Lessons learned about people experience in 2017

Laying the tracks for a defined employer brand

It’s that time of year, when a blog post about what you’ve learned in 2017 is standard. Expected even. When I started thinking about this post, I imagined a checklist of things that I marked off as completed. Or new things I learnt. The secret sauce to the success (or maybe even failures) of 2017.

But when I look back at the year and think towards 2018, it’s themes that stand out rather than checkbox items. Not new, but where their importance and weight that has become increasingly apparent through 2017.

1. Px – People Experience

In early 2017, we took the philosophy of Social at Spotify one step further. As per my previous post explaining what social at Spotify is, my team’s task has always been about engagement and culture. So we decided, let’s just call it what it is. And with that, we renamed the team.

We’re now called Px, which stands for People Experience. And this name fits us like a glove.

We believe in people. Real people, with individual personalities, talents, skills. The people that work for Spotify are exactly that – people. We also believe in experiences. Positive, inclusive and engaging experiences with a wow-factor. At Spotify, the prominence of our social events has been a focal point in building up our culture and employer brand. Over time, this has evolved to include the entire experience at the workplace.

With this new name we feel inspired – we are ready to be trailblazers in the ways we provide, foster and showcase our unique, inclusive employer brand and people experience. We’re proud to say that we offer more than just events, but true experience in each Spotifier’s day-to-day life.

2. Communications, communications, communications

So really this is a rebrand story. The new team name has been an important part of the team’s journey through 2017, and although it may seem like a small detail, since Px is not a conventional team name it’s pushed us to create clearer communications about what we do.

So, it’s simple: the name change is driving the Px team to be better communicators. A hugely important part of employer branding and engagement, so something I believe we can improve. No fixed mindset here!

Communications are key to setting expectations and changing behaviours. Or recognising behaviours and endorsing them. Not only does good communication set expectations on Spotifiers, but it also sets standards for the Px team members.

3. Building a culture…strategically

But of course, you can’t be clear on communications until you have a strategy. And relating back to the name change and my earlier post, so many people I meet both in Spotify and externally, seem to ask the question how much strategy can there be to choosing your value propositions?

Well, as many of us in the HR team will argue until we’re blue in the face you can’t just be the ‘yes’ person, giving everything employees ask for. To quote what I’ve heard Katarina, Spotify’s CHRO, say several times (and what she alluded to in her blog post on culture during hyper-growth): “you can’t hand out the candy if you aren’t willing to be the dentist too”. Or as Arvid, our Head of Global Compensation and Benefits, so eloquently put it in a recent post: “In the world of C&B and employee experience, the balancing act of giving your people what they wish for and creating a longer term, more strategic benefits package is something we should never lose sight of.”

Not only can you have a strategy in the world of ‘fun stuff’ and perks at the workplace, but you absolutely need it if you want to build your employer brand.

4. Empowering but not reacting

We have fierce competition in the area of talent attraction and retention, so employees have room to be demanding. But not every employee wants the same thing, so how do we keep everyone happy? Well, the simple answer is – we don’t. Or, that should not be our primary objective. It’s not wise to build an attraction strategy on the latest fad or trend.

Looking at global trends, longer life expectancy and generally the health of the world, it can be assumed that people are staying younger for longer and have more control over their own destiny. Although millennials are often bashed for demanding control, I think empowerment is a positive thing. Empowerment makes people more engaged. However, we should be careful to avoid the pitfall of reacting to the demands of empowered people! I believe the smarter approach to empowering people is to tell them what’s on offer and let them choose if it’s right for them, or let them build their own package based on a few variables, allowing for inclusion and self-identity within a company’s identity.

At Spotify, we pick the things we believe in and we build our strategy around that. Our perks and experiences are moulded around our values, our diversity and inclusion strategy, how we think about learning and development, and what partners well with our compensation and benefits approach. The package can be made as a smorgasbord, allowing for some personalisation, but the idea of matching every demand, desire or want is just not feasible. Rather than allow us to build and define our own distinct company culture, it would hinder that process.

Looking forward

The team name change and subsequent step-change in communications has been a necessary step for employer branding at Spotify, and we think it has laid the tracks for us to better define our employer brand.
What was an instrumental move for the Px team in 2017 is really just the start of a building a stronger employer brand identity at Spotify. An identity that all parts of Spotify’s HR will continue to collaborate on. One that embraces our aspirations to be best in class and to challenge the norms. But, always, always, always, through the lens of what is right for us and our people.