How Play’n GO uses “flexible freedom” to unlock team potential
James Trusler, chief people officer at Play’n GO, discusses how a move to a digital-first working environment gives people the space they need to succeed.
For millions of people around the world, work looks very different to how it did just a couple of years ago. While the global pandemic was, of course, transformative, I’d argue its main impact was to accelerate processes already under way.That’s certainly been the case for us at Play’n GO. The challenge we now face is to continue to build the world’s best casino entertainment, even as the way our team participates in the process is evolving.
As a digital-first company with a global workforce of remote and office-based colleagues, we’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with this. Our solution is something we call “flexible freedom”.
In short, flexible freedom is about trust. It is about giving our people the space to shine, on the understanding that they don’t need babysitting and we are all on the same page when it comes to our goals.
In practical terms, when much of our team is working from home, this requires a move to an outcome-focused manner of thinking. By concentrating on these outcomes, rather than trying to impose a working structure, we’ve found that we can increase the ingenuity and problem-solving of our teams.
Producing spellbinding games is our business, and giving our people the freedom to work their magic is delivering results.
A new workplace
This is not to say there aren’t difficulties to overcome with this relatively new way of working. There’s definitely a value to having a space to bounce ideas off each other, and we’re always looking to provide them, whether that be virtually via a range of digital platforms, or in an office.
These digital platforms are also vital in providing the channels of communication needed for us to continue to collaborate. It’s easy to underestimate quite the amount of both work and expertise that goes into building a great game. This expertise is wide-ranging, and the secret sauce is in bringing together disparate parts, from maths models to themes to UI.
When we first pivoted towards a digital-first workplace, we didn’t want only to maintain free-flowing, cross-team communication, but actually enhance it.The shift to remote-working has coincided with our expansion into more regulated international markets, particularly in North America. Transitioning away from a classic office space structure has freed us to both think and collaborate globally.
There are other issues to consider, too. A major focus for us over the last couple of years has been the mental health of team members. Remote work can ease many of the stresses of traditional office labour, such as cutting out long commutes, freeing up more time to relax, and letting everyone set up their own working environment.
“We’ve found that when we focus on people, and provide them with the respect, trust and freedom they need to succeed, our culture thrives, even if we aren’t in the same physical space.”
But we also understand that it can lead to other potential problems, such as individuals feeling isolated. We’ve set up a support line for our team to access, if there’s anything they’d like to discuss. We don’t want any of our people feeling alone.
Another area we’ve considered a lot of late is how going digital-first might impact our culture as a company. We’ve always been extremely proud of the culture we’ve built up over more than 15 years at Play’n GO. We worked very hard to ensure we became synonymous with the sort of forward-thinking, pioneering creativity behind the very best in gaming.
Preserving and expanding this culture is absolutely a top priority. For us, company culture has always been about more than table tennis and free snacks in the office.
The culture needs to be organic, and derived from the individuals who make up our teams. We’ve found that when we focus on people, and provide them with the respect, trust and freedom they need to succeed, our culture thrives, even if we aren’t in the same physical space.
Remote working isn’t a cheat code for businesses hoping to cut costs and shirk responsibility towards their team. In fact, becoming digital-first has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced as a business. We’ve persisted as we absolutely believe it is the best way to grow, both as a company and as a group of individuals.
James Trusler joined Play’n GO in November 2021 with more than 20 years of HR experience. In that time, he has held various senior positions within the gaming and entertainment sectors at companies including NBCUniversal and Sky Television, working throughout UK, Europe & Australia.