Suzanne Hughes was appointed Chief People and Transformation Officer at PRS for Music amidst a global pandemic and just before weeks of sustained activism erupted worldwide.
On 2 June, the music industry came together in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by taking part in the campaign The Show Must Be Paused – an industry wide shutdown.
The action came following days of protests across the US and UK after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
Following The Show Must Be Paused and Black Out Tuesday campaigns, organisations globally are reviewing their commitment to addressing and promoting diversity, equality and elimination of bias.
We recently spoke to Suzanne to find out how PRS for Music, the UK's leading collection society, intends on making the necessary changes.
'How we identify talent, develop and promote colleagues all needs to be reviewed to make sure they are truly fair.'
Can you start by telling us a bit about your role as Chief People and Transformation Officer and what that entails?
I have only recently joined PRS for Music and I am now responsible for leading the Human Resources department. As you can imagine we have been extremely busy through the COVID 19 crisis, supporting our people through many unprecedented challenges. Later in the year, I will be taking up my other responsibilities in Transformation which I am really looking forward to.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges faced by the industry today in regards recruitment and people management?
One of the biggest challenges that we face is bringing more diversity into the workplace at every level. It starts with the way we recruit, but how we identify talent, develop and promote colleagues all needs to be reviewed to make sure they are truly fair.
How have recent events impacted your approach to your new position at PRS?
With the Black Lives Matter protests, COVID-19 and an economic recession looming, I have joined the company in extraordinary times. My approach has had to be responsive to rapidly changing circumstances and it means that our priorities have to change. The impact of BLM is a very positive catalyst for organisations to take a deep and honest look at their processes and ways of working and make changes that will lead to measurable improvement.
'There is energy and momentum to not accept things the way they are and to take action that will lead to real change.'
What can you tell us about PRS for Music’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests?
After taking part in Black Out Tuesday, we organised focus groups for all colleagues. The aim was to give black colleagues the opportunity to share their experiences both in and out of the workplace, and for non-black colleagues to listen and improve their understanding of the issues that we need to tackle. I know that some roundtable events are being organised to engage with our members too.
What steps is PRS taking as an organisation to become more diverse and inclusive?
The employee focus groups were an important first step in understanding the issues black colleagues face so that effective action can be taken. We have also been encouraging all employees to share their diversity data with us so that we can accurately report on how diverse we are today and then measure our progress going forward. All colleagues are completing unconscious bias eLearning and we have many volunteers to join our D&I taskforce. These have been our first steps and we are now planning further work, which will importantly include reviewing our recruitment and talent processes, further learning and increased accountability for making change happen.
What's different between this new approach and what's been done in the past?
We have some good foundations at PRS for Music. Inclusivity is one of our five values and we have an established diversity programme, Celebrating our Differences. What has changed now is that improving diversity and inclusion is an even more important imperative in business and in society. There is energy and momentum to not accept things the way they are and to take action that will lead to real change.
Why will it work this time?
We must be focused and determined that real, sustained change is going to happen. We need to be realistic that change is going to take time, so we need to be resilient and persistent in order to keep going even when there are set backs or if some of our actions to improve diversity don’t deliver the results we had expected.
'I have been struck by the passionate, resilient and warm culture at PRS for Music. Through these difficult times, the focus by employees to serve members is evident every day and that clear purpose is a key factor that drives our culture.'
What will be the most useful metrics when it comes to measuring success in this instance?
It is true that what gets measured gets done, so we will be using metrics to track our progress. For example, measuring ethnicity at every level in the company and tracking this over time. We also need to measure the smaller steps along the way, like metrics on short-lists for recruitment, composition of employees on a development programme, completion rates for our unconscious bias training. They are all important indicators.
How important is company culture for the overall success of a business and how would you define it?
Company culture can be described as ‘how we do things around here when nobody is looking’ and so it is fundamental to the success and sustainability of any business. Even though I joined during lockdown and have not even worked in our offices yet, I have been struck by the passionate, resilient and warm culture at PRS for Music. Through these difficult times, the focus by employees to serve members is evident every day and that clear purpose is a key factor that drives our culture.