Staff Retention: Game Development’s Biggest Issue by Giles Fenwick

Committed, talented employees are the lifeblood of any game developer, so ensure you're creating the best possible environment to retain them - or run the risk of losing key staff to your competitors.

Staff retention is a critical issue for any industry as companies vie to secure the best possible talent for their projects. But Skillsearch's Salary and Satisfaction Survey 2015 reveals that 77% of employees in the game development business are actively looking for or are open to being poached by other companies; if they were happy with their role within a company, Skillsearch would expect this figure to be far lower.

But what is causing staff to consider moving on in the first place? And what can be done, if anything, to deal with the issue while boosting retention rates? Here are Skillsearch's five suggestions for retaining key staff:

1.Don't Wait - Ask!

The survey reveals that nearly 40% of employees are having to ask for a salary review instead of being offered one on a regular basis by management. Skillsearch's advice is to hold reviews annually in combination with a performance review so employees feel they are being listened to, are valued and that their financial needs are being considered - and met where possible.

Also ensure you have an open-door policy on 'company reviews' from staff, encouraging employees to offer their feedback about the business, whether it be positive or negative.

2. Benefits Offered vs. Benefits Wanted

The survey reveals that there is a disparity between what benefits employers offer their staff and what employees actually want. For instance:

Top five benefits offered by companies:

1. Pension

2. Private Healthcare

3. Gym Membership

4. Extra holiday



Top five benefits wanted by employees:


2.Extra Holiday.

3. Pension

4. Private healthcare

5. Company-funded certifications.


Because of this disparity, Skillsearch recommends (where practical) that employers put a programme of benefits in place based on what each individual employeewants instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. This will create a bespoke benefits programme tailored to each and every member of staff and their wants and needs.

3. A Question of (Over)Time

The survey reveals that 24% of employees are working over five hours more than they are officially contracted to - without being paid for the excess hours. While this is hardly a rare occurrence within the industry, it's an issue that continues to demotivate employees and is probably the most efficient way of losing staff as they grow tired of their goodwill being taken for granted.

While some crunch time is inevitable as a project enters its final phase, the impact on employee motivation and morale is well-documented. The problem is that if such overtime is a normal part of a company's culture on a rolling basis, it suggests an inherent problem with how the business is run.

To combat the issue, affected companies should carry out a full internal audit to establish where bottlenecks are, why they exist and deal with them to prevent excessive hours and to reduce the risk of demoralised staff leaving.

4. Being Human

The survey reveals that the number one reason for staff actively looking for a job change are not primarily financial - the reasons are far more human; they want a better company culture/atmosphere (18%) or feel they have limited opportunities for promotion (18%).

Every employee wants to enjoy their work environment and have room to grow so it's imperative that companies ask themselves what they can do to foster the right culture for their employees and what opportunities they can put in place to help staff develop.

5. Passion Driver

It's worth noting that the key reason or 'benefit' that keeps staff most happy is actually simple - that they are working on challenging and exciting projects. Perhaps that should come as no surprise; after all, it's why we're all working in this industry in the first place.

Final Analysis

By taking a proactive approach, game development companies can deal with retention issues without risking profit margins. By ensuring you have proper reviews and promote transparency, you can uncover what issues are important to employees and what they need to grow so they remain a valuable asset to your company. If they aren't offered such opportunities, then you run the very real risk of losing key staff to competitors who do.

Catrin Jones

Operations Manager

Catrin is a jack of all trades at Skillsearch, but she's master of them all too! The unflappable, enthusiastic face that will be your go-to for any questions - that's for contractors, clients and us in the office as well. She's always ready and willing to help and we haven't yet found a problem that she can't solve. She does have an Achilles heel though as she hasn’t yet worked out how to whistle, which would really come in handy when it comes to her new fur baby – Evie the Cockapoo! 

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