What's the secret to becoming an award-winning employer?

Montreal gaming studio empowers managers to make important decisions

What's the secret to becoming an award-winning employer?

Recently, Behaviour Interactive, an independent video game studio, celebrated its 30th year in the video gaming industry.

The company has become an award-winning top employer, and a big decision early into the global pandemic was key, says Kalina Morin, vice president of human resources, in speaking with Canadian HR Reporter.

“Very early on in the process did we pick our brains to provide our employees the agility that was necessary,” she says, adding that prior to the health crisis, the company had no work-from-home option for its over 900 full-time employees in place.

“It was in June [2020] that we decided to proclaim that work from home would be there permanently. So that’s the first thing that we did.”

“I really, strongly believe to this day that that was a key differentiator because our competitors were still debating ‘Should we, should we not?’ And by making that decision, then we organized ourselves to make it happen… and we had the means to be able to deliver that.”

Trusting managers

Behaviour Interactive also gave managers the power to offer more flexibility for workers who needed to attend to matters outside of work.

“During the initial pandemic crunch, flexibility meant that we weren’t counting hours. And if someone had to adapt their schedule, we were completely fine with that so they could manage their schedule. If they had to reduce their schedule, that was fine. So we were really in tune with the specific needs of our employees,” says Morin.

Nearly two in five (38 per cent) Canadians say that having full flexibility at work is the best working model for their team, according to a previous study. And many hiring decision-makers believe that leadership will be more flexible in accommodating employees' schedules and needs, according to another report.

When it comes to flexibility, listening to managers and believing in them is important, says Morin.

“It’s about trust. By empowering the managers and trusting them with their decisions, that’s how we made it work. We’ve listened to whatever concern they had, and we’ve addressed them one by one. We need to be in tune with what they need and we need to trust that what they bring forward is what they need to better manage their employees.”

Kalina Morin

Behaviour Interactive also made sure to keep workers connected by providing different activities, including yoga glasses and even a magic show to entertain workers’ children, says Morin.

“It was about bringing people [together], giving them reasons to stay close to their colleagues at work so that they would feel the presence of their colleagues although they were all individually in their basement or at a kitchen table.”

Manager and peer relationships among many Canadians were not great before the pandemic, and have since deteriorated further, found a previous survey.

Award-winning benefits

Behaviour Interactive has been named a Top Montreal Employer and a 2022 Best Workplace for Hybrid Work by the Great Place to Work Institute. It also offers generous paid time off, comprehensive health coverage from day one and an option group RRSP program, along with a flexible reimbursement program for eligible expenses related to fitness, gaming, remote work and transportation.

But the company also ensures that workers have time for themselves.

“Lunches are free and there’s no emails after five. We put together an etiquette to help managers better manage [workers] so if an employee likes to work in the evening, that’s fine, but defer your email to the next morning,” says Morin.

They also have a “no crunch time policy.”

“Crunch time is when you’re about to deliver a game project and you work non-stop until you do. We don’t have that. So there’s no crazy weekends. You don’t go to bed at 3 a.m. and then eat cold pizza for breakfast.”

Behaviour Interactive also puts a big focus on promoting women in the company, and has hired hundreds of people during the pandemic, says Morin.
“We’re onboarding an average of 10 employees a week. So you do have to promote and you have to create scalable, strong teams and that comes from promoting and giving tools to managers.”

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