Even putting aside the current political omnishambles, the competition for talent in development isn’t likely to recede anytime soon. And a highly competitive market means that studios will continue to look far afield for the right candidates. On the other hand, developers will continue to be tempted by the most exciting and rewarding roles, wherever they may be.
So whether you’re a studio bringing staff in from the other side of the globe, or a developer simply moving across the country, relocation remains a key part of the recruitment process. So what should studios offer, what should candidates expect, and how best to settle new staff into the local area?
“The most important aspect to successful relocation is the hiring process,” says Emma Smith, Creative Assembly’s talent manager. After all, if the work side isn’t right then the rest of the relocation will be doubly stressful. “You need to take the time and care to make sure the individual is the right cultural fit for the team, and really make them feel settled, alleviating the stress that relocating can cause.”
She tells us that relocation needs to be part of the discussion from the very start: “We are bringing talent from all over the world to join us and that often means relocating individuals and families. That’s a big decision for someone to make, so we start that discussion from the first stage of the interview process,” Smith explains.
Kim Parker Adcock, owner of recruitment agency OPM Response, agrees: “In our experience, the sooner you bring this up the better. Relocation is one of the biggest barriers we face when it comes to offer stage. It’s important to be open about it from the beginning and get the buy-in from the applicant as soon as possible.”
Smith continues, noting that it’s never one-size fits all: “If the candidate continues through that process, at each stage we go deeper to understand them, their lifestyle and their situation so we can provide the best support and alleviate any worries they may have.”
Parker Adcock adds: “Studios that are good at this send an information package to applicants that details the local area. We like to use cost of living comparison sites such as Numbeo, so applicants can see how much it costs to live in different areas.”
The face-to-face interview stage is a key point for the relocation discussion she tells us: “Usually the applicant will be going to visit the studio for the interview, so this is our chance to discuss the area. We even recommend booking an extra day or two if possible, to check out the local area while you’re there.”
And Creative Assembly is also keen to ensure that the face-to-face interview is used to its utmost: “We will always pay to bring the candidate over to our UK studios, no matter their location. We meet them face to face and give them a chance to get a feel for our culture and the local area. We want to be certain that they are the right fit for the team and equally, that they will be happy here.”
PACKAGE IT UP
OK, so the candidate and the role are perfectly matched and first impressions of the local area are positive. Congratulations, you’re all off to a great start, but it’s only the beginning!
Moving is always hard work. Even if you’re a single person with few belongings, moving across the country from one rented property to another, there’s still plenty to plan in order to make sure you have somewhere nice to live with all the various utility bills squared away.
At the other end of the scale the task looks enormous. For a homeowner looking to sell and buy new property, who might be moving with their partner and have children involved, the emotional and bureaucratic hurdles can be considerable.
But worry not, for incoming staff aren’t alone in all this. So just what help can employers provide? For starters, if you’re the one relocating then be sure that any financial assistance with the move is discussed and agreed in writing before you accept the job. And if relocation costs, often called a relocation package, aren’t mentioned at interview, then bring up the subject yourself.
Remember that the company wants to hire you and that relocation is a one-off cost for it, so there’s often more flexibility here than there is with salary negotiations. Few companies hire well in advance of their needs either, so providing help to get you moved quickly and smoothly, so as to get you up-and-running on the project, is in its interests as well.
And relocation packages aren’t just for the top jobs, as Smith explains: “We offer relocation packages, including visas, for all our permanent positions outside of a 35 mile radius of the studio, whether this is an entry level role or for a senior executive.”
Parker Adcock continues: “It’s not always available, but usually is. Companies that offer this tend to have a better acceptance rate when offering jobs to staff abroad. This is a candidate driven market and some applicants won’t consider relocating if there isn’t a relocation package, no matter how big or small it is.”
JET SET PETS
So what should a typical relocation package cover and how are they paid?
“We’ve seen relocation packages from £500 to £10,000. On average it’s usually about £2,000. It really depends on the individual’s situation – partner, children, distance of relocation, visa, and so on,” says Parker Adcock, providing some ballpark figures.
Smith adds: “It’s all about being flexible to the needs of the individual and, if relevant, their family. They decide on the level of service they would like. It may just be support with flights or it may be arranging pet transfers, shipping belongings and accommodation. In terms of costs being covered by Creative Assembly, this is negotiated on a case by case basis, depending on the individual’s circumstances and where they are relocating from.”
Some relocation packages are simply paid in a lump sum upfront, so you can spend it as you want. Others will reimburse you for certain costs up to an agreed limit, while some companies will offer to organise everything for you and pay for it directly. Many are flexible too, depending on how involved you want them to get.
And when it comes to those little extras there’s lot more studios can do to make new staff feel welcome, Parker Adcock says: “Companies can get a little creative here, such as reduced price or free temporary housing, free flights, agency fees paid for, shipping paid for, replacing like for like goods that can’t be shipped, and possibly the most important for some: helping to relocate pets.”
Yes, pet relocation is a significant consideration and Smith gives us an example: “A couple from Canada relocated to a local city and we provided a guide to all the local things to do and see for them and their dog. Yes, their dog. Their beloved British Bulldog even got his own welcome treat on arrival.”
There are dedicated relocation agencies out there, but that’s just one approach, as Smith tells us: “We have recently brought our relocation service fully within the studio. Our new relocation coordinator provides a fully bespoke service from initial job offer to their first few weeks at Creative Assembly, including greeting them upon arrival in their new home.
“This level of support includes the general relocation, but also an additional level of detail which we believe really helps settle someone into their new home. This might be a hamper of essential foods, like coffee, tea, bread and milk upon arrival, guidance and tours of the local area, or even registrations for starting children at local schools. The support doesn’t stop there, we offer help with rental contracts, flat shares and more for everyone at Creative Assembly.”
That’s a pretty impressive sounding service and one other studios would do well to match. After all, this is a talent-based business and anything studios can do to settle that talent quicker, and help retain it for longer, is money well spent.
A new job can be daunting enough, but moving for work adds extra pressure. So once the relocation is complete, what can the studio do to support new staff in those critical first few weeks and months?
Parker Adcock answers: “Migrating to another country with a different language and culture can be daunting, throw in a little bit of homesickness and it can be too much for some. It really is up to the studio to help their new staff integrate. ‘Meet the team’ lunches, social evenings and regular check-ins from management go a long way to help integrate new staff. I have to say the games industry overall is very good at this.”
Smith is clear that although the studio will do all it can to support them, all staff must deliver on the job: “It is obviously a big decision to relocate for a job, and we want to support people in that process, but our induction and probation period are the same for everyone. It’s important that they start off on the same foot as everyone else and can focus on creating the best games from when they step through the door.”
We hope that helped if you’re thinking of moving. And remember that any sizeable employer or recruiter in the games industry has done it all before, and that experience is among the most important assets they can provide to you, so don’t be afraid to ask.