For the past six years, GamesIndustry.biz has been running a series of Best Places To Work Awards in the UK, US and Canada.
The project was born out of the editorial team. The objective has always been to try and help improve the games industry as a place to work. Part of that is by identifying great places, but the project also encompasses talks and articles (you can watch some of them here) on workplace issues. And every business that takes part -- win or lose -- will receive a free basic report from us to help them identify areas of improvement.
We also offer a standard and advanced report for a small fee, which features additional information and analysis. This is how we fund the project, there are no other costs and even these reports are entirely optional.
This is what the awards are all about. But how do we judge them? We know that there are problem places in the games industry. We know there are issues around discrimination and excessive overtime. We write plenty of those headlines on this very website. We therefore take this process seriously. No awards are fool proof. We wish they were. But as you're about to see, how we judge the Best Places to Work Awards is comprehensive.
NO JUDGING PANEL
Any company working in the US, UK or Canada games markets can take place in the awards (with more territories to follow). To take part, they simply fill in the entry form. This form asks simple questions such as 'who are you' and 'how many employees do you have' (we'll come on to that in a moment).
The awards are not judged by anything subjective like a panel. It is entirely judged by a system of points. Score high enough, and you stand a chance of winning an award.
THE EMPLOYER FORM
We do ask employers what they offer their staff. What is the pay like? What benefits do you offer? What are your hiring practices? How do you deal with bad behaviour? How do you ensure your team knows what is going on?
You can see a template version of the US form here. We do not require employers to fill in every question. Each segment of this form has a maximum number of points you can get, which exceeds the maximum number of points available. For instance: The Diversity segment is out of a maximum of 6 points, but there are 8 points up for grabs. Therefore, if a company is unable to answer one of the questions, it doesn't necessarily stop them for achieving top scores.
This is to prevent a company from missing out on a good score simply because they don't a niche benefit or option. Smaller companies of 10 - 20 staff typically don't have Employee Resource Groups, for instance, because there are not enough employees for that to work.
On the flipside of that, we have what we call 'fixed' questions in this survey. These are questions where if the answer is poor or unavailable, then you cannot achieve maximum points on that segment. For instance, in the Stability and Reputation part of the survey, if you reveal you have laid off half your company in the past 2 years, you will not be able to achieve maximum points.
Ultimately, we want to see that an employer does a lot to support its staff, in terms of benefits, pay, time-off and practices. This form isn't the most important part of the process. In fact, it's worth just 20% of the final score. The far more important part is the Employee Form.
THE EMPLOYEE FORM
The big part of how the awards are judged is with the Employee Form. This is an extensive survey of staff featuring over 50 statements that employees are asked to 'strongly agree', 'agree', 'disagree' or 'strongly disagree' to. Staff can also select 'Neither Agree or Disagree' or 'Opinion'.
We ask questions around how rewarded the staff feel, how safe they feel to express their views, whether they trust their boss, and ultimately whether they feel satisfied with their employer. You can see a sample survey here.
Every employee -- excluding the senior management team -- is given a chance to fill in this survey. We know, however, that not everyone will. As a result, we have a sliding scale of requirements in terms of how many employees we need to have filled in the survey. For large companies (250+), we need around a third of all employees to fill in the form. For mid-sized companies (75+), it's between 50 - 60%. And for small companies (30+), it is 90%. For very small teams (10 - 29), we require a 100% response rate. The scale is more fluid than that, but this should give you a good indicator of what we expect.
Companies have had to duck out of the awards because not enough staff filled in the forms. However, we do try and make sure this doesn't happen by keeping employers updated on their response rate.
Each response carries a points score. A 'Strongly Disagree' will net the company 0 points, while a 'Strongly Agree' nets a company 4 points. At the end of the process, we tally the scores up and see what the total is.
This survey is worth 80% of the final score.
THE RED LINES
So we now have 100% of the score and we can see that Company X is a Best Places Winner. But before we crown them a champion, we must perform our Red Line Checks.
The problem with a survey that covers an entire business is that it doesn't necessarily pick up serious issues that might only affect a small proportion of staff. For instance, if a company is 90% male, and the company's management discriminate against women, we wouldn't necessarily see that in the survey results.
Therefore, we have some questions within the Employee Form where staff can highlight potential issues such as these. We typically won't prevent a company from winning because of an isolated incident, but we will if there are any signs of something more widespread.
The two main areas we look at for Red Lines is around excessive overtime (crunch) and discrimination. But we also have an open question where employees can tell us how they feel about their place of work, including reasons why they think their company should or shouldn't win an award.
WHAT ABOUT THE SPECIAL AWARDS?
The Best Places badges are the main part of the awards. That's what this is all about. But we also hand out awards for individual excellence in specific areas. For instance, if a company does excellent charity work, or if they're particularly proactive in being carbon neutral, or if they have adopted extensive mental health support. We also end with a fun award praising an excellent 'boss'.
For these awards, the finalists are decided based on how a company scores in these areas through the Employer Form (where there's a tie, we do see how employees rated the company on these topics). The winners are decided after being reviewed by the GamesIndustry.biz team.
For the 'Best Boss' award, we encourage participating companies -- and employees of non-participating companies -- to submit their boss and a reason for their inclusion. A finalist list is then drawn up and the winner is decided by the GamesIndustry.biz team.
The Best Places To Work Awards has an extensive judging system, with three different elements that a company must navigate in order to win a prize.
Of course, not every employee will fill in the survey. We are also unable to survey anyone who may have left the business prior to the survey being sent out.
But we like to think the way our awards are judged is robust. And it should give you confidence that if you see a 'Best Places' badged associated with a company, then you can be assured they are a great employer.
Nevertheless, every year we review our survey. We challenge ourselves to look at every question, to consider rephrasing or removing them, or adding new ones. We get groups of HR experts, consultants and recruitment agencies to give us feedback whenever we embark on this project.
And we are always open to hearing your views. If you've got something to say on how these awards are judged, simply drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.