How gaming industry leader Ubisoft is using AI to improve talent management

French video game company Ubisoft, maker of Assassin’s Creed, is upleveling its talent processes to attract and retain talent in the highly competitive gaming market.

How gaming industry leader Ubisoft is using AI to improve talent management

There’s no question that focusing on skills rather than job descriptions is the way forward for organizations to find and keep top talent. But the path to get there can be very different for each organization. For Ubisoft, a global video gaming company, the journey began with internal mobility and rethinking its talent management strategy. 

We had the opportunity to hear from Anika Grant, Chief People Officer for Ubisoft, about the journey toward skills-based talent management, and why it became a critical initiative for the organization. Here are the highlights.

Ubisoft’s Chief People Officer Anika Grant talks about how they are approaching change management.

A complex industry with specific talent needs

When you think of video games like Assassin’s Creed, you don’t fully realize what goes into creating an interactive, open-world, multiplayer, stealth game. But there’s a workforce of nearly 20,000 people around the globe, working in more than 45 different studios behind the diverse portfolio of games that Ubisoft creates and operates. Grant shared that most people don’t know the gaming industry is so involved. 

“It’s more complex than creating blockbuster films,” Grant said. “Across the industry an average AAA game takes about four years and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. You have this unique combination of technology complexity, interactive narrative with unique and engaging characters, whole new worlds or universes being built, and all of this enabling immersive experiences for players through top quality graphics, video and music. If you add to that the increasing need to be online and multiplayer — all this now has to work seamlessly for potentially millions of players concurrently, all around the world at the same time.”

The gaming industry is larger than the music and film industry combined, and while forecasts vary, PwC projects that global gaming revenue is expected to rise from $227 billion this year to $312 billion by 2027. 

There’s also major disruption in the industry due to AI and Web 3.0 technologies, which are shifting the business model and the types of skills they need. All this has contributed to new talent challenges for Ubisoft, spurring the need for the company to uplevel how it acquires and manages talent.

A focus on skills as a talent management strategy 

Like many companies, Ubisoft is in a “war for talent” in a hypercompetitive talent market. Digging into the people analytics data they had available, Grant and the HR team saw that one of the most common reasons people were leaving was their desire for new career opportunities and growth. The team knew it was essential that they further tap into their internal talent pool to deliver an impressive pipeline of upcoming games.

“We ended up around skills and this idea of internal mobility and really thinking about your skills as currency within the organization,” Grant said. “What we needed was intelligence around the critical or core skills so we could build our strategy.”

In addition to more opportunities for professional growth and an increased satisfaction when it comes to career opportunities, the team knew that more fluid career mobility could also allow Ubisoft to staff their projects faster and with the right talent.

To continue improving talent retention, build a more skills-based organization, and continue evolving talent management within Ubisoft, Grant and her team turned to Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform.

“The Eightfold journey for us will actually be a big transformation of how we think about talent, how we manage talent, and how we help our leaders and our people managers really think about the value of our internal talents,” Grant said. “We’re looking to better understand the skills that we have and the transferability of some of those skills across different roles in the organization.”

Given the highly nuanced skills needed for key roles, the company often sourced external talent. A key part of Ubisoft’s journey will be changing organizational behavior to support more connected talent management.

“We’re taking a phased and deliberate implementation path,” Grant said. “We’re starting small within a single project. Then we’ll move Eightfold across multiple projects within one studio in one country, and from there try it globally. At each step of the way, we’ll have criteria that we need to meet to go on to the next phase. 

“I think the biggest challenge we have is not learning the tool — the tool is beautiful. It’s easy to use and it will be great,” she continued. “The challenge will be embracing an evolving talent management mindset that expands the career development opportunities available to our teams.”

Identifying new skill sets for the future

As the Ubisoft team begins their journey with Eightfold, Grant shared that they already have identified certain high-demand skill sets they need to accelerate within the organization, such as accompanying the industry’s shift toward subscriptions.

“We’ve had to think about where and how we can develop some of these skills internally,” Grant said. “For example, we know that certain expertise in IT is also highly sought after in production. So we’re tapping into those rare skill sets within the organization because we’re just not going to be able to find them externally. We’re really excited to start the implementation with Eightfold and actually dig into that.”

Ubisoft is beginning its Eightfold implementation with IT to identify and understand internal skill sets. There’s the potential to identify adjacent skill sets and possibly deploy some of those people in studios that are developing games. 

“I’m excited about what’s ahead. I’m also excited that HR is playing a very early role in helping to adopt and responsibly implement AI within the organization,” Grant said. “I feel quite privileged that we’re running with this, and we’re showing other parts of the organization, [like] our production teams and corporate functions, how we can use this technology in a way that benefits our business but also our people.”

Watch the full panel conversation on “Rethinking everything: Why skills are key to discovering extraordinary workforce potential” from Cultivate, now on demand.

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