In part two of our HR and working practices special edition, we take a look at the current working environment across online casino and sports betting, the four-day working week and if there’s any other practices or models that could be introduced or trialled to drive further improvements.
Kate Price, Interim HR director of Blueprint Gaming, Leila Goelz, Chief People and Transformation Office at Games Global, Maciej Biernat, HR Director at Kalamba Games, Katie Byers, SVP of People Capability at Light & Wonder – iGaming, Tonia Symington, Group HR Director at Sportingtech, and Anne Muscat Scerri, Chief People Officer at Videoslots, offer their insights once again.
CasinoBeats: Do you think that the current working environment is significantly different in igaming/sports betting compared to the wider world? If so, how?
Katie Byers: I came into my current role from outside the industry and one thing that strikes me every day is how fast-paced it is, from inception right through to the final execution of projects. From a technical standpoint that can be incredibly exciting for potential candidates, as can the scale at which we work at a platform level.
If you take away the label the industry is sometimes given and instead focus on the experiences that people can have working within igaming, then you start to see how attractive it is as a working environment – certainly at Light & Wonder.
The industry as a whole is changing dramatically and if you love transformation and you have a background deep in technology or simply enjoy the process of rapid change, then igaming businesses are fantastic places to come and work, being both challenging and rewarding.
“The working environment is a key consideration to help support the culture you wish to create”Leila Goelz, Chief People and Transformation Office at Games Global
Leila Goelz: For me, the igaming industry has something special about it. Over the past 15 years I have seen the working environment change and evolve as the industry has matured.
However, it has always maintained a fast paced ever evolving energy which is reflected by those who work within the sector. The working environment is a key consideration to help support the culture you wish to create.
The technology space as a whole is highly competitive, and the igaming industry is no longer just competing with itself but with the wider tech industry. This means that our attraction and retention strategy has to be a key focus. An environment that is engaging, encourages collaboration, fosters innovation and appeals to our diverse demographic is critical.
Maciej Biernat: The igaming/sports betting industry certainly does have its own set of considerations when compared to the wider working world.
We need to navigate through a mix of things like regulatory compliance, tech know-how, a global perspective, a focus on customers, and, of course, it’s seriously competitive! The aim of course is to achieve a balance of all these things at Kalamba – I know we certainly try!
Tonia Symington: I joined igaming some 23 years ago now, and of course back then it was everyone in the office five days a week, the same as pretty much every business.
COVID-19 obviously changed that for everyone and allowed greater flexibility for people to work from home initially through necessity and later just because it worked.
“…flexible, hybrid working arrangements can be highly beneficial”Maciej Biernat, HR Director at Kalamba Games
It benefited some companies over others. Downsizing their office space saved them money on space and utilities and so they were able to provide hybrid or book a desk schemes.
Of course, some businesses or are unable to operate remotely due to regulations, but those are more in the minority rather than the majority. It appears that hybrid working is here to stay with companies able to offer this.
Anne Muscat Scerri: Yes of course it is, but it all depends what industry you compare it with. Working within this sector obviously has its challenges but it is exciting and fast-paced.
It is also highly demanding, and you need to be smart and agile. I think to truly succeed in igaming/sports betting, it helps to have an attitude that accept changes. This is not easy, as many prefer stability in their work life.
Kate Price: With igaming being a relatively young and fast-moving industry, that manifests itself in many ways. One of which is its propensity to be open to new working environments and initiatives for staff welfare. It can proudly consider itself to be among the leaders in the way its stakeholders generally consider their people.
Obviously, working environments are subjective across industries by their very nature and not all workplaces can operate in the same ways we can, but we can only hold ourselves up against our own high standards and hope that others do the same where possible.
CB: There has been a growing conversation about a four-day working week with some early studies showing it to boost productivity. Of course, this is highly subjective, but do you feel this could work for you?
MB: Whilst a four-day working week could potentially offer significant benefits, it’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s also important to consider potential challenges like extended working days and differing impacts on different Kalambians, and the necessity for a shift in how work performance is evaluated.
“…saving on commuting time and getting an extended weekend can have a great impact on people’s lives”Tonia Symington, Group HR Director at Sportingtech
However, like I say, our experience at Kalamba Games suggests that flexible, hybrid working arrangements can be highly beneficial, so I would tend towards a ‘wait and see’ approach before making any substantive changes here.
TS: For some roles it works well – saving on commuting time and getting an extended weekend can have a great impact on people’s lives. There are positives and negatives with everything. A four-day working week is shown to result in fewer sick days, less stress, more equality, and a greater attraction tool in recruitment.
However, there are some key questions to ask. Are we saying you work four, ten-hour days so you still work full time and just cram more into those four days, and risk productivity? Or do we do something radical such as a 35-hour week with no impact on salary? A lot of countries are still trialling these ideas.
KP: It is not something that has been explored at Blueprint to date, but it is interesting to see the developments being made in this area. We’re not against any changes that can benefit the company and enhance the way we operate but of course, we need to be sure any changes that may be considered radical would absolutely work for us and all our colleagues.
