Training program

Activision Blizzard tackles talent shortage with new training program

It’s no surprise that the gaming industry shows no signs of slowing down. With games being developed at every turn, many companies struggle to manage the workload. Activision Blizzard is trying to both innovate and streamline the process with Level Up U. This training program will equip individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to land their dream job in the industry. Designed by key figures at Activision Blizzard, a lot of time and effort has gone into this program. The end goal being not only for Activision Blizzard to be successful, but for other companies to take notice and follow suit. Detailed information can be found in their latest blog post below:

Creating some of the world’s most iconic interactive entertainment requires exceptional talent across a wide range of fields. In these fields – whether it’s computer engineering, design, art and animation, production, analysis or business management – ​​this talent is rare. . In games engineering, for example, there are 30 to 50,000 open positions worldwide at any one time, multiples more than the number of qualified people applying for those positions.

The sight for job seekers is equally daunting: Hundreds of thousands of eager applicants try to find jobs in the game development industry every year, and only a fraction land a house.

Additionally, within this landscape, there is a significant opportunity to advance diversity. For example, women make up just 24% of roles in games, lagging behind the broader tech and media spaces.

Legacy industry recruiting practices, which focused on experience rather than raw skills, make it difficult to address imbalances between talent supply and demand or change the composition of the workforce. work. We recognized that something had to change.

What skills are essential to game development?

We approached the challenge by first focusing on an area in which we are growing significantly and which is critical to the success of our games: engineering. Our next step was to develop a factual profile of what a high performing engineer looks like. Through a series of interviews with our technical leads and a bit of analytical magic, we focused on a set of critical skills and critical experiences. In terms of skills, we found programming, DevOps tools, game engines, and collaboration/management to be the most important. In terms of experiences, we found a background in computer science and previous roles in game development to be the most important.

As part of this exercise, we busted a few myths along the way, identifying features that mattered less than we thought or only mattered in certain contexts. For example, we found that most game engineering job descriptions called for graphics skills, but less than a quarter of those roles used them in daily practice; removing this constraint could expand the talent market by an additional 2.9 million workers. Similarly, artificial intelligence and machine learning skills are often listed in job postings, but less often essential to success; removing this requirement could expand the market for 2.8 million workers. In total, we found 14 commonly cited skills in engineering role specifications that were not widely predictive of success. This data has significant implications for the gaming industry: companies using these criteria could mistakenly screen out otherwise qualified candidates or even deter such candidates from applying.

We also looked at our findings from a different angle: what matters but most limits our potential labor market? Here we saw that while game development experience was critical to success, it limited our talent pool by 99%, excluding nearly 4 million workers who had all the other technical skills needed to succeed. This idea got us thinking about what elements of the engineering job description we could hire directly rather than developing ourselves. In the end, we decided to select or hire skills in programming and DevOps tools along with a basic IT background, and we opted to develop skills in game engines and collaboration/management as well as providing in-house experiences or “representatives” in game development.

What does this new approach mean for Activision Blizzard?

With our newly calibrated hiring specifications and a bespoke talent development program, we founded Level Up U (LUU) to accelerate opportunities in the games industry for people from diverse backgrounds.

This program has had a positive impact on our organization. This allowed us to scale critical talent, contributing to development headcount growth of 25% year-over-year; it produced an inaugural LUU class of 45% women, 40% from underrepresented ethnic groups, and 14% existing teammates who were able to realize opportunities for retraining and internal mobility; and it has helped us deliver a holistic and integrated onboarding experience across all of our divisions.

What are the implications for HR executives, the video game industry and job seekers?

For HR colleagues and business leaders across all industries, we believe this methodology can help unlock opportunities across a myriad of skills and functional areas. Regardless of market cycles, there continues to be a finite set of individuals with the skills required to qualify for vacancies as they are written today. Through upskilling and retraining, organizations have the opportunity to optimize both business and societal outcomes.

For our industry peers, we offer this approach and these findings as a rubric on how to rethink some of our most systemic in-game talent challenges. We humbly learn, hone our own practices, and commit to sharing As things progress.

For candidates, we have defined a clear set of fundamental skills that are important and can open the door to a career in our industry. Low- and high-level programming languages ​​can be self-taught or accumulated in part-time or four-year educational programs. We invite you to apply to future LUU cohorts as well as visit our career site anytime to explore engineering opportunities.

And after?

We are excited to continue to expand our Level Up U program in 2023, both in terms of size and disciplines. We also plan to infuse the lessons learned from this effort into all elements of our people management function, helping us to continue to create an environment where exceptional creative and technical talent can perform at their best.