Insights from the Chief People Officer Breakfast

On Tuesday, 31st October, we held our Chief People Officers’ Breakfast at Home House in London. We were so pleased to be joined by our special guest Katarina Berg, Chief Human Resources Officer of Spotify.

During her interview with Suki Sandhu OBE, we heard insights from Katarina on her unique experiences of leading talent transformation at Spotify from an ambitious start-up to one of the most recognized and respected global brands.

Alongside hearing from Katarina, we also heard from CPOs across a wide range of companies on their insights on driving talent transformation within their companies.

Key Takeaways

Early lessons on culture

Spotify started as a tech company and was founded and led by people from the technology space as a product-first business. With this came a ‘tech start-up culture’ which was very male, white, and young. This made it a very difficult first 2 years for Katarina as employees were afraid of change, even though change was needed to turn Spotify from a “sandbox” culture, into a global company with a trust-based and value-based culture. As part of the transition, Katarina’s team had to give everyone an opportunity to voice what was important for their success, what was important for them to do a good job, and what was important for them to have fun.

When Katarina joined Spotify, 17% of the workforce were women and everyone was ‘young’ – including the founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. However, Katarina, Daniel, and Martin knew that the people who listen to and produce music are diverse, so the company and platform needed to reflect that diversity. By focusing on increasing gender and age representation it opened the door to other diversities. Now 44% of the company are women, including 50/50 on the board. However, from the get-go, diversity was not the ultimate goal, and inclusion with belonging was always the aim. A good idea is a good idea, and everyone should be listened to when it comes to innovation at Spotify.

The ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy in practice

Spotify had aspirations to be a ‘work from anywhere’ business 5 years before the pandemic, but legalities and practicalities had always been in the way. When Covid came it wasn’t such a challenging transition because they are a digital company and employees already had the tools. Spotify announced their permanent ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy in 2020. Although they would welcome total freedom, contract restrictions mean that employees have to be based in countries where Spotify have an entity.

The media asked whether they were concerned about productivity, but as a data company, they know for a fact that productivity increased. Their focus now is checking in on what happens to creativity, innovation, and collaboration. They are also doing research on the impact of not engaging in real life when it comes to the “energy” people feel when working together.

Work from anywhere has also had a big impact on diverse hiring and tenure. Hiring engineers was originally a challenge because they didn’t want to leave their communities but now Spotify is not tied to a limited talent pool. In tech hubs such as the Bay area, employees switch jobs all the time due to close contact with other technology companies. Having employees based outside of these areas naturally increases tenure.

Building the CEO relationship

Katarina makes it clear that the CEO needs to pick you, but you also need to pick the CEO. It is all about chemistry, shared values, and a shared understanding of a mission which ensures synergy. You also need to develop a common base language and understanding – in the case of Katarina and Daniel, the language of football team management was an effective way to articulate and discuss people strategy approaches.

Talent development & skills

Spotify are on the cutting edge of internal talent development thanks to the technology which underpins the Spotify platform. Their internal talent marketplace uses AI to match internal opportunities to skills profiles that employees have added. All managers use the platform and will interview employees that match skill requirements. For example, there could be an internal candidate in Melbourne the London manager has never seen/met but due to Work from Anywhere can be hired for the role.

In terms of the skills Spotify are looking for, Katarina highlighted how quickly technical skill requirements are changing. Individuals whose skills made them the most important person in the room will no longer be so if they do not reskill themselves. Alongside skills in AI and Machine Learning, she also emphasized ‘People Skills’ as more important than ever in the next phase of technology where ethics, morals, and values become critical.



Spotify has evolved from a tech start-up dominated by a young, male, and white workforce into a globally inclusive company that values diversity. Their “Work from Anywhere” policy, implemented in the early days of the pandemic, has increased productivity and talent diversity. Collaboration between Katarina and CEO Daniel Ek emphasizes shared values and effective communication.

Spotify’s AI-driven talent development matches internal opportunities with employees’ skills, enhancing mobility and addressing evolving skill requirements. Katarina stressed the importance of “People Skills” in an ethical and value-driven tech landscape, making Spotify a forward-thinking and inclusive company that values innovation and its employees.

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