Company cultures have been increasingly put under the spotlight during the last decade or so, with this exacerbated in recent times after the coronavirus pandemic placed a grip on global freedoms. 

Over the course of a three-part CasinoBeats special edition roundtable, a range of topics spanning work life balances, six-hour work days, the quality of life and career progression conundrum and the ‘anti-work’ movement.

In a bumper second edition, Cathryn McGinty, Chief People Officer at Glitnor Group, Nana Shneider, Human Resources Development at Betbazar, Giorgi Tsutskirdze, Chief Commercial Officer at Spribe and Alina Dandörfer, Co-Founder and Director at Apparat Gaming, continue the conversation.

CasinoBeats: While a good company culture can be highly appealing to prospective employees, how important is it that the process also works the other way as well? When acquiring new talent, do you also look at character, personality and how the prospective employee might fit your values?

Cathryn McGinty: It’s massively important. Even if you find someone with the perfect skill set, if their personality isn’t a good fit as well, it’s not going to work for the company or the individual. Sometimes it doesn’t work with people that are used to working in a particular way and we’ve definitely seen that in the past.

We’ve hired team members who’ve come over from a big corporate company where their work is very structured and they’ve simply not known how to deal with the added flexibility that we’ve given them. I think it’s just important to always be painting an accurate picture – and at Glitnor we definitely do a good job of that.

I think there’s a clearly-defined vision for how we work. People can see that we’re currently a small business that’s still in the early phase of its life, but that there’s also a real ambition and foundation there for growth that’s driven by the entrepreneurial spirt of our founders.

“We don’t only want people who fit the current company culture, but rather those who we feel can play an active role in shaping it too”

Nana Shneider, Human Resources Development at Betbazar

With this in mind, we’re always on the lookout for individuals that grasp this ethos, understand how we operate and have the adaptability to fit that way of working. I think that’s the key to being successful long term.

Nana Shneider: Absolutely, and this a point that I keep coming back to. At Betbazar, we believe it’s incredibly important to consider the personality and outlook of an individual as well as their professional skills. We invest a lot in each employee so we’re not really interested in hiring a person for a month or two, but instead look at the long term and how we can really integrate that person into the values we represent.

Having said that, we do try to be flexible in our outlook. We don’t only want people who fit the current company culture, but rather those who we feel can play an active role in shaping it too – and I think this is how it should work when acquiring new talent. We value professionalism very much, but we also look at the humane side of the employee; and while both of these things can be developed, either one on its own is probably not enough to work at Betbazar.

Of course, we help with both aspects wherever we can. After an employee goes through their probation, they’re free to seek out any one-on-one courses that they think will aid their development and that’s something that we’re more than happy to invest in if it will ultimately be of benefit to our company’s culture.

Giorgi Tsutskirdze: Definitely. It’s important that we onboard people who are not just talented and creative, but also fit the Spribe culture, are passionate about what we do and are just as dedicated to achieving our ambitious goals as the rest of the team.

Some of the key qualities we look for are openness, great communication skills, high levels of motivation, reliability, stability, the ability to think critically and use intuition and, as a globally-based business, language fluency. By aligning these traits with our company culture, we ensure employees are the right fit for Spribe and that Spribe is also the right fit for them.

“…we prioritise putting together a team which, skill set aside, contains a great deal of matching characters”

Alina Dandörfer, Co-Founder and Director at Apparat Gaming

Alina Dandörfer: Of course – our German test is legendary. No sense of humour is a prerequisite for employment! But seriously, we prioritise putting together a team which, skill set aside, contains a great deal of matching characters. We therefore try to involve the team in the screening process to review the candidate from different angles.

Personally, my favourite part of an interview is when the candidate brings up their queries – not only because we as a company must stand up to that test, but more importantly, a candidate’s questions show their mindset, preferred way of working and character.

Whatever they bring in their backpack, it should connect to the team and enrich it; although it doesn’t hurt if they show tolerance for us Germans, because sometimes we’re admittedly quite particular!

CB: One of the most seismic shifts for all businesses in recent years has been working from home and how this model has either been replaced or incorporated into company culture post-pandemic. How has each of your companies dealt with this issue and in what ways do you feel your approach has benefited both your businesses and the quality of life of your employees?

NS: Even beyond the pandemic, the working from home model has been a major part of how Betbazar operates. As one of our main offices is based in Ukraine, the current situation there means many employees are still not able to make it into work, so we’ve obviously had to be quite flexible with our approach.

It sounds simple, but the main thing we’ve tried to do is treat employees like adults, not kids. At the end of the day, we’re all professionals with a job to do, so there’s never been a very serious tracking system in place for working hours and we don’t monitor that sort of thing through technology.

By trusting our employees and being open-minded in this way, throughout both the pandemic and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, we’ve never stopped working. Everyone has been independently doing their job full time while managing their schedule in a way that works for them.

“…each employee can decide which environment works best for them and pick and choose”

Giorgi Tsutskirdze, Chief Commercial Officer at Spribe

Of course, we’ve supported employees’ efforts by providing them with everything they need to work from home – be that computers, office equipment or power banks – and this has enabled us to keep the ball rolling during a very difficult time and continue developing the company all over the globe. 

GT: We are super flexible when it comes to whether someone works from the office or from home. By taking a hybrid approach, each employee can decide which environment works best for them and pick and choose when they work from home and when they work from the office.

Generally we see employees do both, with most people coming into the office if we are holding a team-building event or social activity such as ‘Happy Friday’.

For us, the most important thing is that each member of the team is in an environment that allows them to reach their full potential, so as long as they can do that while still contributing to their team and the wider business, it doesn’t matter whether they are home-base, office-based or a mix of the two. This has always been true for us, both pre and post-pandemic.