AMS: We are not discussing this at the moment at all. We are still just out of the pandemic. Our operations are 24/7 and we operate in a tech reality that changes very quickly, with a strong need for more, talented employees.
I don’t dismiss the studies done on this topic, on the contrary I read them with great interest. However, we aren’t actively exploring this route.
LG: If any industry can make a four-day working week successful, then I have no doubt it will be igaming. It’s an exciting prospect, but also a relatively new ideology, which still needs to take so many factors into consideration.
“We are very focused on business impact and delivery and this is how productivity is measured, rather than simply when our people turn up”Katie Byers, SVP of People Capability at Light & Wonder – iGaming
Being able to fully serve customers is of course one of the most important factors, but there also has to be a lot said for additional pressure being placed on employees. Condensing work into four days for some is not practical and can increase the risk of burn out.
We are open to new ideas and ways of working and are continuously reviewing our policies and best business practices at Games Global to build and develop our working environment. We want to create a balance of a great working culture and high productivity from our people.
KB: Flexibility is here to stay. Given the nature of igaming and the fact it is a 24/7 business, that makes it very difficult – from a practical standpoint – to move all departments to a four-day week.
A number of our roles require availability at all hours to fix technology problems and within the live casino part of our business, you have a matter of seconds to address issues rather than days. In these roles, a four-day structure wouldn’t work.
That said, there are always roles where there are opportunities to adopt this pattern, for example working five days in the space of four. We are very focused on business impact and delivery and this is how productivity is measured, rather than simply when our people turn up. Ultimately, within this idea and the always-on nature of our industry, it’s about adopting practices that work for you.
CB: Are there any other practices or models you would like to see introduced or trialled?
KP: No practices or models as such but a focus on an increase in training activity for Line Managers would benefit. This would ensure we have the right skills to continue to move with the times in areas such as delegating tasks, empowering your team and effective feedback to promote learning and progression.
KB: There are elements relating to our culture and ideas we hold dear we could examine. For example, we can examine unlimited paid time off, which ties into the culture of people owning their own time.
“I believe we should at least let things settle down and let employees get reaccustomed to a working way of life”Anne Muscat Scerri, Chief People Officer at Videoslots
We have created an adult environment in which people are empowered to make their own decisions and I want to continue to build on that. People care, dramatically, about this business and will make the time that is needed, wherever, whenever, to execute with flexibility.
One thing that surprised me coming into this business is the extent to which we operate formally in an agile way in terms of our mentality. Across Light & Wonder, as we drive our player experience orientation, there are opportunities to become laser-focused and trial further ways of agile working outside of engineering and other places you would normally find it.
Additionally, what’s on my mind a lot is workspace strategy and how we can set up and use what we have optimally. The working environment is critical to bringing out the best in people and the last few years have shown us is that if people feel comfortable, they enjoy what they do.
There might be resistance to coming back to work due to a comfortable environment at home. As we move forward, we have to make sure we have the right types of spaces that tell the story of who we are and how we want to operate.
AMS: At the moment, no. Obviously, things can change quickly in this environment, but we have just come out of a global emergency and people are just adapting to their working practices pre-pandemic.
I believe we should at least let things settle down and let employees get reaccustomed to a working way of life in the office again before any other models are suggested.
TS: I don’t believe that cutting working days to four but keeping the same number of working hours is the right approach. Research has shown that countries like Denmark and Norway have working weeks shorter than 40 hours and have employees that are happier, more engaged, and are in the top 10 of most productive countries in the world.
“Organisational agility is also going to be key for all companies looking forwards if they want to be able to keep pace”Leila Goelz, Chief People and Transformation Office at Games Global
Obviously in igaming we generally have employees across many time zones, which could allow us to be more open to ideas of asynchronous working, although this only works where employees can get work done on different shifts without impacting anyone else.
It also allows employees to benefit from one of the many new Nomad digital visas which allows employers to recruit from a much wider pool of potential employees. Of course, everything is still in a state of flux, so it will be interesting to watch what happens in the industry going forward.
MB: I think there’s some scope to introduce AI in some instances. For example, we could use AI to support flexibility and wellbeing. AI could be used to analyse individual productivity patterns and suggest an employee’s best work hours or identify signs of stress or burnout.
Similarly, AI could be a big help when it comes to scheduling projects, work and diary management and of course support some customer service functions. The possibilities are huge, and this is certainly an area we look to expand upon in the future.
LG: Artificial Intelligence is the topic of many conversations across the industry at the moment. New AI tools have the ability to transform the way we work and can allow employees to focus on efficiency to allow a greater opportunity for innovation through human creativity.
Organisational agility is also going to be key for all companies looking forwards if they want to be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing outside factors and headwinds. Creating a structure that can adapt to all sorts of unexpected changes or even global events is something all businesses should be looking at and building into their business models.