PRS for Music has announced that Janeace (Jay-T) Thompson has been promoted to Director of Talent, Culture and Experience.
Janeace, who was previously Head of Inclusion and Employee Experience at PRS, will take up a role which will be pivotal to the company’s plans to support and deliver its strategic imperatives and continue its journey of change.
In addition to her current remit, Janeace — who will report into Chief People and Transformation Officer Suzanne Hughes — will focus on how PRS promotes and delivers its Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) agenda within the wider music industry.
M sat down with Janeace recently to get more of an insight into her new role.
Can you give us an overview of your time at PRS for Music up until this point?
'I joined PRS in March 2022 as Head of Inclusion and Employee Experience. When I was brought into that role, I remember some people saying to me, "Oh my God, this is a massive role. Is PRS sure that one person can do all of this?" I look after recruitment, learning and development, and inclusion: as we all know, that's usually a job or a role for multiple people. In my experience, companies have often found it difficult to get somebody who's got that broad cross-section of skills, knowledge and experience to be able to deliver in those kinds of roles. When I was approached for this role I jumped at it, because it was exactly what I wanted to do. Being somebody who's ADHD, I need to have diversity in terms of my thoughts and be able to do more than one thing, otherwise I get bored: I need to have a challenge. Working in those three areas means I get an opportunity to look at and be involved in different things. Because of the way that my brain is wired, if I don't think that I've been productive, I'll feel a little bit down about it. I need to feel that I've made some change and some impact, so this role is perfect for me: the remit of talent attraction and acquisition coupled with the learning and development and inclusion.
'Learning and development, as well as recruitment and attraction, are the enablers of diversity and inclusion [D&I]. One of the things that I find is that when you go into an organisation as a Head Of or leading the D&I space, you're often faced with resistance from the people that do the talent and the people that do the learning and development. I actually thought the design of this role was genius because I'm across all of those three things, so I can have a broad view and merge it all.'
What personal values motivate you to create a more inclusive culture at PRS?
'I'm very pragmatic about D&I. I'm a woman, a single mother, I'm over 45; I came from an underprivileged background. I've got family and friends in the LGBT communities, so I support them intimately. I've supported people with mental health [issues], and I'm also neurodiverse — although I've never seen that as a challenge or barrier to me. I've also got an autoimmune disease, so I'm considered disabled to some people. So I really understand first-hand that there are patterns of difference: I recognise that what will suit a single working mum will also support somebody who's got care responsibilities for an ailing spouse or an elderly parent. I think I'm unique from the perspective that I have lived experience across a lot of areas. Taking a holistic approach to D&I, therefore, comes very naturally to me. If we can cultivate the right culture, we eradicate the need for D&I because that will be a byproduct of having the right culture.'
Why is now the right time for a Director of Talent, Culture and Experience to be introduced at PRS?
'Because I sit in the HR space, my previous role as Head Of was internal-facing. What I found was that there were individuals externally who had an expectation of me that, actually, my role didn't lend itself to. Not that I wasn't prepared to go above and beyond, because I did anyway, but I recognised quite early on that, "Actually, I need to get involved in some of these things". Otherwise, it [could be perceived as being] reactionary. If I'm involved from the beginning I can help avoid any unnecessarily fall out, or PRS being perceived in the way that we were perceived traditionally. As my focus has been well-established internally, I think it was felt that there was value that I could add a little bit more broadly.'
How will your role directly impact the day-to-day experiences and opportunities of PRS employees?
'I think it's really about connection alignment, removing silos and recognising that we can collaborate more broadly. We can make a good idea a great idea if there's more of us involved and willing to innovate. I think that I'll be able to make sure that we're not using the wrong kind of language. For example, I'm in meetings all the time where I hear "blind spots" and "brainstorming". Those words are no longer acceptable, but lots of people don't realise. I think there are ways that I can support by having a slightly different lens that will basically help us become one PRS, so that we're not working separately.'
