This is the next in the 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 Karl Burnett, VP Human Resources at A+E Networks, talks to us about...


Karl is VP Human Resources at A+E Networks

Karl is VP Human Resources at A+E Networks

A+E Networks UK is a Joint Venture between the US Broadcaster - A+E Networks and Sky. I lead the People function for the organisation across our offices in London, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Johannesburg. I am also one of five members of the Senior Leadership Team.


In a relatively short period of time, A+E Networks UK has gone through an enormous amount of change. We have brought in some terrific talent across the organisation; opened new offices in Amsterdam and Johannesburg whilst growing our other regional offices; and we have launched several new channels including our first Free to Air channel – “Blaze”. We’ve also had to say goodbye to some exceptionally talented individuals as a result of adapting and adjusting our organisation structures. In London, we’ve brought together two separate teams, in separate offices, under one roof in our new space in Hammersmith. In January of this year our hard work was recognised when we took first place in Broadcast Magazine’s Best Places to Work in TV 2018 award.


10 years in our industry is a lifetime! In 2008 the BBC had only just released a beta version of the iPlayer, but the App Store still hadn’t launched. Mainstream HD channels only arrived in 2010. Digital switchover didn’t take place until 2012. We hadn’t even heard of “binge viewing”! Behind the camera, the changes have been no less extreme - digitisation, User Generated Content, democratisation of technology, the rise of self-shoot capability, consolidation of media companies, the decline in linear viewing and rise of Video On Demand.


Passion. It’s all about passion. I wouldn’t try to predict what our industry will look like in 5 years’ time – but I know that passionate people will continue to thrive. We have the privilege of working in the most exciting and fast-paced of industries. And the organisations within our industry attract amazing talent who want to have purpose in their working life. Broadcasting has purpose. Whether it’s to challenge intellectually or simply setting out to entertain viewers – we know that we are contributing to the cultural mix of the UK and beyond in a positive way. That requires passion.


Continuous development is key. Whether you work in programming, a creative team or finance – it is essential that we all understand how the changing landscape and viewing habits affect our business. We place a great deal of importance on thought leadership and hearing from people with a new or different perspective. Learning needs to be bitesize and timely. Platforms such as LinkedIn learning are not only extremely cost-effective, but also allow employees to get the skills training they need when they need it.


Our Industry is like a honey pot to millennials! And we also benefit from a very positive gender balance. Diversity of our workforce and representing the viewers we serve is a business imperative. At A+E Networks we have one of the highest mix of BAME employees of all the broadcasters. And this has been achieved very naturally without a single “initiative”. We simply believe in our company values such as Be You and Love What You Do – and have these at the forefront of our minds when bringing in new talent. I believe that addressing the socio-economic gap in many of the larger broadcasters will become more and more important.


At A+E Networks we have embraced the challenge of rising property prices and the constraints this places on affordable office space by adopting Agile Working. A ratio of 7:10 desks per employee and no fixed areas for departments result in an extremely creative vibe and a lessening of traditional silos between departments, freeing up valuable space to offer a range of different working environments. This way of working is not without its challenges, but I believe the contribution it makes to our culture far outweighs the effort required to make it work.


Britain’s exit from the EU provides a very specific regulatory challenge for our industry around broadcast licensing. It is essential that clarity is given to this matter as soon as possible.


Changing viewing habits will undoubtedly continue to turn our industry upside down. We will be required to reinvent ourselves many times over and it will be difficult to let go of our traditional linear broadcasting habits - but what could be more exciting than that?  


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