Games Workshop Q&A; Matt Ellis Discusses The Challenges of Recruiting In The Games Industry (And How To Overcome Them)
Posted on 10th January 2018
Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing game development studios. In an industry full of highly skilled, incredibly mobile creative people, attracting (and keeping hold) of the best is a pretty big challenge.
That’s one of the reasons why we’re giving you the chance to speak to an expert in the area at Gamesforum London next year. Scede.io has been helping companies like Supercell and Space Ape grow over the past five years, helping to guide their recruitment processes at a company level.
But what does the company make of the challenges in the recruitment space? How can your business put the best foot forward when it comes to bringing talent on board? And what can you learn from them at our Games Business Workshop – supported by Scede.io, Creative England, The BFI and Oury Clark – on the morning of the 24th January?
We caught up with Matthew Ellis, founding partner at the company, to get some answers.
Gamesforum: Who are you, who do you work for and what do you do.
Matthew Ellis: My name is Matthew Ellis, I’m the founding partner of a company called Scede.io, which is a consulting and delivery company that help start ups to scale.
My last four years work has been helping Supercell grow 2013-2016 on their crazy journey to becoming a 10bn dollar company. And during the last year I’ve been working with Space Ape games, helping them grow in London through the latter part of their journey and acquisition from Supercell.
Prior to that, I was working with Skype during their acquisition from Microsoft. Through Scede.io, I’ve been involved in building talent solutions for thirty different companies.
Gamesforum: Why did you found Scede.io?
Ellis: There are a few things really. One is that we wanted to build something for ourselves and that’s something that rings true today in year five.
The other was that we saw a massive gap between the traditional agency supply model – which is quite a one dimensional CV sending service – and on the flip side the massive teams our founding team worked for – Microsoft, Spotify and Google – who churn out quality hires week in, week out.
We wanted to help companies that wanted to scale, but couldn’t rely on the traditional staffing model to scale tens of hires.
Gamesforum: Do you think the video game industry is one of those industries that particularly needs such an approach? And was Scede.io targeted towards video game companies?
Ellis: Scede.io was set up to embed with Europe’s most exciting tech start ups, we hadn’t targeted anything more specific. Supercell was my first involvement in the games industry from a professional basis. I’d played console, mobile and handheld games for a long time, but from a business perspective I hadn’t worked in it.
There’s a couple of things that are interesting about the games industry. From a recruitment perspective, it isn’t as mature as the pure tech industry. In the tech sector, you had Google alumni filtering out to be recruitment managers elsewhere – sharing out their rigor and best practice.
The games industry has had fewer companies that recruited at global scale. King, EA, Riot and one or two others have built globally distributed staffing functions. So our experience outside the industry has been super valuable in that regard.
In terms of logistics, games companies are often hiring for a spell – hey we need to hire x number of people now – and require an on demand service that helps them discover the best candidates and the required process around that.
Gamesforum: And when those companies are going out to try and hire people, what are the best practices for recruitment?
Ellis: Understand what you’re looking for. That’s absolutely priority number one. It sounds obvious, but workforce planning is often “we need a person for this team”
But the question is “what do you need them to do” and “what are the skills gaps”. That’s essentially the job description, not “we’ve hired a game developer 15 times already and we know what we’re looking for”.
Often, the gap that you have that you’re trying to hire into now might be a different shape to what you’ve hired before. So that needs analysis is absolutely key.
The second step is continually iterate your interview process so that it is one that provides your organisation an opportunity to strongly assess the candidate.
And by strongly assess, I mean it gives you the chance to understand as best as you can how they will work on some of the challenges you’re facing in your environment.
But more importantly, gives the candidate a really strong experience and insight into the work you’re doing, understanding the company journey and vision and what they’re going to be doing from the point of joining.
Far too often, the interview process is too one sided. Come and sit in our board room for six hours and be interrogated by person after person, probably asking you the same questions over and over again.
It needs to be structured, so they’re learning different things about the organisation and their work in each session. Equally, it should allow the interviewers to be gleaning pieces of information about the person.
Gamesforum: How can companies present themselves in the best possible light to lure in candidates – such as technical specialists or user acquisition experts – who’ll help them grow most successfully?
Ellis: That’s the age old question. Some of the big companies do the best job of broadcasting their employee value proposition or “evp”, but studios are at a smaller scale, hate buzzwords and all of this process.
The companies that do the best are the companies that share what they’re doing in the community. A good example of that is Space Ape.
They’ve had a series of events on live ops, and other topics, where they invited people into the studio, where they were very honest about how they were doing things so people could learn. They talked about mistakes, pitfalls.
And in that they’re broadcasting how they are as a business – very open, fail fast, share mistakes vibe – and also positioning themselves as knowledgeable and very humble.
Not everybody has a brand as strong as Supercell with Clash of Clans. If that’s the case then you need to have a brand as an employer that excites people, giving people the opportunity to understand what you’re working on, how you are tackling them and the challenges you face on the course of your journey.
Gamesforum: Scede.io is going to be joining our business workshop at Gamesforum. Is there anyone in particular you’re looking to meet on the 24th January?
Ellis: I guess it’s twofold. One, it could be people in a hiring position in games studios – “I’m a hiring manager, CTO or CEO, I want to bounce ideas off someone or I’m just about to start recruiting. That’s where we’re strongest.
Second, if you’re looking to scale and looking to hire, you can come and talk to us about how we helped out Rovio, Supercell and Space Ape to grow.
Want to meet Scede.io at the Games Business Workshop – supported by Scede.io, Creative England, the BFI and Oury Clark – on the 24th January? Register for your pass to the event here and then register your interest for a meeting on our fringe form here.
We work with high growth gaming studios to ensure they hire the best staff for their companies and their environments. We work with you, on site, as part of your team. We’ve helped to build teams for Supercell, Klarna, Farmdrop and more. If you’d like help building your team, get in touch here .