group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

How to build an inclusive and resilient company culture

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

By Verónica Miñano, Head of Talent Acquisition at Kwalee

When I joined Kwalee back in 2016, I had to build our talent acquisition department from scratch.

Back then we were a company of only 23 employees; we are now up to 90 and growing fast, firmly established as the UK’s biggest hyper-casual mobile games company.

But when you’re growing at this rate, it’s very easy to change the fabric of the company in ways you did not anticipate, and to lose things that were previously important to your working environment.

This is especially true if you are making big changes like opening new offices, establishing new departments and creating more opportunities for remote working.

So here are my biggest pieces of advice on building a company culture that is resilient to these kinds of changes and that can survive even the most dramatic upheaval – including the events of 2020!

Identify and celebrate the pillars of your company culture

Company culture does not, and cannot, appear out of nothing. The first step is to identify what makes your company a great place to work and what employees already love about it, before enshrining these things as core values.

For Kwalee when I joined in 2016, the obvious example was how creatively everyone worked and the freedom people had to pursue their own ideas.

The clear way to develop this was to formalise this process to make it not only a fundamental influence in the company’s success going forward, but also something that could be used to embody our values as a company and set the standard for how we work.

Creative Wednesdays are now a weekly institution, encouraging employees of all roles and experience levels to pitch their own game ideas to the rest of the company. Those that find favour with the team have a chance to be made, and this approach has been behind nearly all of our global hits!

Not only does this approach filter through to every other area of the company in terms of encouraging new ideas and experimentation, it shows everyone that their ideas are valued highly – and that goes for prospective new employees too, who can see straight away from this that we are serious about these principles.

Our lunchtime pool, table tennis and Smash Bros. sessions are great, but these aren’t the things that build culture; it’s important to develop more lasting practices that can define your workplace no matter how much circumstances change.

Consider culture fit just as much as talent

We all want the most talented people to be part of our companies, but if you’re serious about building a company culture you need to consider how well an individual will fit into your team first and foremost.

An applicant could have the perfect range of skills that you’re looking for, but not be the best fit for the culture you have built. It’s easy to overlook this but a culture can begin to shift very quickly and it’s crucial to maintain this as you grow by hiring the right people.

Establish continuity to ease transition

Kwalee will soon be establishing our first overseas studio in Bangalore, India, and the first decision we made was that this will be the extension of our Leamington Spa headquarters in every way. While the official opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are already hiring in the region and will be opening as soon as it is safe to do so.

The two will collaborate as a single entity, with departments and teams made up of members from both Leamington and Bangalore, and the look and feel of the Bangalore studio will mirror that of our headquarters as much as possible.

Crucially, all employees, whether in Leamington Spa, Bangalore or working from home, will be eligible for participation in Creative Wednesdays and our generous profit share scheme. This consistency is key when attempting to scale a company, everyone will be happier knowing that the team is aligned, and it will be far easier to replicate success from an established blueprint.

These are just a small selection of tips, but the truth is that building and maintaining your culture should be a daily consideration! And if you like the sound of ours, our team at Kwalee is growing all the time and you can find all our open positions here.

About the author

With more than a decade of HR and recruitment experience, first in the engineering industry and more recently in gaming, Verónica Miñano has built Kwalee’s Talent Acquisition team from scratch and has overseen the company more than tripling in size in less than four years. She is passionate about how different personalities and skill-sets can be best combined to create a harmonious and creative working environment.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report 2019

BIMA logo

The BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Survey is not an attempt to add to the existing pile of census-type survey data but to do something that hasn’t been done before.

By asking employees of diverse age, race, and gender within the industry how they feel, the report explores the experience of being a member of the UK digital and technology community in 2019.

In late 2018 and early 2019, BIMA surveyed more than 3,000 people to explore their experience of diversity as members of the UK technology community.

Their responses showed that, from tackling stress, anxiety, and depression, to fighting discrimination and making more of untapped opportunities for talent and development, our industry has much to do.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT


Tech Talent Charter devise 2020 plan to make the tech industry more inclusive

Tech Talent CharterThe lack of diversity in the technology industry is an issue that many wish to tackle.

Unfortunately, women still hold less that 20 percent of technical roles in the UK and only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education are female.

In 2016, Debbie Forster noticed lots of companies were trying to improve diversity within their organisation, but were struggling to make any progress. As a consequence, in 2017, Forster founded the Tech Talent Charter (TTC). The TTC, which is voluntary and free to join, is a not-for-profit which aims to bring together organisations that have an interest in making the technology sector inclusive and diverse.

“All you’ve got to do is guarantee that you're doing something internally, that you're willing to collaborate, to share best practice, and to give me your data,” Forster explains.

This means that being part of the Tech Talent Charter is a privilege, and no matter how big and well-known your company is, you must adhere to the rules to ensure you remain part of the programme.

