Company Culture is Anything But a Game
Learn about Building Strategic Partnerships
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled, “Company Culture is Anything But a Game.” In it, Ruth Gonzalez, the HR Manager of Ubisoft Philippines, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in partnerships, namely academe.
The right partners will open up opportunities
Anyone who plays videogames is bound to be familiar with the name Ubisoft. Since the late 1980s, the French company has produced videogames and found success with titles such as Rayman, Prince of Persia, Far Cry and so much more. Today, the company is considered one of the giants of the video game industry, and its releases are always anticipated by a legion of fans.
Thus, it’s no surprise that the name “Ubisoft” has become synonymous with games, fun, and creativity. These core values are also something that Ruth Gonzalez, HR Manager at Ubisoft Philippines, makes sure is always reflected in the company culture and practices.
“We’re a gaming company, so it just stands to reason that gaming is a big part of who we are,” Gonzalez said, “Games of all sorts are all around the office as a way for employees to unwind, whether it’s video games, board games, or even physical games that help employees keep fit.”
Though the inclusion of games in every nook and cranny of Ubisoft’s operations may at first just seem like a zany perk, Gonzalez shared that it’s more than that. The presence of games even encourages some Ubisoft employees to come in early or stay late, where they use videogames or even board games like Dungeons & Dragons as an opportunity to bond with their coworkers. While it isn’t a conscious effort on behalf of HR, these bonding moments go a long way in building a workplace that feels more like a community than anything else.
But there are still aspects of Ubisoft’s operations that are quite serious. Gonzalez offers up the creation process behind a video game as an example. At Ubisoft, a lot of games are co-developed with other studios. These studios sometimes act as the “lead studio”, meaning they own the game, and Ubisoft functions as a production hub that helps get the game to the final stage of development. With their team then offering their expertise and inputs (they give ideas on gameplay, art, etc.), it’s the reason why a video game's end credits always show a plethora of names. The video games people use to unwind and entertain themselves are the product of months of perseverance by multiple teams and roles.
Thus, their recruitment process is all about finding people whose passion can keep up with what’s needed at Ubisoft. Gonzalez shared that during interviews, they often ask a candidate what they think it might be like working at the company. This serves to weed out applicants who only see the fun, creative side of Ubisoft and overlook the grueling hours and continuous effort it takes to develop just one game. Gonzalez stressed that although Ubisoft is certainly a fun place to work at, it only affords to be that way thanks to the hard work of the team.
“It’s not always rainbows and smiles,” Gonzalez said, “We only want candidates who are hardworking, passionate, and willing to learn.”
This is why Ubisoft goes out of its way to find the right people. One thing they do is partner up with the academe, participate in job fairs, and even develop whole courses. In schools like De La Salle University-Laguna Campus, for instance, Ubisoft is co-teaching two full courses in Interactive Entertainment, namely, Bachelor of Science in Interactive Entertainment Major in Game Development and Bachelor of Science in Interactive Entertainment Major in Game Art and Design.
The company also participates in gaming summits and events like the Esports and Gaming Summit (ESGS), Asia Pop Comic-Con and Global Game Jam, where they offer game dev talks, game demos, and free portfolio reviews. Through these channels, spotting the right talent is exponentially easier.
It doesn’t take long either before a recruit learns the deeper role of games at Ubisoft. “One thing that’s unique to Ubisoft Philippines is the way we onboard new hires,” Gonzalez said, “We split the onboarding into two parts.”
The first part, she said, is the typical onboarding that’s done with HR.
It’s during the second part that games are once again incorporated, with new hires facing challenges at the beginning of the day that’s meant to spur them to find out more about their coworkers. These activities build on one another and culminate in an overall session where it’s revealed to them what the learnings from each activity are, and how these will help them do their jobs alongside their coworkers.
These activities also bring out the recruit’s character. It’s through them that it becomes clear who’s willing to take a challenge head-on and even who’s capable of taking on a leadership role in a group activity. Finally, it’s a good way to preview how well someone meshes with their new colleagues.
“We want people to be comfortable with their colleagues because sharing is also such a big part of Ubisoft’s culture,” Gonzalez said, “It’s a fun culture, but also very open and collaborative.”
Once part of the team, learning doesn’t stop. “At Ubisoft, we continue to invest in our people beyond the onboarding: our team receives the best training to maximize their potential, through online resources provided by HR, and by regularly sending them on trips to other Ubisoft studios,” Gonzalez added.
Since 2016, Ubisoft has sent out over 40 people to Paris, Montreal, Toronto, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Singapore, Chengdu, and more. Experts from other Ubisoft studios around the world also visit regularly to train their employees. To date, over 70 experts have flown in, holding over 9,200 man hours of training.
“With a global team made up of 17,000 people-strong, we benefit from sharing sessions within the Ubisoft group and learn from the best, creating a virtuous cycle of learning,” Gonzalez emphasized.
In addition to training, the studio offers a world-class working environment with a 2,000 square meter building featuring 17 meeting rooms, 6 creative breakout spaces, a ping-pong area, game stations, and a dedicated roof deck for barbecues and events.
Gonzalez pointed out that the way their office is designed encourages openness between all teams. Unlike a traditional setup, the management team sits in an open space with everyone else and there are no enclosed offices. This facilitates collaboration, open communication, and fun.
All in all, Gonzalez emphasized that the team is always the beating heart of any company, especially one like Ubisoft. They’ve managed to build a company culture that always puts a smile on employees' faces, but is also backed up by dedication and hard work.
“At the end of the day, it’s the people who decide what kind of culture you can afford to have,” Gonzalez said.
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