When Lorna Hagen speaks, you can’t help but listen. Like the innumerable radio, television, and podcast hosts who work alongside her at iHeartMedia, a prominent media organization and the top audio company in the United States, the chief people officer radiates a sense of warmth that naturally draws people in. But of course, Hagen also couples that warmth with a talent for incisive leadership, a genuine passion for the world of audio content, and the type of forward-thinking mind-set that makes her an ideal match for an industry innovator like iHeartMedia.
An alumna of Cornell University, Hagen has spent nearly two decades exploring the HR space. From her first position as an associate at IMG and throughout her subsequent leadership roles at HarperCollins Publishers, Dow Jones, Ann Inc., OnDeck, and leading software company Namely, Hagen has cultivated a broad-ranging understanding of how to drive organizational success.
But in recent years, Hagen says, she has begun to reframe the way she thinks about her career trajectory. “All throughout my professional journey, I’ve thought about the same two questions,” she explains. “How do I constantly stay curious? And how do I figure out which are the right opportunities to say yes to, and which are the right opportunities to say no to?
“Now, those ideas are even more important to me than they were a few years ago,” Hagen continues. “And I’ve come to realize that, ultimately, I’m looking for meaningful opportunities—opportunities where I can be a user, a consumer, and an advocate for all that the company does. And that’s really easy for me at iHeart.”
A “huge lover” of audio entertainment, Hagen turns on her radio to listen to the news or a podcast first thing every day. “I love podcasts like Noble Blood and Blood Ties,” she offers enthusiastically. “And I’ve found that I concentrate more fully when listening to nonfiction than when I read it. When I listen to audio books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, it’s a completely different experience.”
And since she came into the role of chief people officer in October 2019, Hagen’s passion for audio has only been . . . amplified.
“When I was first contacted about the position, I loved the idea of being able to experience what the company is putting out into the world. Not to mention that my teenagers are constantly listening to music, which makes me a very cool mom just by working here,” she says with a laugh. “But as I started to dig into the world of audio, I really began to appreciate what amazing platforms this company has to offer.”
“Audio’s reach is immense, and we have research showing that consumers believe it is more trustworthy than other platforms.”
According to Hagen, iHeart reaches over 90 percent of Americans every month. It has a larger audience with more streams and downloads than any other podcast platform; it is a partner to the reVolver podcast network, the largest Hispanic podcast network in the world; and it is working with industry powerhouses like Shonda Rhimes to bring exciting new series to life.
All of which means, Hagen points out, that the company holds a unique place in the public’s consciousness.
The Numbers Behind the Number One Audio Company in the Country
9 out of 10 Americans reached every month
250 million monthly listeners in the United States
848 live broadcast stations
150 million+ podcasts downloaded every month
130 million+ registered iHeartRadio users
“Audio’s reach is immense, and we have research showing that consumers believe it is more trustworthy than other platforms,” she says.
“As consumers, we are continually confronted with questions about what information we see in digital media is real and what isn’t. In our current cultural environment, it’s important to be at an organization where there is a high level of trust with our customers.”
Without that trust, Hagen notes, iHeart could not so effectively connect with its millions of listeners. “We want to be there for all of our listeners and be a friend to them anytime, anywhere,” she says.
And to Hagen’s mind, the company’s success in connecting with listeners, and in maintaining its position at the forefront of innovation, directly hinges on iHeart’s ability to drive those same ideas internally.
“We need to be as committed to being there for our employees as we are for our listeners. We want our employees to feel a keen sense of belonging, to feel that they contribute every day in ways that are meaningful to the organization,” she says. “And just as the company is embracing technology and artificial intelligence, we need to keep the changing reality of how we do work at the top of our employees’ minds.”
Engagement comes when the company has a very strong sense of purpose that resonates with employees’ personal values, Hagen explains. It is what she thinks about every day in terms of the experience that she and her team are trying to create for people at iHeart, and it is already at the center of the company’s overall culture.
“We need to be as committed to being there for our employees as we are to our listeners.”
It is the other goal, Hagen says, that has occupied so much of her attention since she became chief people officer. Preparing for the future of work is a constant effort, she believes—it requires an organization to foster a culture of agility and adaptability, build company-wide tools for change management, and cultivate the mindsets and cultural fortitude necessary to embrace rather than resist change.
In less than a year, Hagen has already made significant headway on that front, introducing a change management training program that has helped more than two hundred leaders and managers across iHeart to “think about what’s coming next and to understand how everyone can get there together.”
“The world is moving faster than it ever has before,” Hagen says, “and organizations like iHeart are proactively building foundations of change management expertise to continue to evolve. Anyone who’s ever been a parent knows what change looks like and most accept it—if not there would be millions of sad parents out there because their children outgrew the sweet six-year-old age. We need to make our leaders understand that that type of evolution is also normal and needed at organizations. It’s just about honing that foundation and turning it into a conscious discipline.”
Celebrating Identities, Speaking with One Voice
Lorna Hagen loves John Leguizamo’s Latino History for Morons show so much she’s seen it twice—and that’s just the Broadway version.
“The show is just so, so interesting,” Hagen enthuses. “It’s about the idea of tearing cultures apart, but it ultimately comes back to this concept of speaking with one voice.
“And that idea of inclusivity really resonated with me because that’s how you see real change in the corporate world,” she continues, “when you advocate for yourself as well as others, when you listen and are open to things you don’t know or understand. It’s not really about blurring the lines of identity but rather about celebrating those different identities.”
Congratulations, Lorna! Mercer is excited to be a continued partner with Lorna to boldly shape the future!
At Fidelity Investments, we embrace a culture of inclusion to unlock the magic of fresh perspectives, which fuels our innovation. By building a workforce with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, we better reflect the customers we work with and create deeper connections and better collaboration with them.