginalized communities. We have 170 million fans; they are diverse.”
As a result, DEIB is not just a HR buzzword or trend at Soundcloud, it is a business imperative.
To ensure SoundCloud isn’t just talking the talk, but also walking the walk around diversity and inclusion, the HR team has “put a lot of thought [into]…our people practices”.
It isn’t an accident that “diversity is reflected in our leadership, starting at the C-Suite”, Smith tells UNLEASH.
Of course, there is always room for improvement – therefore, the HR team has built frameworks to support DEIB at leadership levels; it continues to evaluate these processes to see where they can be improved.
Diversity, fertility and Soundcloud
DEIB is “a key lens when we look at all our talent and rewards frameworks”, notes Smith. “We try to make all our benefits inclusive, so everyone can access them and get what they need from them. Where that isn’t the case, we’ve plugged the gap” with specialized offerings.
One example is SoundCloud’s new fertility and family-building benefits. While SoundCloud has comprehensive family leave policies, as well as extensive physical and mental wellbeing benefits, there wasn’t special provisions for employees needing extra support when building their families.
So, “introducing a family building benefit seemed like the most natural thing to do,” notes Smith.
“It was a good answer to a bunch of different questions: How do you attract the right talent?
“What could we do to better align our offering to our employee value proposition and our employee demographic? (SoundClouders are young and diverse – what might they want?)
“How do we [further] increase the number of women and non-binary folks in mid or senior level leadership?”
Soundcloud actually carried out a benefits survey to ask employees about the gaps, and fertility came up.
Plus “there’s a whole lot of research that shows you the impact of [fertility challenges] on productivity”, and there can be challenges in accessing fertility treatment on private healthcare plans, particularly for LGBTQ+ parents.
A deep dive into SoundCloud’s fertility benefits
Ultimately, SoundCloud decided that fertility was not just the right thing to do for employees, but also for the business. Therefore, Smith and her team started to look for providers to partner with.
“The gold standard is to have one provider that can do all the legwork for you”, explains Smith. But SoundCloud wanted the benefits to be available to all of its 475 employees, no matter if they were based in the US, Germany or the UK, and this created some operational challenges.
So, “we decided to go with local partners…to cater for local differences in legal requirements, healthcare frameworks, government provisions and market practice”.
In Europe, SoundCloud decided in August 2022 to work with Berlin-headquartered Apryl – SoundCloud founders had invested in Apryl, so there was a personal connection, but “ultimately their benefit offering, and individual-focused support aligned with what we wanted”, in comparison with other providers on the market. In the US, SoundCloud partners with Maven Clinic.
Both partners provide high-level fertility support to SoundClouders.
“All employees are eligible to access this benefit after three months of employees, regardless of gender, marital status or sexual orientation”, explains Smith. This equal access approach was crucial to SoundCloud and its commitment to DEIB at work.
There are three prongs to the support employees get. The first is advisory – this is all about “empowering SoundClouders to know what their options are”. Lack of education is key to why fertility remains taboo, and explains why many do not seek support at work.
The second is the treatments themselves (aka egg or sperm freezing, IVF, adoption and surrogacy), while third is the financial contribution. This is offered to family units – so it doesn’t have to be the SoundClouder themselves facing fertility challenges, it could be their partner, and they would still be able to access financial support.
UNLEASH asked Smith what she would say to HR teams at other employers who are keen to introduce fertility benefits, but are unsure how to proceed.
She shares: “In this field of employee benefits, we all need to be mindful of what is right for one might not be right for another. Do the research and use your data, [and] use cost modelling and projects to ensure this is financially robust.
“It’s right for us; our mission, our values. We looked at this really holistically. But it might not be right, in this form, for another company. There might be something else that [is] more urgent”.
The future of benefits at Soundcloud
This launch of fertility benefits at SoundCloud occurred in the context of economic turbulence. SoundCloud was in fact forced to layoff 20% of its workforce in August 2022 – the same month it introduced this new benefit.
“Layoffs were of course very hard, but necessary to sustain the longer-term future of SoundCloud”, notes Smith. “The company is now in a place to move forward with its 2023 priorities. We are communicating that to our employees so that everyone understands the journey”.
Looking to the future, Smith shares that 2022 was the year of benefits at SoundCloud. “Our next steps are around Total Rewards education within the company – to make sure folks understand what SoundCloud offers them” as an employer.
Smith will also be busy working on “developing more bespoke learning and development support for our employees and building integrated frameworks”.
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