Retain Top Gaming Talent With These Tactics

Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone
Last updated on November 20, 2023

Hiring top talent to create a cohesive and productive team is a big accomplishment. The real challenge of management then becomes focusing on how to retain gaming talent and ensure everyone has the support they need to create great games every day. Let’s walk through some forward-thinking approaches about how to retain your game dev talent.

Foster an Inclusive Work Environment

Hopefully, you were able to leverage some of the inclusive hiring techniques to hire from a strong, diverse candidate pool. It’s important to continue this commitment to DEI by fostering an inclusive work environment for current employees. One way to do this is through surveys and regular meetings in large and small groups, even 1:1, to hear from employees about what’s going well and what still needs improvement. Include employees in the discussion about how to make improvements and be honest about shortcomings and how you plan to deal with them.

This kind of open communication improves working relationships at all levels. Plus, it encourages collaboration within and across teams and organizations, even across disciplines. Sometimes you’ll be surprised that another group is facing a similar challenge, and they may have already identified a solution. Maintaining collaborative partnerships facilitates learning from each other’s mistakes and successes – and that knowledge can help you make quicker progress and avoid pitfalls.

As you listen, you may find that there are some challenges you are not fully equipped to deal with – or maybe some leaders don’t even understand what the challenge is. This is where corporate training can be valuable. Whether it’s DEI, unconscious bias, interpersonal communication, allyship, or another form of training, learning from professional instructors is a great way to get everyone on the same page so they have the same foundational understanding of what it means to be inclusive and the terminology to continue the conversations after the training class ends.

Encourage Continuous Learning

Training is just one way your studio can encourage continuous learning. Another is by planning learning into your dev cycle on a consistent basis. If your team is using Agile, or a similar process, you can build learning into your sprint planning. PentaBlog shares the multiple forms of Agile learning they offer their teams, including knowledge sharing sessions, online webinars, and learning platforms. In order to take full advantage of these learning opportunities, build time for these activities into the sprint cycle, separate from regular project work. If your team uses OKRs, you can even create OKRs specifically about learning so that everyone feels ownership for their growth and clear learning goals each quarter.

Sprint retrospectives themselves are a learning tool that can be underutilized. It’s important to create a safe and inclusive space for retrospectives so employees are comfortable sharing not just what went well, but what needs to be improved or removed going forward – and product owners, scrum masters, and managers need to take this constructive criticism and use it to inform real change. A commitment to learning means we must recognize when we have missed the mark, learn from it, modify our approach, and try again. Learning involves failing, sometimes repeatedly, and refining your knowledge with each iteration. Having management embrace and celebrate the lessons learned from failures is a powerful way to demonstrate a studio’s commitment to learning.

Facilitate Mentorships

Mentorships are a way to foster collaboration and an inclusive culture, while also providing employees with an opportunity for continuous learning. Forbes cites a Randstad case study that revealed, “employees who participated in mentoring programs were 49% less likely to leave.” Not only were they less likely to leave, they were more satisfied with their jobs. Of course, this depends on the mentor-mentee relationship being successful, so some planning and coordination need to occur to create effective mentorships.

Mentorship programs facilitated at the corporate level take time to build, but give employees a clear way to engage in mentorships with each other in a system that has established processes and support. For instance, mentoring rings – where one or two mentors meet with multiple junior employees of roughly the same level of experience – can be a good way to scale if your studio is having trouble finding enough mentors, or lacks mentors in a certain demographic.

Finally, company-wide speed-mentoring events are a fun way to introduce employees seeking a mentor to several potential options before pursuing a formal mentoring relationship. Allowing employees to schedule with volunteers across the company also gives folks the chance to learn about other areas of your studio and make connections in areas they might not otherwise.

Create Career Pathways

Mentors are also a valuable resource for advice on advancing your career, but having well defined career pathways makes that advice more concrete and actionable – for the mentor and the mentee. According to Indeed, “Career paths for employees are clear goals and milestones that detail the progression from one job to another in an organization. Career paths can increase employee retention while developing the professional skills of the workforce.”

Creating career paths involves defining and documenting discipline hierarchies, job levels, skills required at each level and how to get promoted, and any other information about what is required for each job at every level. Sometimes these hierarchies become matrices in order to account for cross-discipline positions, management vs. individual contributor roles, and other unique roles you may have within your studio. Forbes has another article that explains how to create career paths, but the main point is to define how career advancement works in as much detail as possible. That way, mentors, managers, and leaders can have meaningful conversations about career growth with employees.

Recognize the Influence of Compensation

Salary data and how promotions impact pay, rewards, and bonuses is another area where transparency can go a long way to create clarity and satisfaction for gaming devs. While game industry employees tend to be particularly passionate about their work, they still require fair pay and benefits to live their lives and support themselves and those who depend on them. Being upfront about what your studio offers allows potential employees to make an informed decision, and gives current employees clear insights into what they can expect as they advance in their career.

In addition, being open about compensation and recognizing the importance of equitable pay will set your studio up for long term success and compliance. A newer trend in the games industry is unionization, driven by “People waking up to the idea that they are, in fact, entitled to predictable work schedules, healthcare, fair compensation and equitable treatment” according to an article from the Los Angeles Times. In addition, many states and cities are adopting pay transparency laws as “a tool that state and local governments are using to combat pay gaps through salary range disclosure laws, pay data reporting mandates, and bans on pay secrecy.” You can learn more about pay transparency and keep up-to-date with changing laws with ADP.

Evolve Alongside New Work Models

Finally, embrace change. Just as encouraging continuous learning, mentoring, and collaboration is important for employee growth, the ability to learn and adapt at a corporate level is also key to retaining top talent. Covid introduced new work styles, and many employees want to retain the flexibility that remote or hybrid work offered them. Keep up on industry trends and HR news and evaluate what other studios are doing. Attend conferences and participate in panels to share best practices, and then work with your employees to implement changes that will continue to aid productivity and job satisfaction.

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Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone is an instructor at Miami University in Ohio for the Computer and Information Technology department, specializing in process and DevOps. Prior to teaching, Allison worked at Microsoft for 18 years, first as a Technical Writer, then as a Program Manager and Director at Xbox. In her last role she was a regular contributor to

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