There were other large studios that entered the Best Places To Work Awards, but just one stood out as exceptional.
When staff size exceeds 200 people, it can be difficult for management to ensure that every team is happy, motivated, and pulling together. They become reliant on department heads, communication is inevitably more challenging, and it's easy to feel isolated or mistreated.
Creative Assembly, one of the largest studios in the world with over 460 staff in the UK alone, somehow manages to avoid these issues. So what's the secret?
“It all comes back to our core values as a studio, which include trust and respect,” explains Tim Heaton, studio director at CA. “Everyone's voice is heard and we make sure that creative input is taken from all over. That can be difficult, especially when we're working across three studios, but we work hard on our communications to keep everyone involved.
“Everyone will see different positives about being at CA, but we feel that we have a lot to offer with opportunities to work across different projects and teams, and a serious approach to an individual's career development. We support our people to further hone their expertise, to try new and exciting things, and we send our experts around the globe to network and share experiences with others. Just recently our artists have had workshops with [celebrated artist and designer] Scott Eaton, and our fourth internal Coder Con is coming up, which gives our programmers a fantastic opportunity to showcase their recent research and innovations.”
Creative Assembly offers a range of perks for staff, from useful VISA and relocation packages, pension programmes, free medicals, extended private healthcare and dental… to more fun elements, such as in-studio massages and ice cream Wednesdays.
Yet the real key is not to sit still, and to keep developing new initiatives. There are so many things that can be improved from a HR perspective, and trying to solve issues such as diversity takes time and commitment.
“We are always aiming to be the best we can and our HR initiatives are constantly developing in line with this,” Heaton says. “Over the last year we have looked really closely at our career development pathways and we have a new model launching soon, which will better help people understand their own development and the training that will best get them to where they want to be.
“Our work with schools, colleges and universities is really important to us, and while this does help feed the talent pipeline, it also gives us a genuine opportunity to improve the diversity of the UK industry. We are currently focusing our efforts to ensure our work in this area has the greatest impact for the most people.
“On a lighter note, this summer we held our first music festival for our people and their families. It was such a fantastic day and we even had some globally renowned musicians playing. The feedback was so positive that, you never know, we might start making it an annual event.”
Creative Assembly is 30 years-old and boasts one of the largest groups of game creators in the world. It is as far from an indie start-up as one can imagine, but Heaton feels the secret to a happy workforce isn't complicated.
“Always stay focused on why you started making games in the first place,” he concludes. “Focus on your people and what they are passionate about. Great games come from having great people around you, and you'll also create a solid and long-lasting culture for the future.
“There will be good times and there will be tough times. Stay resilient, don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. At Creative Assembly, we are incredibly lucky to house so many talented and clever people that constantly challenge us and make sure we are always striving for the best.”