This is the third in a series of interviews in which a selection of HR leaders across a variety of sectors share their thoughts on the impact of past and anticipated future changes on their world of work.
This month Rob Mosley, Vice President of International HR since January 2009 at Paramount Pictures, talks to us about….
Rob Mosley has been the Vice President of International HR at Paramount Pictures since 2009
…his role at Paramount Pictures
As the Vice President of HR, my role is to provide an entire HR service from recruitment through to employee development and employee relations matters. My work covers an employee base of 350 employees in all Paramount jurisdictions outside of America, of which there are over 20. I see my role as helping these distribution territories become more successful and efficient.
…changes in the workplace
I joined Paramount in 2008. The international remit was much bigger then, with 1000 employees, and larger territory offices (outside of the US) doing the local work required for film distribution. However, in the last 8 years the film industry landscape has changed dramatically, largely as a result of the changing multiple digital means by which our audience choose to watch our product and so Paramount has been forced to adapt to this new market place. Almost 10 years ago our films were purely viewed at the cinema or at home via DVD or TV, and production costs were comfortably recovered. As a result, Paramount has had to downsize its operation to sustain profitability and 18 months ago we started a programme to outsource the physical DVD & Blu-ray distribution, which has taken out a further 200 employees and resulted in the closure of 9 offices to save more overhead cost.
Consequently in the UK, we are consolidating our Chiswick office onto one floor, which will give it more of a buzz as we move departments closer together. This will hopefully enhance innovation and collaboration between our employees because in the UK we are group of Head Office departments without one MD to head up the territory; every leader, as in my case, has a solid report into the studio in Los Angeles. As VP of Int’l HR, I therefore look for opportunities to bring the employees together to promote engagement and inclusion and the office consolidation conveniently plays to that goal.
…technology in the film industry
As explained above, the market has changed dramatically. There are now multiple digital platforms and devices on which our films can be enjoyed outside of the cinema. The home media market has become highly transactional and this has driven price down. The millennial generation and those younger make instant decisions about what they are watching and our marketing strategy has had to become more sophisticated and centralised in LA to ensure our advertising reaches the right audience on the right social media they are ‘currently’ engaged in.
Historically when a film was made, the cinema release would generate enough income to cover some of the production costs and it was the video and DVD sales that usually enabled the studio to recover its costs within average of 3 years.
Now with less demand for owning physical DVD/ Blu-ray copy and with digital downloads becoming cheaper it is necessary to sell more units for a film studio to make its money back within a reasonable time. The added challenge with more sophisticated technology is an increase in piracy and in some territories the law is not always punitive so this activity increases which impacts our ability to realise full revenue from our product.
One consequence of all the above is that Paramount has been producing fewer films to balance costs.
We have also seen new competitors enter the market place, such as Netflix and Amazon, who are now making their own films and box sets; with all sales being driven by online purchases. This impacts our release schedule as it is not just the main studios releasing product and these competitors are now seen as major players in the entertainment market – and they have attracted many of our employees!
…starting a career in the film industry in 5 years’ time
The answer very much depends on why an individual wants to join the film industry and if it is with Paramount International, then the entire operation is purely focused on film distribution and roles are predominantly marketing, sales, and support functions (Finance, HR, Legal, Operations).
There are many applications made for specific jobs at Paramount Pictures as well as speculative applications from those who fancy themselves as actors, producers, etc. For distribution, we need an increasingly innovative workforce who will continually look at different ways to make our product sell. Any high level of compatibility with social media is going to be a bonus for new marketing applicants and with a progressively leaner workforce we will need self-starters who can find their own way and continually look for smarter ways of working. This is why diversity is at the heart of everything we do so that we can attract new talent who can then help us target our product to all audiences.
…filling any anticipated skills gaps over the next 10-15 years
It is very difficult to anticipate what skills will be required that far ahead other than the anticipated digital expertise I have already mentioned. If you look at the technical progression over the last ten years, in order to remain competitive, Paramount will need to keep its eye on the game and plan for skills development accordingly.
My team have recently introduced an international talent review programme to focus on developing our employees and understanding their future career aspirations which also helps us identify skills gaps going forward.
This programme provides the template for a continuous review of our talent pool and forces senior management to gauge, along with skills gaps, our flight risks, development opportunities and allows for succession planning if we do lose a key individuals, this all works alongside the performance management process.
What managers have liked about the tool is that it forces them to have a value-add conversation with their employees to see if their career aspirations and development are what the manager perceives is correct and this helps to ensure that he/she has the resource, or one that can be developed, to match future business objectives.
…demographic changes in the workforce
We focus lots of attention on ensuring diversity in the workforce and to promote an inclusive working environment so that everyone feels they can bring themselves to work. We have just conducted a group-wide diversity questionnaire and compared the results against the National standards and I am pleased to say that we are within 1 or 2% of the National rates for sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
What was interesting to note was that 88% of our workforce is between the ages of 30 – 60yrs, whereas for a media company you would normally expect more than 12% at the 18 – 30 yr level. One reason for this result is our flexible working policy that allows a number of parents returning from maternity leave to work on a part time basis. We have a culture that is supportive of that and will also be supportive of employees who need to work part-time for the growing eldercare responsibilities. As the workforce gets older in the coming years, hopefully this will enable us to attract older employees who still need to work but perhaps do not want to work full-time.
…the effect of rising property prices on office space and attracting talent
We have just renewed our lease in Chiswick Park and during the due diligence I was surprised how local prices have increased over the last five years by nearly 35%. The business park here is now fully built and has attracted a number of media companies. With the good transport links to the centre and access to Heathrow, this park has helped boost the attraction and value of this area. Prices here are still less than central London but there is not the significant gap there once was enticing companies to move out from the centre. I certainly do not think the location here contributes to any skill gaps we may have now or may have in the future and our brand means that even today we have people commuting in from East London. As a result, I have seen a growing trend for moving Paramount offices out of the centre locations in many territories.
…suggested regulatory or policy changes
As our international business is becoming smaller, global mobility is important to us to help retain and develop our key talent. As a result, I hope the Government can achieve free movement of skills throughout Europe going forward and is considerate in terms of allowing valuable EU workers in UK to retain their employment and right to stay. This is the most important concern for me, as Paramount values a highly diverse workplace and this helps us remain global in our thinking and innovative with different backgrounds. As UK is the international hub, we employ those from different nationalities to manage different territories in some of our revenue streams.
…the impact of future trends over the next 10-15 years
It sounds a bit of a cliché but the increasing sophistication that technology brings to the workplace is astounding and there is much talk about the advent of robots replacing much of the manual work within 20 years; driverless cars, trains, drones, have already started to replace people’s tasks.
This is certainly going to impact new entrants to the workplace who have limited skills and who would normally ‘work their way up from the shop floor’ to more responsibility and career progression. Research is also suggesting that the sophistication will gradually exceed humans in the decision making process related to many tasks. This could lead to more outsourcing as companies can save the costs of salaries, pensions and offices as well as overheads which eat away at profit and still deliver a smart and efficient service to the end user. This is why I encourage the Apprenticeship Levy as it is important that school leavers have more opportunities other than University to get them into meaningful roles and careers.
If you are a HRD and would like to share your own thoughts on the future of work in your industry, please do get in touch here.