Q&A: Alan Dixon and Stag Strand from Amiqus on recruitment

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that we can never take too much for granted. Covid-19 may or may not be something that we continue to look at through the rear view mirror, but its legacy of remote and hybrid working continues to provide opportunities while posing questions around productivity. 

Throw in the ever-present issue of a persistent skills shortage and a cost of living crisis that was nowhere to be seen twelve months ago, and it’s clear that it’s a unique and challenging time for game industry recruitment. To help us get a clear picture of how things have been, how they are now and how they might develop over the coming year, we’ve asked a crack team of in-house and agency recruitment experts to give us their take on the state of games industry recruitment, both for those with positions to fill and those eager to find their next challenge. Next up are Alan Dixon (principal consultant) and Stag Strand (head of recruitment teams) from Amiqus.

What have been the main challenges that recruiters have faced during 2022 and how have they/you worked to overcome them?

Alan Dixon: As widely reported, there is a skills shortage across many disciplines of games development (as well as outside of games), which continues to be a challenge for recruiters. It means that recruiters are competing for the same talent pool, but it also means that in some studios which are under-staffed, there is greater pressure on existing employees, and we’re hearing of burnout in some cases.

If the games industry is to continue growing, we need to widen the pipeline of talent. At Amiqus – and particularly via our pro bono initiative G Into Gaming – we’re working with organisations like Mastered to attract experienced programming talent (as well as those working in other disciplines) to the games industry. There is a huge pool of talent outside of games, and many in tech businesses such as Meta and Twitter which are currently seeing redundancies or turmoil who we want to encourage into a brilliant career in games.

Education and training are also key, and at Amiqus we strongly support stronger links between universities and colleges, and studios, to nurture the next generation of talent. We are also strong supporters of initiatives which provide bootcamps and apprenticeships for those who want a choice in their path to the games industry.

How is the worsening cost of living crisis manifesting itself in terms of recruitment and in-work support?

Stig Strand: I think we will possibly see more people remain in what they feel are ‘safe’ positions, rather than pursue a new role in another studio. These are uncertain times for everyone, so we’ll have to see how things pan out in 2023.

Meanwhile, we are seeing some good examples across the industry of studios providing their staff with cost-of-living bonus payments and support. This is great to see.

Is remote / hybrid working here to stay?

Alan Dixon: Amiqus has conducted extensive research into this area and the results have revealed a genuine desire by candidates to have a flexible way of working, whether that’s fully remote or hybrid working. Certainly, it remains a key topic of conversation around working practices, with the four-day working week now also being pioneered by some.

Studio heads are, understandably, trying to ensure that collaboration between teams and individuals isn’t compromised, but we are seeing great examples of initiatives that work for both the studios and for the work/life balance of staff.

Do you feel the industry has moved forward in terms of diversity and inclusion this year? How so? Can you offer any examples?

Stig Strand: Gender diversity is close to our hearts at Amiqus. The recently announced gender pay gap report shows an 8.3% difference between remuneration for men and women – and the gap is bigger amongst those in more senior positions. Meanwhile, the 2022 Ukie Census revealed that there had been only a slight improvement in the number of women working in games – up to 30% from 28% in 2020. Some improvement but still a lot more work to be done.

What industry initiatives or programmes put in place recently (by your organisation or others) have inspired or impressed you and why?

Alan Dixon: When it comes to supporting women in games, we have seen some great initiatives from individual studios covering menopause support, paid maternity leave, shared maternity leave, returnship programmes and more. If we are going to encourage women to join – and remain in – the games industry, we need to see more of this.

In terms of community organisations, we’re honoured to support Women in Games, Out Making Games and Limit Break, all of which are doing consistently brilliant work. And we are always in awe of the wonderful SpecialEffect charity and what their team do to bring the joy of games to disabled people around the world.

What are your predictions for 2023 in terms of the challenges and opportunities that recruiters might face?

Stig Strand: An inclusive working environment is something that Millennials and Gen Z generations look for so we would expect and hope to see more studios galvanise their efforts in this area to ensure they’re able to attract and retain the latest talent into the market.

The talent shortage is set to continue through 2023, so studios will need to continue to focus on the areas that make them stand out from the crowd, things like their authentic EDI policies, core values, benefits and flexible working.

With the recession and cost-of-living crisis affecting most of us, candidates are going to be more cautious about making moves. It’s worth bearing in mind that recent research has revealed that seven in ten individuals were more likely to apply for a job if the salary was highlighted when the role was advertised.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone looking to find or fill a role that you wouldn’t have considered a year ago?

Alan Dixon: To studios: unless it’s vital, don’t ask for individuals to relocate for a role. The uncertainty around the housing market, rents and mortgages means that individuals will be nervous about moving. Remote or flexible working options will allow you to attract a wider pool of candidates for all levels of experienced hiring.

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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