AD: Working from home was our culture before the company was out of diapers – and as a three-year-old we have just outgrown our diapers. Starting the business in the first pandemic year, the founding team met online in glorious Monday evening calls from home to lay the foundation for Apparat.

Beside the external circumstances, we as founders were and are located in two different places, neither of which is a mecca for igaming talent. We knew from the start that we’d have to search for talent worldwide and that inevitably meant having a set up that would address these challenges.

The answer is freedom with respect to the place and working time in balance with employee’s current life situation. If the travel bug hits some of our employees, we support them and try to facilitate a ‘workation’. At the end of the day, although we always aim to achieve the stereotype of German quality, it’s the result that counts, not the place where it was achieved, so we do what we can to accommodate people.

“It’s therefore more about the quality of the interactions that people have, rather than the frequency”

Cathryn McGinty, Chief People Officer at Glitnor Group

CM: I think the world of work was already in a state of change even before the pandemic happened – it just moved the dial faster and pushed things forward by about ten years or so. I feel as a business, we’ve definitely embraced this change and managed to strike up a good balance.

While we want to ensure that we remain connected, we recognise that we’re a global business and not everyone is going to be in the same place at the same time. It’s therefore more about the quality of the interactions that people have, rather than the frequency.

In Malta, we used to be in a beautiful Villa where we only had a limited number of desks, so I think we recognised we were starting to lose a bit of who we were. We want people to actually look forward to the time that they spend together – and that’s the feeling we’re trying to create with the new office we’ve invested in.

We want to build a space where people can meet, collaborate, build relationships and have some fun as well; and I think when you’re purely working from home, you miss out on that. As I said, I think the key is having the right balance. When there’s a hybrid system in place and you have that flexibility, you see people wanting to come in more. 

CB: In a similar vein, we’ve seen Scandinavian companies introduce a six-hour working day and other businesses offer a scheme where employees choose the number of holiday days they’d like to take. Do you think incentives like these can have a positive benefit on employees’ physical and mental health without negatively impacting productivity or does a balance need to be struck?

GT: Our employees work 40 hours a week with 30 vacation days, seven extra days off and seven sick days per year – employees can take these days as and when they want or need to.

“Studies have shown that changing to a four-day week has had positive effects on employees’ well-being”

Alina Dandörfer, Co-Founder and Director at Apparat Gaming

We understand working longer hours can lead to employees being less productive, but at the same time, it’s expensive to implement six-hour workdays with the benefits of investing in this taking a long time to return – in most cases, it can be hard to determine if there’s ultimately a financial advantage to taking this approach.

A shorter workday is attractive to employees, making it easier to attract top talent and retain existing employees, but for many positions, it’s not feasible to condense a working day in this way.

For example, for those working in business development, it’s the individual that’s in demand and they are always on the go. That’s why we’ve opted for a results-based culture and not a time-based one – so long as employees are hitting their goals, it doesn’t matter when and where those goals are achieved.

AD: The short answer is, yes, I absolutely think so – and that’s also the bridge to the long part of my answer! Studies have shown that changing to a four-day week has had positive effects on employees’ well-being as well as benefits for the company. Employees were less stressed and had reduced levels of burnout.

Likewise, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved. Leisure, family, and work become more compatible, thereby raising the equality as it became easier to balance work with family and social commitments. For the companies, key business metrics also showed signs of positive impact i.e. company revenue stayed broadly the same.

The number of staff leaving decreased, while occupational health increased, leading to less absenteeism and more plannable manpower. That said, shorter working hours create challenges for the organisational structures as well as the work culture. Therefore, work processes have to be creatively optimised and office costs can be reduced.

“A few companies have tried incentives like these, but I think it’s worth noting that many have failed as well”

Cathryn McGinty, Chief People Officer at Glitnor Group

And lastly, flexible working time arrangements pay on the company’s attractiveness. Over the years different models for four-day weeks have emerged, and it’s ultimately on the company to decide which one fits their purposes best.

CM: A few companies have tried incentives like these, but I think it’s worth noting that many have failed as well. It’s a really tough thing to manage, because what you find with the holiday days in particular is that it can actually have the opposite effect of what you intended.

There’s an added pressure there and people almost feel like they shouldn’t be taking the days they’re entitled to for fear of being seen negatively in comparison to their colleagues. Essentially, I think so-called ‘attractive’ working schemes like these often cause more problems than they solve, so we’re not looking to embrace them ourselves.

Instead, we take the simple view that there’s a job to be done and we trust our team members to do it. We don’t clock in or out and we don’t rigidly monitor working hours, we just encourage the right amount of flexibility so people can find a work-life balance that suits their individual needs.

I think this is massively important, because sometimes when companies try to be prescriptive about things like that, it can actually be counter-productive. For that reason, I don’t think we need to start putting any set policies in place – we just need to enable and trust people to do what they need to do.

NS: I think it mainly comes down to a question of culture. While a shortened working week might be productive in Scandinavia, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same system will work in other countries where there’s a different work ethic in place. Generally, the best approach a company can take is to hire people that you don’t need to control in terms of working hours in the first place.

When you look at some of the bigger companies where there are a lot of junior employees, of course you have to take into account their mentoring and development – and in this case, the amount of working hours does matter and you do need to keep track. However, at Betbazar we’re mostly made up of middle management and senior positions, so people already know how to work efficiently and I don’t think the actual hours have much of an impact for us either way.

That said, when you introduce an initiative like a shorter working week or flexible holiday days, the real benefit you get is seeing how people adapt. After all, the way we react to changes and develop with them is what makes us successful, as our minds are being broadened and we’re learning new ways to work.