Forster explains "Both years that we had our report, I have cut members. If they don't give me data, they get removed. I removed 15 percent of my members this year and about 20 percent last year, because what we found is, when companies weren't sharing their data with us, it was because they didn't have the ingredients that they said they did. They didn’t get senior buy-in and they were really not comfortable in collaborating or sharing.”

Any company that is expelled from the programme can rejoin after a year, while knowing that Forster will be having some difficult discussions with them upon their return.

The TTC has recently release its diversity in tech benchmarking report which gives statistics from over 300 companies that are members of the organisation.

Although there isn't complete 50/50 gender parity, Forster is happy with the progress that the results show. Across TTC's signatories, women hold 24% of tech roles, compared to the current UK average of 16%.

One of the key parts of being involved in the Tech Talent Charter is adopting an inclusive recruitment process. This includes making sure job adverts are gender neutral and that all interview panels are gender diverse. This is in the hopes that, wherever possible, women are included within the whole interview process.

“What’s fantastic is to see that what we've been promoting is starting to bear fruit,” she says. “This is a great piece of incentive to bring back to people.

“It also shows that our companies are already indicating that they plan to develop a strategy. More [organisations] are planning to have those targets for shortlists, supporting returners and retraining people, which I think is going to be a game changer.”

Collaboration

In September 2019, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced its third round of funding for the Tech Talent Charter, generously contributing more than £350,000 in support of the initiative.

For Forster, collaboration is at the heart of the charter. In 2016, she was frustrated that so many companies were trying to improve inclusion and diversity in the tech industry without even reaching out to others who were trying to do the same, to find out how they were going about it.

“We bring together employers, recruiters, consultants and people who are working with under-represented groups to help them collaborate," she explains. "We think most of the pieces of the puzzle are out there but it's about bringing them together.”

The Future

In January this year, TTC held their third annual event, where people from across the tech sector come together to find out what members and supports of the Charter had achieved in the past year. During the event, Forster also shared her vision for the future and what goals she hopes the Tech Talent Charter will achieve.

In regards to long term targets, Forster has spoken of one very specific goal she hopes the 2020 Tech Talent Charter will achieve. She wants to not only focus on the lack of gender diversity, but also take a closer look at how (un)successfully organisations are hiring ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodiverse and socially diverse employees. Forster has also noted that, when it comes to gender, she wants signatories to look beyond binary definitions. As Forster noted at the event, if we only bring in more white, middle class women, that’s not diversity.

She said at the January event: “I want our members to know they can find the tools, the information, the strategies, the organisations, in order to genuinely move the dial on all aspects of inclusion and diversity. I want our members to be able to find posts in our open playbook and our mapping. I want to see those ingredients inspire more returning and retraining programmes, more targeting in terms of diverse shortlists and then really continuing to pull ahead of the pack when it comes to tech.”

The Tech Talent Charter has an exciting year ahead. For its signatories, the next 12 months are about continuing to build an inclusive working environment for diverse employees, as well as helping TTC to welcome in more organisations with the same vested interest.

“The time to act on it, to focus on the practical and move the dial is now,” as Forster concluded.


Diversity

Promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM

Diversity

Article provided by Greenlight Digital

In the fight to diversify the workplace, STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – have increasingly come under scrutiny.

In the US, engineering and the computer sciences make up 80 per cent of the STEM landscape. Yet women occupy a fraction of the jobs: 12 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. In the UK, the story is similar. The STEM workforce is estimated to be less than a quarter female.

Strangely, one solution might lie with a pursuit that, for a long time, was on the fringes of polite society: video gaming.

Video games and STEM are inexorably linked, according to study

An October 2018 report published in Big Think paints an interesting correlation between women who play games and women who go into STEM fields.

“The more girls play video games, the greater the chance they’ll pursue a STEM degree, regardless of what kind of game they play,” the report found, based on evidence collected in a longitudinal study surveying teenagers at seven different points in their life, from the ages of 13 to 20.

The study found that girls that played games were three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree at university than girls who didn’t play games.

No such correlation emerged with the teenage boys analysed.

Is it time we encouraged our daughters to get more actively involved in this booming, billion-dollar industry?

Well, as we discuss below, many girls are playing. The problem, in a twist of fate, is that the gaming industry has a diversity problem of its own.

The gaming industry’s diversity problem

The idea that playing video games is primarily the domain of boys is outdated. Women are increasingly playing too. In the United States, 41 per cent of players are female. In Canada, that rises to 49 per cent. In France, 53 per cent.

Yet representation in the gaming industry suffers in three key areas:

  1. Problem #1: the games themselves. As this list of the best-selling games of all time illustrates, the landscape is still dominated by machismo. The likes of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty – even Pokemon – all ask that you play as a male character. In fact, not a single game on the list mandates that you play as a female character.
  2. Problem #2: the number of women working in the games industry is low.biz estimates that about 21% of the industry is female; however, dig deeper, and only 5% of coders are women. The nuts and bolts of these games are almost always assembled by men.
  3. Problem #3: expectation. Publishing houses invest millions in bringing games to market and are fixated on the idea that gaming is a male pursuit, or at the very least, that men are the more dependable market. But then, consider this: the heads of the ten biggest publishing houses are all male. Does bias come into play here?

