It’s important to remember that a company’s most valuable asset is its staff, so do everything you can to hold on to good people says BGT Managing Director – UK and Ireland John Pettit
In your many years in gaming, have you noticed a change in the demographic of industry employees?
Betting and gaming is a fundamental part of the human experience, played in some form by cultures around the globe and throughout history. As sports continue to grow in popularity, betting on sports is gaining more and more attention, especially within a young demographic. The speed of technological change makes it even easier to keep up with the events, and engage in various betting activities.
As a general interest in gambling is growing in younger people, it’s only natural that younger people are also being more attracted to working in the gaming industry. And with the enhancement of online and mobile gaming, there are more technology-focus jobs in the industry available that suit the skill set of a younger demographic that has grown up surrounded by the technology that previous generations didn’t. So in that respect I would say that gaming as a whole is a young person’s industry compared to say 20 years ago, because the technical skills companies are looking for are naturally pushing it that way.
Where does BGT typically look for its staff? Do you hire predominantly from within the industry, do you look for outsiders to bring a fresh perspective, or do you prefer to hire and then train graduates? Or does that change, depending on the role?
We look for people with a can-do attitude and a passion for betting and technology. Whether it’s in or outside the industry, the most important thing that we are after is people that have the right competencies.
We need people who have a drive to create change, who are looking to stretch the boundaries, with an innate desire to be the best. We want our people to treat sports and business as their genuine interest, the industry is a passion for our employees rather than just being a job. The culture of BGT is also very important, we need people who are customer-focused and willing to work without politics. When we have a job vacancy we advertise extensively across all mediums, including our website of course. We prefer to cast our net wide instead of focusing our search on a small group of people to ensure we have the best talent coming through our doors.
Have you noticed any personality traits or characteristics of people who specifically do well in the gaming industry? And are you hands on with the hiring process at BGT? Is there something the gaming industry or companies could do to make the process easier?
Generally speaking, people who are switched on, highly ambitious, and competitive are the right fit for this industry. The pace of change in the industry is such that you need to be smart, and you need to be adaptable in order to keep pace with evolution. That is probably the main difference between the gaming industry and a lot of other global industries, because it is still relatively young, and because technological development is such an important cornerstone of it, progress is rapid. The employees best suited to the industry are the ones that not only cope, but thrive in that environment.
The hiring process is something I’m actively involved in, as having the right people is the biggest asset of BGT. One thing that is very important is that our staff has the right balance of skills and personalities, we allow room for all those characteristics we value, which is key in establishing our culture. Our motto is “Performance, Passion, Honesty”.
Does the gaming industry typically do a good job of looking after its staff? And is that important?
It’s difficult to comment on the industry as a whole, but within BGT we pride ourselves on our high level of staff retention, and remuneration. We also enjoy paying our staff bonuses, as it’s a result of them and the company as a whole doing well. It’s important that we have a culture where people are encouraged to make decisions without politics involved, which I believe our staff value greatly. We never penalise our people for making mistakes, we consider mistakes as opportunities we can learn from.
Do employees stay in one company for long, or is staff turnover high?
The betting and gaming industry has lots of IT-experts and highly qualified people, who are in particularly high demand on the job market, and employees tend to move between companies. However, my experience is that if you put the effort into finding the right people, who enjoy what they do, they will likely to stay for a long time, and that is especially true at BGT. We pride ourselves on maintaining a good working environment, currently we have approximately 140 employees in Austria, approximately 25 in Bremen and 10 in the UK. It hasn’t been easy to make the leap forward to become an international company, however one third of our employees have been with us since the early days, and have gone through all ups and down with BGT as the company has grown. Maybe that's why we have a low staff turnover compared to other companies in the industry. And we have had employees who have left BGT for personal reasons e.g. due to long commuting distances, who have then returned to work for the company at a later date despite those personal issues, because they couldn’t find the work culture that we offer here elsewhere. We try to offer as much flexibility to our employees as possible (e.g. flexible working hours or working from the office vs. home), but the truth is most employees would rather be on-site than working from home most of the time, because that way they feel much more a part of our team-orientated culture. We also have numerous staff events, a modern working environment, and various training opportunities, both personal and professional, that we believe helps us retain our staff at a better rate than other companies in the industry.
Are enough opportunities given to ambitious people keen to progress quickly, or is the tendency to continually rely on more experienced candidates for senior roles?
We are a young organisation, we like to constantly develop our own people, but equally provide chance to both external and internal candidates to take on new positions. If we have a new position to fill, we have an internal policy to post the role internally first. Due to our pace of growth we have some great employees who have developed within the company. Employees who started in customer services in order to earn some extra money whilst studying are now in management positions, so I would definitely say that if you’re ambitious at BGT you can progress to the level you envisage yourself being at quickly.
It could be said that particularly at senior executive level the industry is very male dominated. Do you think this is true, if so what are the causal factors behind this, and does something need to be done to readdress this?
Historically, the industry is very male dominated, however this needs to evolve and change. It’s important that the right people fill in senior roles, rather than people based on politics. I believe it’s less of an issue with newer organisations, as our case illustrates; 25% of our UK team is female. Bigger organisations, who have been around for a while, may be the ones struggling with this phenomenon.
Will we see much of a difference in how the industry's biggest firms staff themselves in the future, or who they staff themselves with?
I hope that companies become less bureaucratic and encourage more risk taking in the future. This starts with identifying the right talent to create a culture where people can make mistakes without having a fear of failure. It’s important for the whole industry to look after its people, as we need to reduce the stigma and prejudice attached to the whole industry.
John Pettit has over 19 years of experience in the betting and gaming industry, including 12 years of experience as a board level director spent at major PLCs. He joined BGT in 2015, and currently leads the UK expansion of the self-service retail sports betting market at Best Gaming Technology