Racing to the top: How Top Drives dev Hutch Games combines rapid growth with a healthy work environment

London-based mobile studio Hutch Games has been hiring left, right and centre since the beginning of the year. The racing game developer, whose latest hit Top Drives reached 3m downloads in two months, has also been recognised for its top-notch company culture. We ask commercial director Peter Hansen-Chambers about how Hutch combines its rapid growth with a healthy work environment.

You’ve been recognised in various lists of ‘Best places to work in the UK’ recently, including in The Guardian, in which you were the only games studio in the small companies category – what sets you apart from other companies and led to this recognition?

We have always set out to establish a ‘great place to work’, and that ethos was fundamental to our approach to building the team. We understand that our team is our biggest asset, and it is the combination of our talent, experience and shared sense of purpose that drives Hutch forward as a business.

As a result, we have put a lot of effort into our culture, always striving to be open and honest, engaging with the whole team on major decisions and being transparent on the performance of our titles and the company at large. There is an emphasis on collaboration and we encourage the sharing of learnings (and mistakes) to help us improve collectively. We trust our team with decisions and encourage them to problem solve. We believe this approach provides greater satisfaction and empowers them in all their work.

Our culture seeks to be inclusive and encouraging, while delivering a good work-life balance that is fair and family-friendly. We recognise that our team is paramount to the company’s success and, with that said, by delivering the right environment, we can achieve more as a team.

You’ve been hiring heavily since the beginning of the year, can you tell me more about this recruitment push?

Recently, we have focused our efforts into building an additional (third) game team and have hired 14 new team members since January in roles across the business.

We are constantly on the lookout for new talent, whether that be in development or publishing-focused roles and irrespective of experience. We are fortunate to have a number of highly experienced individuals within the team that are great at mentoring more junior members of staff, and helping them to progress in their professional development. We currently have a number of open roles waiting to be filled and as we continue grow, we hope to welcome more new hires to the business.

Finding new employees is one thing, but how do you keep them around?

We invest a lot of time and energy into recruitment and finding the right talent with the right experience, who will be a good fit into the team and culture. This is not easy but incredibly valuable.

We are very proud of our high retention of staff and believe that taking a nurturing and supportive approach is key to keeping people around. We have a number of perks and benefits for all team members that include a work from home policy (normally every Tuesday and Thursday), enhanced maternity/paternity/adoption leave, and a selection of wellness services.

We recognise that there are many life changing moments that occur in people’s lives and as a business we strive to support everyone through these events as much as possible.

We have also supported staff in moving into new areas and departments when they have sought to take a different path in their career.

What practical measures are you taking to promote diversity in your workforce and hire staff from underrepresented background?

We have several processes in place to ensure we tackle diversity and recruitment fairly. When recruiting, we ask our partners to remove the name, location and educational information from the CVs of prospective applicants. Doing this allows our team to be entirely unbiased during the first stage of the interview process. No assumptions can be made and the candidate can be interviewed fairly.

We actively support Women in Games and are working hard to ensure diversity is engrained in all that we do and we believe great ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone. Our games are played by literally millions of people from all over the world, having a team with a diverse cultural and ethnic background helps us better understand and serve our dedicated players. As a result, we are able to draw down on different experiences – this helps us to overcome challenges, while improve as a team.

Do you have a set of values you share with your employees? How do you promote them in the workplace on a daily basis? 

Our team all share the same values and take a genuine interest in why things work, or don’t, and how things can be transformed for the better. Transparency and an inclusive culture is at the heart of what we do and guides our day-to-day approach. With this thinking, we empower everyone to try new things, take risks without fear and learn as they go, while also encouraging all to be commercially aware.

When new games have been launched or new ideas implemented in existing games, we work with all members of our team and constantly look to share our successes and failures. This ensures all corners of the business learn from each other, and creates a culture of sharing, which drives further progress.

What advice would you give to small studios to improve their company culture and the quality of their work environment? 

Trust your team! It is because we trust our team that we are open and honest and this establishes a company culture that empowers the team to solve problems collectively, take risks, make mistakes, all while developing new skills that add value to our studio. Working in a transparent, but collaborative manner provides greater flexibility and freedom. This is mutually beneficial as a workforce that feels trusted will feel happier and this leads to greater creativity and improved output. Our entire philosophy is based on trusting the team.

MMX Hill Dash 2 just released – what are your ambitions for this title and what’s next for Hutch Games?

MMX Hill Dash was a successful game for us, attracting an engaged community who continued to play the game for much longer than we ever expect, so with that in mind, it was important that with the next game in the series, we structured it in the right way, offering features that the existing audience would love. Our team experimented with new features, artwork, and introduced ARKit functionality, to enable racers to show off their creations with their friends.

We are also continuing to support our Top Drives title and are currently working on several new projects – watch this space for further announcements towards the end of the year.

About Marie Dealessandri

Marie Dealessandri is MCV’s former senior staff writer. After testing the waters of the film industry in France and being a radio host and reporter in Canada, she settled for the games industry in London in 2015. She can be found (very) occasionally tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate, Hollow Knight and the Dead Cells soundtrack.

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