Interview: Universal Music Group Shares How to Grow Profits by Developing a Diverse Workforce

A Q&A with Peggy Huck, SVP HR Universal Music Group

Meet Peggy 

Peggy Huck is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Universal Music Group, the world’s leading music company. There she is responsible for global talent and learning development, with a focus on driving diversity in the workforce and developing the next generation of leaders in the music industry workforce of artists, executives, engineers and musicians.

Peggy gave us a sneak peek into her session at the 19th CLO Exchange.

Q: Why do you believe it's vital to incorporate diversity & inclusion into the modern L&D strategy? What are some ways you're accomplishing this at Universal Music?

A: Today, perhaps more than ever, Human Resources is an important brand ambassador for organizations engaged in attracting, hiring and retaining talent.

As a contemporary organization, Universal Music Group reaches across cultures, politics and countries to empower all employees with our purpose, to ensure artists and music are heard.

Like most organizations, we're constantly adapting, changing and growing; We're very much a living breathing organism. Our Learning and Diversity programs must reflect this with the right resources to grow our workforce in line with business objectives.

We want our employees to feel comfortable and confident to create their career path, bring their unique talents and vibe to the table and learn to lead themselves and others in a collaborative, meaningful manner.

At Universal Music Group, one of our priorities is the development of women at entry, high potential and mid-career levels. We accomplish this with programs such as our U.M. SHE series that focuses on areas of development that are of interest to women. And there are positive, visible outcomes to this commitment.

Typically, the entertainment industry averages between 20-25 percent of women achieving VP and above roles. However, at Universal Music Group 35% of VP and above positions are held by women.

We're also very active with external organizations, encouraging women’s involvement in the full range of music industry positions, including artists, executives, engineers, songwriters and more.

Not only do Millennials and Generation Z comprise most of our U.S. workforce, but they are also the most diverse and bring unique expectations to the workplace. To excite, engage and retain them, we must meet their expectations.

Companies that emphasize diversity and inclusion and provide career development learning opportunities are meeting 2 out of 5 of their top priorities of employers.

Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) emphasize diversity and inclusion while offering fantastic opportunities for employees to develop leadership, project management and marketing/communications skills. Currently, Universal Music Group has eleven ERGs in the US alone and we’re expanding even further in 2020.

Not surprisingly, we saw a shift in millennials moving into leadership roles in 2018. One of the interesting things we noticed from this group was an increasing demand for management development training. We took that directive and now global management development is a priority for our L&D programs.

The Belonging Table is another way Universal Music Group is creating opportunities to connect D&I with L&D. The Belonging Table is a program where we place executives and artists in front of employees to share career advice and insights into how they achieved their goals.

This program is incredibly valuable as it uses storytelling to demystify the process of creating a sustainable career path by allowing employees to interact with similar people who have achieved career success.

The result is that employees become empowered to learn and grow while creating their career path, and some are even mentored by those they aspire to emulate with their careers.

Key to The Belonging Tables’ success is its authenticity, an absolute requirement for this type of engagement. I’m very proud to see more and more diverse employees attending The Belonging Table series where they engage with a diverse group of executives. It sends a powerful and not-so-subtle message to all employees that they, too, can be successful regardless of gender identity, race, age or sexuality.

As aligning our Learning and Diversity programs to business objectives is key, we believe Human Resources should leverage marketing and brand messages within Development and Inclusiveness programs.

The more we think like our business leaders when it comes to how we feel and speak about our company, the sooner our employees will become aligned with business objectives.

Closing the gap between the C-suite and employees is another way to encourage inclusiveness. 

As we seek to move our company culture forward through shared experiences, learnings, and connecting with employees and fans, we know inclusion is truly universal.

Q: How do you measure the effectiveness of your diversity & inclusion programs? Are there important KPI's that you've noticed L&D professionals are neglecting? 

A: At Universal Music Group, we consider employee insights equivalent to consumer insights in determining our business direction, and we measure accordingly and consistently. For example, we look at open rates, click through rates and time spent on the page relating to program invitations and events.

These tools and more allow us to benchmark the effectiveness of our communications and its relevance to our employees. As we have few mandated programs and none associated with L&D, measurement is key to continual diversity and inclusion success.

This metric tells us if we are engaged with our employees and are offering them programs they find meaningful. Data collected around class registration, engagement and feedback confirms our impact and allows us to shift direction to better serve our learning and diversity goals.

We focus on three key areas of measurement: representation, reach and participation. With each, we strive for continuous monitoring and reporting to allow us to fine-tune our efforts to increase results.

With ‘representation’, we monitor diversity within the recruiting funnel as well as with each stage of the hiring process. For example, when we screen blind resumes and monitor focused recruiting and networking events we can discern if we are attracting underrepresented talent.

While we do not set specific targets for representation, consistent monitoring is important to understand what's happening within so we can adjust accordingly.

