Unlocking Internal Mobility

Continuous growth has always been part of Spotify’s DNA, right from day one. We’ve focussed both on expanding the workforce quickly, and we’ve always understood that focusing on our band members’ growth and enabling a learning culture has been critical to talent attraction, retention and subsequently critical to the success of our business.

As the macroeconomic environment changes, and as we settle into different phases of our company’s maturity, we continue to challenge our ‘normal’ and make sure we are growing in the right direction for both our band members and our business. 

We recognise that many bandmates stay with us for years because of the amazing growth opportunities that we have been able to present, and that’s something we aspire to continue – always. We also appreciate that we’re currently in a new phase as a company. We’re still growing fast as a business, but we’re at a size and place where we don’t need to add as many new band members at the same high rates as we have done previously. This situation presents us with the perfect opportunity to move our focus from adding people and roles, to honing in on our internal mobility skills even more. And we relish the chance to be even more deliberate in how we mobilise, grow and retain our internal talents, better than ever before. 

Internal Mobility For Talent Growth And Retention

Hiring internally, in contrast to externally, comes with many benefits; reduced time to hire, shorter onboarding time, employee development and engagement. As was shown in McKinsey’s research, quickly reassigning talents to high priority business initiatives can be generously rewarding for both the company and the people. In fact, we believe that internal mobility is a key lever to talent growth and retention. So, needless to say, we aim to quickly match our internal talent with the right problem at the right time, across Spotify, regardless of their current job and team. 

We have also believed in internal mobility, but previously, as we solved many of our talent needs by bringing in new band members, and the pressure on our managers to hire and onboard new talents has required a lot of their time and energy. So this was a higher priority. Now, with less of a need for external talent our managers can take some respite from the hiring and onboarding processes and instead think through how we get work done with internal talent. This shift means we in the HR team now need to focus on helping managers to change focus and helping band members become more flexible learners and take on new challenges internally.

Growth Is Not Linear

With internal mobility taking a higher priority, creating our careers as a portfolio to curate rather than a path to pursue, is even more relevant. Careers as they used to be viewed – climbing the ladder, linear growth and steady promotions within one field or industry – are becoming increasingly obsolete. Growth is seldom linear, and when we talk about growth we think of it more as a theme park, inspired by the work of Julie Winkle Guiloni. A career journey is more likely to resemble the rides in a theme park than a ladder. It will move you up, to the side and maybe even take you on a spin, and all these rides will be important experiences and learning moments that will shape your growth and career.

All rides may look and feel different depending on how our band members chose to navigate the theme park. We ask our band members to be in the driver seat of their development, with lots of support from the company and their manager, of course. That support might be encouraging growth within a current role, helping a team member to make a lateral move to expand competence, or assisting in finding internal projects. Within HR we are committed to making sure there are ways for managers to recognise and compensate for that type of growth. We need to get all band members into the theme park, preparing themselves for the future. 

Talent Marketplace

Our internal talent marketplace Echo is a key tool for us to offer these theme park rides in an equitable way to our entire band although we are distributed over the globe. For example via projects – instead of filling a ‘job’ or a ‘role’ with an external talent, we will help managers to break a job into smaller pieces, posting temporary projects on Echo to offer more opportunities or ‘rides in the theme park’ to our internal talents. This way the work is completed by existing Spotifiers, and our band members find more opportunities to grow their career portfolio alongside their day-to-day work. The crux of it is that this is a much more flexible approach, giving more opportunities to more people.

Not Entirely New 

We have been working on internal talent mobility for years, but previously it was in another setting and with other tools in our hands. With a new focus, we have identified a few areas that we believe will bring this work forward. One example is recognising managers who ‘walk the talk’ and share talents, rather than hoard them. Managers who prioritise hiring internal talents over external. Managers who have high quality development talks with their team members, centering around growth portfolios. Essentially, we laud great ‘gardeners’ – those who nurture growth within a role and lateral moves, rather than seeing promotion to a higher management level as the go-to. 

Sharing and mobilising talents in this way will probably create short term noise but it’s needed for this new phase our company is entering and for our long term success. And after all, we’ve always embraced controlled chaos. It’s a part of our company culture. 

Deliberate Action 

In order to grow and retain our talents for our future business, truly understanding and leveraging the amazing talent pool we already have access to internally, is key. With a renewed focus on this we believe that we’ll catalyse more innovation from cross-pollination of competence and ideas. Going forward, successful talent growth at Spotify will not be measured in headcount, rather it will be measured by internal mobility and months of tenure. We know that these efforts alone might not be the only thing we need to do to shift our talent strategy, but we are certain that this is the direction that we should be going in right now. We feel confident that internal mobility is a strong foundation for us to lay for future talent growth strategies, and we’re excited to see what this new phase and focus brings us, our people and our business!

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