Warner Music’s Josh Novelle drops in to discuss with UNLEASH editor Jon Kennard how you can streamline your digital processes for a better employee experience, and performance gains too. To those with tickets already, see you at the show! If you’re looking to purchase tickets, this is the link you need.
Watch the video or read the transcript beneath, which has been edited for clarity.
Jon Kennard: Okay, it gives me great pleasure today to talk to Josh Novelle from Warner Music about predominantly your talk at UNLEASH World, the upcoming show in October in Paris, but a few other things besides as well. Josh, thanks so much for your time today. Give us a little bit of a flavor of your talk at the upcoming show.
Josh Novelle: Sure, it will be a very casual fireside chat, I think, with the wonderful David Perring. And we’ll be talking through the journey that we’ve gone on at Warner Music Group. And very simply, this is a tale of where we started in an environment with very little digital things happening in a very global company, to figure out what the groundwork pieces are, all the way into [asking] how do we take a traditional digital learning function, which obviously within HR can be seen as a cost center…how do we take that and actually start being seen as a cost-neutral function? How do we start talking and be able to articulate to our finance partners the value we’re adding back into the organization?
JK: So Warner Music is obviously a vast entity. Was there a flashpoint that led to you thinking you need to change your digital strategy? Were there things that you were tracking that weren’t performing, or was there an inciting incident that made you think, right, we need to change?
JN: It was a crackpot idea that grew legs of its own, really, where we started realizing a good chunk of what we were doing in the digital agenda – asides from the regulatory and the legality pieces that obviously we have to do – were questions like, I don’t know how to have the most effective access to all of these digital tools that we have, especially during lockdown. Because people are used to having that that techie guy at the end of the desk, where you go, oh, Steve, can I refer you over quickly or something like that? And you just go and tap him on the shoulder.
We thought, why did we digitize that experience? What if all those little hints and tricks and shortcuts and things that were able to be digitized were then put into a publicly available experience for people that straight from their desktop, they could get these things done?
And at the same time, we were inundated with requests of, ‘can I get an e-learning course or a webinar to show people how to click through my platform more effectively?’ And we started realizing, hang on if we combine these two things… actually, why would we spend time training people on platforms, when we can simply remove the platform from even being something that they have to interact with?
JK: I’m trying to phrase this in a way that doesn’t give it all away, but I really want to know, where were you and where did you get to…you said there wasn’t a particular amount of digital strategy in the business, and now you’ve changed to a much more digital way of thinking. Where have you got to, do you feel?
JN: For us, it’s gone beyond what I described as a traditional, like digital learning strategy. It’s moving into that realm that I think we see so many analysts talking about nowadays, which is that employee experience realm or the ‘people experience’ realm – because it’s not just our employees that it ends up impacting. It’s our artist managers, it’s the artists themselves in some cases.
So, it started moving us into that sort of realm. And for us, it’s mainly about how do we as an organization, especially as a people function within that, start accurately talking about the value that we’re adding back into the organization. So it could be efficiencies, it could be awareness on what our tweaks and our policy changes are doing and all of these sort of things.
So that’s the journey we’re on where we’ve got a good amount of the basic stepping stones there. Some of the digital bits and pieces, we’ve figured out what it should do and what it shouldn’t do. We’ve been through those growing pains there. And now we’re simply like at that scale and size to show the real value in place.
JK: Final question. So off the back of these insights and the changes that you’ve made, how’s your workforce structure changed for the better? Have you seen people being upskilled, or more digitally literate people brought into the business who may not have necessarily worked in music before, maybe their skill sets may not have been thought to have been valuable before in your line of work?
JN: That’s a really interesting piece. So we’re definitely seeing an increase, especially in the corporate functions, of people coming into our industry from perhaps outside of a traditional music experience, as it would have been termed back in the day. We’ve got some incredible data insights, people coming into the organization to look at our employees like digital body language, and we’re getting people to start looking at everything that is downstream of that, e.g. could we perhaps predict the early signs of someone even thinking that they’re not happy in the job way before they even realized? Or could we identify high potential talent not based on who they are in the opinions around them, but actually, physically, digitally what they’re doing.
I think that’s a really exciting piece for us, because it cuts across all of that. For us, we’re seeing wealth of talent coming in from outside of the traditional music industry. But I think that just goes to show the music industry as a whole is changing massively.
Traditionally, it was very much about artist-relationships. And while that’s still very key, you can see things like streaming and Web3, and all of these big revolutions that we’re seeing within the music industry, they’re fundamentally changing the name of the game, it’s no longer spend your time recording go on tour, and that’s how you make your buck.
JK: Exactly. Josh, thank you so much for your time, really looking forward to your talk at UNLEASH World in a month or so’s time and I will hopefully see you there.
JN: Thanks for having me, Jon, looking forward to it.
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