When we look at representation in leadership, be it the percentage of promotions or turnover across various groups, we discover themes or patterns that propel us to dig deeper into what our employees are experiencing.

For example, through monitoring one of our programs in 2018, we observed females were only 37% of promoted employees. Then we saw that number jump to 59% in 2019 following the introduction of U.M. SHE workshops even though there were no directives or expectations set as a result of participating.

This also tells us that programs like U.M. SHE and The Belonging Table are integral to achieving diversity and inclusion in our workforce when we provide the appropriate opportunities.

When we speak about ‘reach’ we're referring to the external partnerships, community relationships and associations we align with. We measure social media connections plus followers, and job applicants from external reach initiatives. This tells us if we're are engaging people who didn't grow up in the music business and keeps us focused on encouraging the next generation of music professionals and consumers.

By engaging in reach exercises and monitoring effectiveness, we're connecting to artists, consumers, executives, and importantly potential new, undiscovered talent. All are aspects of diversity for us.

We continually monitor ‘participation’ in all our programs to see which employees and when are joining our ERG events or The Belonging Table experience and other programs.

We want to understand how long they stay engaged, what feedback they provide, if they felt the program helped them achieve something and if it was in line with the objectives of the program.

Q: Describe how your overall L&D processes at Universal have shifted in the last few years, and where do you see them shifting in the near future? What do you think is fueling this change?

A: There has been a significant shift to a more realistic approach in line with our diverse and ever-evolving workforce which has been fueled by a different set of expectations than their predecessors.

Generation Z and Millennials came of age steeped in the digital age. Today, employees want more communication, transparency, feedback, autonomy and they want it in real-time.

We found that they're more impatient with waiting for the next career opportunity to arrive. Further, from 2017 to 2019 we experienced an 18% increase in the number of millennials as leaders-not surprising as we knew they wanted manager development.

As our industry is fast, creative, and fluid, our approach to L&D processes must meet these demands. Requiring employees to participate in day long seminars or a six to 12 month program will not allow us to achieve our business objectives.

We’ve shifted to one to two hour webinars; micro-modules and online tool kits for support; and optional live, quarterly de-briefs and discussions as follow up to the webinars.

General employee development is based on a theme. The productivity theme has been popular this year, and we delivered programs throughout the year focused on personal effectiveness via webinars, videos, podcasts, in-person meetings, emails and more.

As we move our Learning and Development programs further across the global stage, we will be challenged to understand the unique needs of even more diverse cultures. Fortunately, technology will continue to evolve to provide us a more dynamic approach to collaborative learning and growing together.

Q: What role has L&D technology played in enabling an agile and diverse workforce at your organization, and what new technologies do you consider most promising?

A: The shift in L&D programs and processes goes hand-in-hand with the development of technology as it has changed how we work, allowing us to work anywhere, anytime.

Today, L&D technology must provide scalability, just-in-time access to learning and data insights. Video conferencing platforms allow broader reach to larger groups of employees across various locations and time zones, while functionality enhancements allow interaction with learners to engage and involve them.

Our learning management platform, Backstage, allows employees access to short videos, self-paced eLearning modules, toolkits and recorded webinars and podcasts when they need it.

Content is curated and organized by topics of interest: Productivity, communication and career growth are some examples of this connected library that facilitates growth and development anytime, anywhere.

One of the insights we gained from Backstage is that certain groups of employees are using the content more than others. Millennials, female managers and directors leverage the platform most often and have completed 60% of the content.

This information helps us determine the importance of the platform to groups of employees we see as a priority for development.

As we track learner actions, discern topics of interest, and gather feedback and reactions from pulse surveys, we can create more content that will engage, develop and grow future leaders.

New technologies are promising to bring even more detailed and satisfying results to our quest to grow and develop our diverse workforce. We're exploring social learning tools and AI-driven engagement.

Social learning allows us to curate content and resources for those participating in programs such as U.M. SHE and allows participants to join in discussions, network and share resources and learnings across the company.

Further, we are exploring leveraging technology to provide targeted learning recommendations for individuals that are personally relevant to their growth and needs.

Q: Looking back on your experience in L&D and HR, what is the biggest lesson you've learned and what is one thing you think all L&D leaders need to hear?


  • Your work can never be static, never cookie-cutter in your approach. Each engagement must meet people where they are in their growth and development journey.
  • Priorities are more likely to be connected than disjointed, so connect them for your employees and provide them simple, well-defined plans that clearly explain why and how it’s relevant to them.
  • Never underestimate the power of storytelling. Sharing experiences, whether yours or others, is the glue that allows us to understand ourselves so we can learn and grow from others.
  • But most of all, make Learning and Development dynamic and exciting. Strive for “Wow, I didn’t know HR/L&D could do that!”


This Q&A by Paris Armstrong originally appeared on the CLO Exchange website here.