“We are not only re-imagining TV, we are re-imagining HR”

As executive vice president and global chief human resources officer, Angela Santone is re-imagining our corporate responsibility, culture and engagement, diversity and inclusion, learning and recruiting efforts. As the media landscape shifts, Santone is focused on evolving a consistent internal culture across Turner’s diverse portfolio of global entertainment, news and digital brands, while also recruiting, developing and retaining top talent.

We sat down with Angela to discuss her efforts in a changing media landscape and her approach to tackling some of the challenges:

Q: Turner recently appeared on Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list. What do you think makes Turner a great place to work?

A:  Our benefits are often touted externally as leading practice, but I believe the people here are the number one reason employees love to work at Turner. People enjoy working around others who are smart, passionate, driven and open-minded, and that’s what this company is made up of. Most of us feel a personal connection with our brands and are proud of how Turner entertains and informs people all over the world.  In a changing industry like ours, each day also presents the opportunity – and necessity - to create and collaborate. That’s a fun environment to be in. 

Q: You’ve been with Turner for 15 years. How would you like to see Turner’s culture continue to progress?

A:  Ted Turner established himself as one of the leading entrepreneurs of the 20th century when he founded our company. He was a true maverick and, at the same time, stressed some more traditional qualities like perseverance, honesty and teamwork. Our current culture is a reflection of those qualities and that balance. As we face the challenges that lie ahead for the media industry, I hope we’ll channel our “inner Ted” even more by continuing to push for new ideas, products and creative and compelling content, while honoring a lot of what’s made us great for so long. But make no mistake – the need to disrupt is as great now as it was when Ted first built this company. We must embody the same spirit that created Turner in order to ensure its greatness for many years to come.

Q: Why do you think we are more bold now?

A:  New leadership at Turner has brought in different experiences and expectations, which has meant that employees are not only being given “permission” to work in new ways, but are being encouraged to do so. And being bolder isn’t a nice-to-have like it might have been five years ago; thinking differently is critical to our future success given the state of media and technology. So there is a mandate from the world around us which is a great spark for behavioral and cultural change within. Each day, more of us realize that the more our culture embraces innovation and risk-tolerance, the better off we’ll be.

Q: What would you say is the common corporate culture across the Turner brands?

A:  Given the complexity of cultures, I always hesitate to try to sum up or label them. But what I see in my interactions with colleagues most every day is a true pride and passion for what we do. And it’s easy to understand why: most people never work for a company that has the reach or awareness or broad impact this company has. I think the sense of importance and purpose that comes with being an employee at this company is a fundamental element of our culture. 

Q: How is Turner addressing Diversity and Inclusion efforts?

A:  I said before that thinking differently is critical to our future success, and that’s the cornerstone of Turner’s approach to diversity. Different perspectives, background and experience fuel our creativity, and achieving that requires having a wide composition of people – across race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, generation, socio-economics, geography, etc. - comprise our organization. More than many companies, this is a business imperative for us: how can we possibly expect to attract new fans and audiences that we can’t relate to? We must have a workforce and leadership that are reflective of society, and one way to get that is by being bolder in our hiring practices. Considering non-traditional candidates is a must, as is scrutinizing our thinking about what could make a successful hire. We can teach a lot of skills; let’s consider people who may not have those skills yet, but possess qualities like curiosity, boldness and ingenuity -- traits that we’d have a hard time developing. 

We need a variety of voices and perspectives at every table. Once in the door, every person in every meeting needs to know that candor is appreciated here, and that it’s ok to speak up. And that the company is invested in offering employees the development opportunities they need to succeed. Starting with Turner’s leadership, we’re working to further encourage that type of environment and understanding.

Q: What are expectations on the leaders at Turner?

A:  Our leaders need to be agile and promote a constant state of reinvention. They need to encourage autonomy and accountability within their organizations. And they must create an environment where creativity, innovation and challenging the status quo are appreciated. 

The top priority of our leaders is to ensure that their teams are making an impact – one that’s even greater than what was expected in the past. That starts with developing a team that wants to be a part of change, that’s generating growth, and is thinking differently. A team of mavericks. 

Q: We have to ask:  What’s your favorite question to ask in an interview?

A: Tell me about your “bounce-back” moment – how you got the best of an experience that had the potential to derail the progress of your career. 

 

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