Case study: Paid internships at Ministry of Sound Group

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Ministry of Sound HR director Tacita Small explains the rationale and benefits

Location: Both its offices and adjacent nightclub are located in Elephant and Castle, London

Number of employees: 130 (160 including night staff working in the company’s club)

Number in HR team: Three

Case study focus: The importance of paid internships in encouraging fresh and diverse talent into the creative industries

The organisation

While originally known for its London nightclub, opened in a disused garage in Elephant and Castle during 1991, Ministry of Sound has since diversified into other areas such as its independent record label, a worldwide events brand and a radio station. Artists signed to the record label over the years have included Example, DJ Fresh, Calvin Harris and London Grammar.

The strategy

Ministry of Sound has offered a number of unpaid internships in its various departments over the years but never any paid ones until the start of this year. This was one of the first things HR director Tacita Small, who joined the company in September 2014, was passionate about rolling out. “It wasn’t a hard fight but the company was just doing what it had always done,” she says.

The advantages of paying all of its seven interns the London living wage (£9.15) was that a much more diverse pool of talent was attracted, including those who wouldn’t be able to afford to do an internship otherwise, less junior individuals who are maybe on their second or third job, or those embarking on a career change.

“To me it was all about diversity. We had people who had applied from outside of London who could then afford to move here to do the internship,” says Small, reporting that the age range of applicants was 18 to 32.

The result

The seven interns worked across the business and included a radio intern, design intern and finance intern. Four of the interns have been offered a full-time job with the organisation. Ministry of Sound is working closely with the others to help them utilise the contacts they made and find positions elsewhere.

The value of opening up internships to a diverse pool of talent by paying a living wage shouldn’t be underestimated, says Small. “We have a responsibility to understand popular culture and what’s out there,” she says. “Our customers are very diverse so our workforce should be reflective of who buys our products.”

Small reports, however, that Ministry of Sound is fairly unusual in its sector in paying interns – as the 1,000 applications the organisation received for seven places reflects. But she hopes others will follow suit and encourages them to do so: “Look at your budgets and your figures; you can do it you just have to want to do it. It could be one person you offer that to but that will make a huge difference to them and their families.”

The future

Small has no doubt that the organisation will offer more paid internship schemes in future. Another area she is keen to get to work on is rolling out a programme of keynote presentations on the power of being passionate and obsessed about what you do.

She is planning to invite a whole range of speakers, not just from the music industry but also start-up founders and even a professional hula hooper. “That will hopefully help people who are struggling with a particular project by making them realise the perseverance involved,” says Small, adding "That’s much better than sticking someone in a training room and saying here’s how you work harder. I think these things have more power if done in a way people enjoy.”

One key area that has already been re-thought out under Small is on-boarding. This is now a much more rigorous process, she explains, ensuring no matter where the employee’s been before – whether it's their first job or not – they’re immediately brought up to speed with the Ministry of Sound way.

“You can’t assume anything. So it’s about explaining how we do things around here. What makes you successful, how we communicate internally and externally, and so on,” she says. “We back it up and back it up. We don’t just tell people once and then leave them.”

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