The role of HR in game companies - building culture that supports growth and gives people opportunity to flourish

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The most important role of HR in the game industry is to build a culture that attracts talented people and offers them a place to grow and flourish. The best teams create the best games, which means that the role is very important for the growth of the company.  

This autumn we had the pleasure of hosting the Aalto ENT game program’s panel discussions on the role of HR within the game industry. Panelists, the HR leaders of three game companies and the owner of our game focused recruitment platform Games Jobs Arja Martikainen shared their views and practical advice on how to build and maintain a company culture, how to recruit and retain the best talent and how to coach your managers to become better leaders. 

Inspired by the panel discussion we wrote two articles; this one is describing the role of HR in game industry and the second one is about recruitment methods within the game industry and what we could be learn from them. 

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Culture plays a significant role in game companies – especially when companies start expanding rapidly 

One of the panelists beautifully described HR’s role as the guardian of the culture – enabler who makes sure that the community stays healthy and the people have the opportunity to flourish and grow (Mirella). The panelists all agreed that building and maintaining company culture is their most important responsibility. 

HR’s role is to create a community & culture where people can do what they are hired to do.”
Liisa Lähteenaho (Umbra) 

Retaining culture becomes especially challenging when the company starts growing rapidly. Think about a situation where a start up starts expanding; first you had probably a team of around 3-5 people. Suddenly the game breaks through or the investors get interested with your startup and you need to recruit a bunch of people to be able to answer the demand. How do you make sure that in sudden recruitment situations you successfully recruit people who fit into the culture but also take it to the desired direction? 

“When the team is growing you have to be able to scale, puts a lot of weight on management skills”
Andrew Kolokolnikov (Yousician) 

Easy and fairly common answer would be to recruit people that are hundred percent matching to the existing culture. The cultural aspect is important, but at the same time it is extremely important to leave room for diversity. Different minds and personalities make the team richer and bring out new perspectives. Which is of course extremely important when developing games for thousands or even millions of users across the world.

“If you hire just one type of people you lose a lot of perspective”,
Liisa Lähteenaho (Umbra)

Most important tools for building an engaging culture

The focus on building lovable cultures are in recruitment of course, and this I will address closely in this article, but also in introducing new management methods and helping managers and teams to adapt these, building training opportunities and programs and of course, making sure that the environment is inspirational and people have fun.

1) Training programs.

There are many ways to build programs and support the professional growth of employees. Panelists told that some game companies have predefined budget for each employee and they get to decide themselves how to use it. Usually people spend it to interesting conferences. 

2) Leadership

Management methods and leadership styles played also a critical role and these are also a very important part of the culture. In most companies HR’s role was to introduce new management methods and train managers to become better people leaders.  Introducing new models requires a common language and communication between the HR and the managers. 

“HR cannot force anything, you need to find a common language and a way communicate”,
Andrew Kolokolnikov

Managers were encouraged to spend more time with their employees and even have a weekly one on ones to discuss about how the work is progressing but also to talk other matters, like how the employee is doing and what is going on their lives. The point with weekly meetings is to be present in the employee’s daily life, to make them feel safe and appreciated and to lower the barriers of sharing concerns about the company or even private life.

3) Environment and leisure

OF course the legend about having fun at work and together with your colleagues was true too. Most of the companies have activity opportunities outside work and the panelists told that their employees actually love spending time together. 

Some companies went as far as taking their teams to nice warm locations, such as Bali during the darkest and coldest months of Finland. Most of them had a lot of game opportunities, and people also loved to spend time together outside of work too.

 

All in all, I think that game companies have really found the seed of what makes companies interesting places to work, which is something that we all need in the future.

 

Panelists

Liisa Lähteenaho, MSSc, Chief People Officer at Umbra 

Andrew Kolokolnikov, Talent Business Partner at Yousician 

Mirella Keto, Leadership Development Manager at Ubisoft Entertainment

Walid O. El Cheikh, Program Manager at Aalto EE / Aalto ENT & Pitching and Networking Coach

Arja Martikainen, Senior Consultant at Games Jobs Finland/ Barona IT

Aiheet: HRculturecorporate culturegame industrygaming