From TJ Magazine: Spotify’s Johanna Bolin Tingvall

Conor Gilligan talks about learning agility with Johanna Bolin Tingvall, global head of GreenHouse, the learning and development function at Spotify.

Tell me a bit about yourself, how did you end up in L&D?

I have been in HR  and learning and development for around 20 years now, working both in small startups and large organisations. More recently, I led a consulting organisation in HR/L&D, which gave me the opportunity to meet with many organisations and understanding their development needs, and seeing how critical it is to the success of the companies.

Learning and development has always been close to my heart, a passion I have had throughout my career.  Joining Spotify has given me a great opportunity to build out our learning strategy, throughout my working life I have always been ‘a builder’ and I enjoy the challenge to be part of building something great.

What is learning agility and how does it relate to a growth mindset?

Learning agility is really about the ability and drive to learn. It’s about learning from experiences to know what to do or not to do in future situations. Fundamentally, our people need to have an openness to new things, enabling this means we can progress in new skills and learning experiences.

Learning agility and growth mindset are very much interlinked, since being open to learn new things, to have the courage and curiosity to go into areas where you have not been before and a can-do attitude, is significant for both learning agility and having a growth mindset.

Learning agility is really about the ability and drive to learn. It’s about learning from experiences to know what to do or not to do in future situations.

Besides the courage and curiosity you need an environment where it’s safe to fail, so that you dare to try new things. Learning agility is really about having a love for learning and resilience to follow through.  

How do you develop learning agility at Spotify?

Our L&D team is called the GreenHouse, which is all about growing people – literally. We enable all team members to learn as quickly as possible by a number of different initiatives and by our Learning philosophy where we equip our band members to be able to drive their own development.

This is critical for our business. Why? Because we are moving fast, and growing so rapidly we can’t put our development in the hands of someone else, and we need to learn at a high speed. We need to learn fast, fail fast, and be in the driver’s seat of our own development, so that we can innovate and create new things to delight our audiences.

If we are agile learners – we will become more innovative. Failure is a large component of this, through failure we learn. At Spotify, we embrace failure, we do this for example through ‘fail fikas’, a coffee break where people share their experiences in failure and what they learned from it, we celebrate our learnings. 

What’s more, our leaders are role-models, sharing their failures as well – creating a culture where people dare to share.

How relevant is employee engagement when it comes to learning agility?

There’s a strong link between engagement and learning agility. Think about it, if you are engaged in your role – you are likely to be more willing to learn, if you are learning more you will most likely be better at your job. Engaged employees can be correlated to better business outcomes, so it’s highly relevant.

How do you mean that engagement and learning agility relate to business results? Can you share any examples specific to Spotify?

Coming back to the point about engagement, Gallup conducted research that found engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147% earnings per share. This clearly states the importance of engagement in any organisation, as it does relate to better business outcomes.

How we measure it? We look at engagement via our quarterly engagement survey and the eNPS (employee net promoter score), we look at retention numbers, leadership indexes etc. There are a number of ways to connect engagement  to business outcomes.

Moving in a fast-paced industry, how do you handle stress?

We all have ups and downs in our work – times when we are more stressed than others. The important part is that there is time for recharging after an intense period of work, and to have the tools to handle times of stress.

To create awareness and give our band members the tools they need to build resilience are done in a variety of ways. Our Heart & Soul initiative is a way of creating awareness of both physical and mental health, we have H&S ambassadors around the world that are passionate about bringing tools and knowledge about this to all our band members.

We have everything from a robust employee assistance program to meditation and yoga sessions.We’ve got to remember this is a marathon not a sprint, and that a stressed individual is not learning.

What are the main challenges for your team going forward?

For the HR team our mission is to create an environment where innovative and passionate people can be and do their very best. As a learning and development team we are working hard to make this happen by enabling and empowering all band members to learn faster than the world is turning.

It’s about scaling our learning efforts, to reach all, support leaders and individuals in their growth journeys.


About the interviewer

Conor Gilligan is director of  enterprise growth at Degreed. Find out more at and follow on Twitter @degreed


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