In the last decade, we’ve formed close partnerships with studio directors and CTOs of indie and AAA gaming studios, helping them migrate game development to the cloud. We’ve also witnessed the challenges that they face in acquiring and retaining talent in an ever-changing economic landscape. To assist you in overcoming these challenges, we have put together two articles that outline some of the best practices for enhancing talent acquisition and retention. Our primary focus is on diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies (DEI), which are underutilized but successful methods of acquiring and retaining game dev talent.
Why is diversity important? Put simply, it’s a good business decision. A more diverse workforce has been shown to boost innovation and financial results. Creating a work environment where people feel included and valued for who they are allows employees to be more authentic and share their unique and creative ideas. A true commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) also fosters a long-term culture of belonging that helps retain talent.
Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion doesn’t happen overnight or by simply setting out to “hire more diverse people” – it requires thoughtful analysis of current processes, identification of where improvements are needed, and clearly identified and measurable goals. Here are a few hiring strategies your studio can consider as you look to evaluate and improve DEI.
Job descriptions are a tricky thing. It’s difficult to encapsulate all the tasks and interactions a job has day-to-day, especially in an industry that is creative and keeps pace with frequent, rapid technology advancements. But there are some practical ways you can improve your job postings to be more inclusive.
Creative Circle on LinkedIn recommends going beyond avoiding obvious gendered language and encourages examining your job listings to see where else you can substitute gender-neutral language to appeal to a wider range of candidates. They recommend you “Avoid words and phrases that can subconsciously deter diverse candidates. “Ninja,” “rockstar,” “dominate,” and “work hard, play hard” tend to put off female and older candidates.”
In addition to those, phrases like “hard-core gamer” can intimidate those looking to break into the gaming industry. In fact, there are many jobs that don’t require candidates to be gamers at all – just passionate about helping gamers succeed – and being upfront about that in your job listings can attract people from other industries who might have new and interesting perspectives.
A more recent trend involves adding a paragraph to the bottom of your job posting encouraging candidates – particularly those from minority groups – to apply even if they don’t meet the job requirements. Another way to accomplish this is by removing as many qualifications as possible from the job description. Only keep qualifications that are absolutely necessary for a person to succeed in the role and allow room for on-the-job learning and growth. These small changes show a commitment to diversity and also contribute to the next strategy: expanding your candidate pool.
There are several ways you can expand your game dev candidate pool beyond lowering job qualifications and encouraging potentially underqualified candidates. The first is to adjust recruiting tactics about where you source candidates. If you’re not finding enough diversity in your current recruiting process, you likely need to expand where you are recruiting game dev talent.
To accomplish this you can cross-post to other industry job boards for openings that require specific skills not unique to gaming. Encourage your recruiters to be more active online in DEI groups and to build relationships with gaming diversity organizations and colleges that serve under-represented communities.
Leveraging technology can help you refine and track your recruitment process, while identifying a much broader set of candidates online than individual recruiters can find on their own. According to Forbes, “Sourcing from a personal network will not find the vast number of candidates that today’s recruiting technology can reach.” Built In also suggests participating in Game Jams and Hackathons as ways to meet new people and see firsthand the potential of their technical and creative skills.
After you’ve secured job applicants, the first step is to narrow the list down to interview candidates. One way to ensure your narrowing process is less biased is to use “blind hiring” practices. BetterUp defines blind hiring as, “a hiring tactic where the candidate’s personal and demographic information is blocked out or hidden from the hiring manager. The idea is that all information that could potentially influence or cause bias among interviewers is made invisible in the hiring process.” Check out their article for a more in-depth look at blind hiring.
Next in your game dev talent acquisition journey, you should assemble an interview loop with diversity on both sides of the table – interviewers and interviewees. Creating a diverse set of interviewers can be a challenge if your studio is just starting DEI efforts so it may require partnering with other groups or spacing interviews out so that you can include the right mix of perspectives in your interview process.
Having standardized interview questions and clear assessment criteria for candidates will also help ensure each candidate is being measured the same way. This is especially important if you can’t maintain the same set of interviewers throughout the interview loops – it will be easier to compare notes from two different people if they were working with the same framework and asked the same questions. Once interviews are over, your team will already have a clear set of criteria against which to evaluate candidates, which should simplify the final decision process and reduce unconscious bias.
Of course, hiring game devs to expand DEI at your studio is only one aspect of increasing diversity. You should invest in the continued growth and education of current employees through unconscious bias training, employee resource and allyship groups, and other DEI initiatives. People are constantly changing and evolving and our studio cultures must also adapt to keep the workplace a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and thriving place where everyone can do their best work.
Assembling a great team is a major achievement in itself. But management is then faced with the challenge of retaining these talents and providing the necessary support for crafting exceptional games on a daily basis. In our article Retain Top Gaming Talent with These Tactics, we cover some innovative strategies for keeping your game development team engaged and committed.