New and emerging digital music technologies, applications and processes are challenging standard music industry practices, founded on traditional physical formats, unit sales and middle of the road marketing and promotional activities.
These challenges are forcing organisations to break with traditional business models to embrace unique and innovative models which address the issues of an emerging digital market.
Major record labels are struggling to identify and exploit new and emerging revenue streams while building new digital services and products that satisfy consumer led demand across a range of music formats and applications.
Strategic training and development is essential to developing individual careers within major record labels enabling them to be more innovative and competitive in the emerging digital marketplace. Designing an effective training and development programme involves aligning personal and professional requirements for career progression, organisational requirements for individual skills, competencies and knowledge required to compete effectively.
The focus of the study
My study focused on how individual and team learning, training and development processes are mediated within Universal Music, Warner Music and SonyBMG to provide insights into how the interplay of informal learning and formal training and development activities contribute to workforce performance and career mobility across functions and levels.
I address the need to understand how strategic organisational capabilities can be enhanced to inform major record label efforts to realign its individual and team learning capabilities to current and future strategic and competitive requirements.
I examined whether the range of career and skill development opportunities being offered within and across the three major record labels would function to retain, attract and develop a more digitally literate workforce that would accelerate their need to transform into digital music entertainment companies.
In order to facilitate this, I needed to develop insights into the current effectiveness of individual and organisational development capabilities, the degree to which these capabilities were strategically aligned to the major record label’s vision for digital revenue growth and the extent to which these capabilities would facilitate the new and innovative organisational practices required.
Qualitative research and NVivo
Given the exploratory and inductive nature of the research and the complex issues under investigation, I adopted a qualitative research strategy. NVivo proved crucial in my efforts to develop rich and insightful case studies for my PhD dissertation and for creating organisational analyses of value to Human Resource and training and development practitioners across all three major labels.
The data collected included semi-structured interviews across roles, levels and functions, a wide range of documents and site photographs. An in-depth single case analysis was produced for each major label according to the particular issues, challenges and concerns that they identified as relevant and an extensive cross case analysis was developed to contextualise the findings across each major label to provide an organisational perspective in relation to the others examined.
In order to achieve this, NVivo became the centre of my analytical activities. Initially, I used NVivo as a central resource to manage and store all of my data sources until I was ready to begin the formal analysis. In using NVivo as a repository, I was able to streamline my own data management processes and easily create back up files on an external drive.
Understanding trends in the data
Given that the major labels were interested in understanding trends across particular factors in their organisation, a case was created for each interview and defined by the following attributes: level, department, gender, education, ethnicity, years of service (organisation) and years of service (industry). These cases generated individual, organisational and cross-industry insights into learning, training and development which proved critical to understanding the efficacy of current organisational initiatives in addressing individual requirements.
I combined the use of cases with extensive coding to uncover the central themes occurring across the interviews and was able to relate these directly to particular sets of attributes.
Consequently, level, gender, previous education and ethnicity were found to be important mitigating factors in an individual’s experience of learning, training and development in these organisations.
Coding the policy and training and development documents according to themes that surfaced in interviews enabled me to develop an understanding of how these mitigating factors played out in the organisations.
I found that individuals rely on training and development initiatives to provide them with the relevant music industry knowledge required for them to remain competitive in their role and responsibilities and to enable them to promote and exploit music assets. I discovered that, in some cases, training and development initiatives did not actually fulfill the explicit organisational requirements for addressing the range of competitive issues and challenges in an emergent digital music market and that there were inconsistencies across levels, roles and functions.
Cross organisational analysis
The cross-organisational analysis built on each single case analysis and focused on: senior executive support; resource allocation; organisational expertise and commercial benefits; management support; appraisals; individual and team development; strategic integration; breadth, depth and relevancy and overall satisfaction. Some of these themes emerged from the data through some of the initial coding that I performed while other themes emerged from my discussions with the major labels.
Using NVivo I was able to develop an in-depth understanding of capability gaps across current roles and functions.
Data analysis identified the emerging requirements for particular skills, capabilities, competencies and knowledge to remain competitive. I found that that the major labels would need to adopt a more integrated and strategic approach to recruitment, training and development to further address the emerging digital music market.
It became apparent that current market uncertainties related to new and emerging digital technologies and applications would require a stronger focus on strategic recruitment and development initiatives where success would be contingent on making tough organisational decisions.
Training and development initiatives would have to be augmented by organisational practices and policies focused on reorienting and reframing roles and responsibilities to address new and emerging demands. This would need to include a renewed focus on identifying and recruiting the right talent; integrating traditional and digital functions into single roles; identifying and addressing obsolete roles and responsibilities; reskilling, upskilling and reorienting the current workforce; and creating provisions for managing out individuals who are not able to adapt to future digital realities.