Yet, change is coming to the gaming industry – slowly

But if gaming is symptomatic of a larger diversity epidemic, there’s also cause for quiet optimism, because the video game landscape is slowly changing.

Take The Last of Us 2. The sequel to one of the best-selling games of all time is set to star a young lesbian woman named Ellie when the game is released sometime in 2019 or 2020. Another franchise, Gears of War, has typically bristled with machismo. Its next entry, Gears 5, will feature a female protagonist for the first time.

What has precipitated this change? A few years ago, Sony went to one of their most reliable studios, Guerrilla Games, with a proposition. After years of good service, Guerrilla, who had been churning out games in the Call of Duty mould, would be given the chance to make anything they liked. Faced with a blank slate, the Amsterdam studio devised a story starring a young warrior named Aloy; an empowered female character tasked with saving her tribe. Horizon Zero Dawn was released in 2017 to glowing reviews and, crucially, sold well too. To date, more than 10 million copies have been sold.

Thanks to the commercial success of Horizon, publishers are starting to revaluate their blinkered approach to creativity.

Will STEM follow suit?

The STEM fields need to similarly break free of the rut they’re in. One way to do this would be to embark on a promotional drive that highlights the inventions female scientists have brought the world. At school-level, aptitude for sciences is shown to be even across the sexes. In fact, many girls outperform boys. What girls often lack, studies show, is the same conviction in their abilities.

Thus, girls need role models to look up to, especially when conventional thinking suggests that scientific enquiry is somehow the domain of men.

A drive to dispel this myth would go a long way to levelling the landscape. In the end, that’s an ideal we should strive for, because no industry should ever be dominated by a single gender. Uniformity only gives rise to echo chambers of thinking and a dearth of ideas.

Simply put, tackling inequality in STEM starts with telling a better story.


Sources:

https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/10/01/2019/women-stem-critical-innovation

https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/girl-gamers-pursue-stem-degrees

https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-09-20-companies-really-need-to-ask-themselves-if-theyre-serious-about-diversity


The World of AI featured

Diversity and inclusion in the world of AI: Kiss the robot

 

Have you ever felt like you have woken up and put the wrong trousers on?
Robot
Image via Shutterstock

Nick Park’s animation film was one of my favourites when I was growing up, perhaps the first time I really thought about the impact of Robots.

Fast forward to today, and I have been completely drawn into the changing world of AI and Machine Learning, specifically how the tech world believe that it will shape the way we live, earn….and be human.

I had the privilege of attending a Leadership event last week hosted by Ricoh: How to Ensure Diversity & Inclusion drive Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies.

The discussion paper was presented by Vicky Macleod (Perfect Ltd) and facilitated by Vicky Sleight (Perfect Ltd) and Kim Ballestrin (Elabor8) alongside 15 industry experts, this was a dynamic conversation and heated at times! There was unanimous agreement that there needs to be a “standard” of accountability and transparency. Ian Greenstreet (Board Advisor, London Stock Exchange) succinctly stated that there was a necessity for “Disclosure”.

There was a line in the research paper that kept ringing in my head “AI learns about how the world has been- alarm bells. This means that it is truly down to us (the consumers of this AI) to shape the future; because right now, your AI solution is as intelligent as the historical data inputs – i.e: it learns from what is has already processed….there is nothing stopping your robot from learning bad behaviours and prejudices, adopting them as the new “normal”. This makes the debate around unconscious bias even more complex.

Back to “The Wrong Trousers”: Gromit thinks he has given Wallace the best birthday present ever – a solution that will make his life easier, automate the daily tasks…. making his life better. When Feathers switches the trousers; Wallace goes from inventor to criminal overnight, as Feathers takes control of the trousers to carry out the diamond heist. Luckily, the quick actions of Gromit save the day – but herein lies the question: How do we trust AI – are we too assuming that it is good?

Our willingness to engage with AI is all over the internet - but what is the true impact within a business environment?

Companies want to be hiring diverse workforces; research shows that this promotes better collaboration and innovation – business sustainability and growth. Companies don’t want to hire clones – I am told this daily in my role as a Talent Manager. They do want to hire people who are authentic but can we be certain that the latest AI tools are “inclusive” and not “exclusive”.

We need to work collaboratively to drive diversity and inclusion in the world of AI. The rise of AI will impact all industries on an international scale. We have to create the standards and codes to ensure that there is a clear line of accountability, moreover, to ensure that we can be our authentic selves.

About the author

Belinda is a passionate advocate for inclusive and values based talent attraction & retention. She thrives on the challenges of matching up individuals’ career aspirations to roles with forward thinking tech companies across Europe. By day, she is a Talent Manager at Cloudstream Global & by night, a classically trained singer.