Playboy’s Chief People Officer on equality, workplace and the brand legacy
An industry leader with over 15 years of experience, Jenny Greenwald is presently working with Playboy Enterprises as Chief People Officer. Prior to joining Playboy in 2018, Jenny had an illustrious career in the domain of talent acquisition. She is a staunch believer of equality and inclusion and is driven to make the workplace one that’s diverse and solely focused on delivering content, product and experiences that adapt to ever-changing consumer preferences.
In conversation with People Matters, Jenny reminisces key highlights of her career, brings forth emerging norms and policies for a high performing workplace culture and dives into the brand legacy of advocating for equality and free expression.
Here are excerpts from the conversation.
In a career spanning over fifteen years, what are some of the highlights that you often reminisce?
Transformation is one that truly stands out. Being a part of Playboy's change through the build-out in the diversity and scope of our employee experience against the backdrop of sustaining our commitment to the company's core values has undoubtedly been an adventure. Coaching is another standout moment for me - I have loved working with all talent levels, including our executive team, to provide perspective and communication strategies. We are putting progressive policies in place that enable people to nurture a healthy balance of optimal productivity and the best work/life balance. I.e., Playboy's parental leave and WFH policies. Lastly, I have found that wellness serves as a priority amongst our employees' broadest spectrum, from top executives to support staff through a continuum of the external world and life changes. Even for top performers, life and world events impact their work.
How did you address the challenges you encountered as a leader in the year 2020?
From a business perspective, we are incredibly fortunate to have had a very successful year and have weathered the COVID-19 crisis to the best of our ability. From a workplace perspective, we have aligned with many of our peer companies in implementing a remote work system for our employees. As of now, we forecast a continuation of this practice through Summer 2021. Our goal is to prioritize our team's mental health and productivity by listening to their changing needs in light of their new pressures.
A remote work environment has pushed us to amplify our focus on the company's internal communications by creating new channels and forums for our employees to stay connected, stay informed, and continue to engage in effective collaboration.
Similarly, we have found Slack to provide us with new channels such as the Playboy Pets channel, which allows for a fun and interactive work culture. In response to our employees' feedback, we have instituted meeting-free mornings every Tuesday, which enables employees to have uninterrupted time to focus; we have also been hosting regular remote happy hours to come together in a more social context while we are apart, and bi-weekly town halls to provide heightened transparency into the company's wins, ongoing status and goals—our collective challenges, strengths, and objectives.
Playboy has long been associated as an adult entertainment brand, however, in the words of Late Hugh Hefner, it is a lifestyle brand. Do you continue to face any taboos? If yes, how do you address those from an employer standpoint?
Playboy is a globally recognized consumer brand with a mission of creating a culture where all people can pursue pleasure - everything we do embodies our cause of Pleasure for All. Today, the Playboy brand drives about $3Bn in consumer spending worldwide, with licensed products in over 180 countries serving consumers in four key categories: Apparel & Accessories, Lifestyle & Gaming, Beauty & Grooming, and of course, Sexual Wellness. While the business itself has grown and changed, we remain incredibly proud of our legacy of advocating for equality and free expression, and we see our role as stewards of this great brand and its values.
We've been staunch defenders of equality, freedom of speech, civil rights, sexual rights, freedom of choice, and LGBTQ rights since our inception in 1953. We are just as passionate about these freedoms today as when we launched 67 years ago.
Several conversations have surfaced around how the year 2020 and the circumstances it created resulted in putting diversity and inclusion on the back burner. What is your take on this? What are some of the initiatives that Playboy has undertaken in the diversity, inclusion and belonging space?
Diversity has always been and continues to grow as one of the integral pillars of the Playboy brand. With our deep-rooted history in activism, we do not take this for granted. Playboy's legacy in having been at the forefront of the civil rights movement or reproductive rights is no longer enough. If anything, this legacy establishes a responsibility that requires continuous assessment and re-calibration to ensure best practices around this commitment.
This year, in a clear example of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion we partnered with Yardstick Management, a leading management consulting firm and a certified Minority Business Enterprise. Yardstick is helping us audit our business practices to evolve and implement diversity, equity and inclusion strategies that support our goals. So far, this ongoing work includes defining success for DEI at Playboy, and implementing company-wide training, surveys, one-on-one interviews, as well as retooling our review process, codifying employee growth plans, creating a playbook, an interview guide and an expansion of our recruiting practices, among many other initiatives.
Given the emergence of a globally distributed workforce, are you looking to hire in 2021 and onboard a remote workforce, for instance say from APAC?
We will definitely be growing across our teams in 2021, with a specific focus on our digital commerce operations and expanding our presence globally.
With Playboy having shut down its print magazine in early 2020, a product that has been the centerpiece of the business for over fifty years, what challenges did that pose for the business? How did you navigate the challenges that came up?
Frankly, Playboy has been more than a magazine for decades. The magazine itself was one of the smallest revenue producers for our entire organization – it’s been a very small fraction of our revenue for decades. We’ve been a consumer products business for over 25 years. Playboy is one of the leading men’s apparel brands in China, one of the top fragrances in Europe, and a leader in fashion collaborations in the US and the UK. Playboy is in the top 20 global brand licensors – 17th in the world, on par with the NFL and ahead of Ferrari, and Major League Baseball. And we are one of the five most recognizable brands in the world.
Our priority is to meet the changing needs of our massive global consumer audience, which in today’s digital landscape means delivering content, products and experiences in the formats and on the platforms where they currently consume.
This has been an exciting challenge, but not a unique one – we’ve weathered many storms and adapted to many changes in our 67-year history. We've approached it how we always do – by embracing the evolving landscape, taking advantage of the creative opportunities it presents and by focusing our energy and resources on finding new product and content distribution channels to bring consumers ever-better experiences that meet our needs best.
Amid significant digital competition for lifestyle brands, how are you working towards spurring a culture of innovation at an organizational level?
Innovation is now an essential pre-requisite for most companies to respond quickly to market challenges and opportunities. At Playboy, we are committed to supporting a culture of innovation by listening to our audiences, launching new products, changing internal processes, adapting to changing consumer needs, leveraging data and analytics, and prioritizing our ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives to thrive in the fast pace of global digitalization and innovation.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
We have long believed that the Playboy brand could serve as a platform to acquire and launch other businesses under our Pleasure Lifestyle umbrella. In December 2019 , we began to realize this vision with our acquisition of the e-commerce business Yandy – and we hope there will be more to come in the future. From an HR and People Operations perspective, this growth provides the exciting task of integrating these new and high-performing businesses into the Playboy ecosystem and company culture – aligning all our work under the same operating values, finding new synergies, learning from each other, connecting teams, sharing capabilities and resources – and perhaps most importantly, making all our employees across our businesses feel like a valued and cohesive part of our organization.