Pandora's CHRO Shares Best Practices For Better Employee Experience

Twine HR Expert Interviews: The goal of this series of articles is to help HR practitioners learn best practices from HR executives in top performing companies, and understand the various trends and technologies within the HR and people analytics space.

We got the chance to speak with Kristen Robinson, Pandora’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), about her work at Pandora, what Pandora does to improve employee experience, employee retention strategies and various HR trends. 

Pandora CHRO Kristen Robinson

Pandora CHRO Kristen Robinson

How did you end up in the HR space?

Never did I think I would be in the HR space when I started out my career. I was really good in math during my high school days so in college I studied accounting, and I started out my career in accounting. But through those early years, I gravitated towards the people side of things. Then after getting my MBA and a number of twist and turns in finance, marketing and new venture leadership, I found myself in the HR space because that's what I’m passionate about and that's where I could make the biggest difference.

What do you do to make Pandora’s employee experience better? 

All the work I do, whether direct or indirect, relates to our employee experience and within that, our culture, and making sure that our employees are performing at their best. At Pandora, we’re very purpose and principle driven, so people strongly affiliate with our purpose—believing in the infinite power of music.

What should companies be investing in when it comes to employee experience? 

Companies should be really explicit about their culture and who they are as a business, and making sure that matches with their internal culture. Once you're really clear with that, you can emphasize that and take the really important things.

For example, our conference rooms are graphically designed to represent different aspects of music so that purpose is very much in our culture and why we’re here which is to bring music to the world. We’re a very collaborative and respectful community of people so when we hire people, we are choosing people who aren’t just going to fit in our culture but also be consistent with our culture and also amplify our culture.

How do you measure success?

From an HR metric standpoint, I think there are a couple of different categories.

One of the things we try to measure is the health of the organization. Health of the organization metrics might be the representation of the workforce in terms of diversity. Health of the organization also includes attrition information. If you are constantly churning out your employees, it’s going to have an impact with business sustainability. We look at attrition internally, retention and compensation. We also look at engagement, and we do that through engagement surveys and that tells us a lot of different aspects of employee sentiment.

Then we also look at the effectiveness of HR. If we're thinking about leadership development, there are some basic metrics like the percent of our managers who have gone through those programs. We also have some people practices like growth and development. These are conversations we want our employees to have with our managers. Are they achieving their goals? What are some of the hits and misses they've had?

Then there's the last category of HR efficiency--how many spots do we fill per recruiting cycle. How many social impressions are we making per campaign per social media marketing person that we have? How many business partners do we have per manager? How many managers per HR business partner? Those are just a couple of quick examples.

What is Pandora doing in employee retention, what drives it and best practices?

There are so many different things that drive retention. We can see some of that analytically when we do our surveys because the technology has become sophisticated enough that we can look at correlations. If people feel like they understand their purpose and how the work they do contributes to it, we can tell how likely it is they will leave, or if people don’t feel like they have career opportunities, what's the likelihood that they might leave.

People want to feel like that they’re doing important work that is tied to the mission of the company so they feel valued. We want to make sure that managers are helping employees see their contribution and role in the bigger picture.

The other thing that drives retention is if people feel that they’re learning and that they have the opportunity to contribute in more and more impactful ways. We know from our surveys and exit interviews and this is very consistent with public information out there, the number one reason why people leave is because they want to pursue a different career opportunity. That’s one thing we’re really trying to work on because you can’t solve for one solution for everyone because if you think of each individual, their desires and goals are very personalized so we need to help people to feel confident that they can talk about their career goals with their managers.

What are some of the initiatives?

A couple of years ago, we created an internal policy and transfer practice. While we have an external career website for people from the outside, we created an internal career site where we not only have jobs but we also have profiles and examples of people who have moved from one function to another so they can actually see that somebody actually made this move from a finance to a data analytics team or from finance to HR to marketing so there are those real examples of how people have made those moves before.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing?

I would say at HR, the people analytics side of things is at its infancy but it’s extremely powerful. One of the things I mentioned before is the employee engagement survey. And we’re moving from a strategy where we do it just once a year to much more frequent pulses that allows us to get ongoing signals that give managers feedback, and tools that allow the managers to see the results. It gives managers insights and fuel, and democratizes the actions that people can take that will be the most focused and most effective on a more local scale versus a company wide scale. So I’m really excited for the years to come and what will happen in the people analytics side of things.