How important is it that PRS stays at the forefront of meeting D&I industry standards, such as adopting UK Music’s 10-Point Plan and Five Ps?
'I think it's massively important. One, because of the way that we've historically been viewed, and two, because I think that we do an awful lot and people don't necessarily know about it. [Being] pioneering is one of our values, and we're also doing a lot in relation to innovation and entrepreneurship. I feel like we're just primed and ready for that. [PRS for Music CEO] Andrea Czapary Martin has spoken about the fact that the pace of change will never be this fast again, so I feel like we need to be ahead of the curve: not reacting, but actually anticipating. I think that's going to be really key to this role.'
How might you approach the challenges of your new role?
'To be 100% honest, I think some of it I will grow into. But when it comes to my aspirations, I always like to be able to challenge the status quo. I feel like we always need to be thinking ahead and building the skills for the future, so it's not just about what we need now but actually looking a little bit more further afield when it comes to who we hire and what we train. As I've said many times, talent can look like, sound like, be like and act like many different things, and I think that we need to really be able to understand that in everything that we do. That's not just when it comes to talent, either, but also in terms of who we partner with as a supplier. We might have always partnered with this type of organisation, but if we're inclusive, who else could we be bringing to the table? How can they get a piece of the pie when it comes to business? Organisations have massive corporate social responsibility, and I think that's one way of demonstrating that.'
What can you tell us about the external element, which focuses on how PRS promotes and delivers its EDIB agenda within the wider music industry, of your new role?
'I think it's all about partnerships, although not just externally: we want to partner internally with key stakeholders within the business to ensure that we are well positioned to implement the right kind of mix in terms of representation externally. Whether it be an event, who we invite, who we include or who gets an opportunity to speak. I think those kind of things are really important when it comes to moving the dial.
'A lot of organisations have had investment in EDIB, but they've not always been able to make tangible difference. I was recently involved in a conversation where I saw an invoice and it made me question: when not everyone's starting from the same place and we're inviting people to sit on panels, not everybody has the luxury of doing it for free. Some people do, but actually this is the difference, especially when we're looking at creatives putting food on the table for their family. I think that we need to be able to draw on lived experience and wider experience to really understand what some of the challenges are from a social perspective, and really do our part as a leader in the space that we're in.'
What most excites you about this new role?
'It sounds corny, but I'm always excited to come to work! Just before I joined the company, somebody asked me who inspires me. I'd only recently met Andrea as I'd just had my last interview with her, and I wasn't sure that I was coming to PRS at that point. But she really impressed me, because I think that she walks the talk. One of the things that I feel really passionate about is that, under her legacy, we've been able to achieve an element of the 10-Point Plan by bringing in somebody that look like me into this position of seniority. It's the first role of its kind, but there's never been a Black woman director on the PRS Senior Leadership Team before. So because of how invested I am in Andrea, I love that this is under her legacy.
'That's one of the things that really excites me, because I think that this isn't PRS [being] performative: actually, I've grown into this role. What I had a massive issue with is the idea that people are getting jobs because we need to tick a diversity box, and that does not resonate with me. I want to be doing a role because I've been seen to have the skills, depth and breadth of knowledge, and ability to be able to deliver and be successful in the role. I'm really excited by the fact that that's been acknowledged, and the way that the business has received my new appointment gives me a lot of comfort and encourages me that we are the progressive organisation that I hoped we would be.'
2024 will mark 110 years of PRS. It's an anniversary that's likely to focus on moving forward rather than looking back, and your new role seems to be representative of that.
'100%. I have to say that, for me, it's all about looking forward, and that's very much who I am as a person. I'm not a denier of history, but I'm also an appreciator and celebrator of the progression that we've made and that is being made in the world. It’s really important that we all embrace the fact that, "Yeah, this is where we started - but this is actually where we are". I feel that you'll dilute the appetite to continue if we don't acknowledge and celebrate all the great things that we've done and what we can do, but together.'