Finnish gaming industry set to level up in a post-pandemic world

Finnish Games Jobs Fair was held on 20-21 April. This was the second time that the event was held entirely virtually and enabled the participation of guests from all over the world. The event welcomed 14 Games studios including Supercell, Rovio, Fingersoft, Redhill Games and many others. 13 partners including Business Finland, Neogames, Helsinki Business Hub, Barona and others.

The event has been the largest games job fair ever organized with 1787 screened talents. The virtual platform welcomed participants already 3 weeks before the official event. 

The program offered talent with an exclusive overview of the games industry, including studio presentations, valuable advice for both junior and senior candidates on how to make a successful application, how to start a career in the gaming industry as well as an opportunity to connect, network and find job opportunities. There were about 250 one-on-one interviews booked during the 2-day event and many more scheduled to continue after the event.

I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion about the relocation support that employers offer, the challenges they have faced during the pandemic, the recruitment and induction process in the remote working environment. The panel guests, Jonna Knuuti (Ubisoft Redlynx), Ekaterina Dolgova (Redhill Games), and Bea Grandell (Seriously Digital Entertainment), jumped into a very honest and open discussion, offering experience as well as practical tips on solutions they have found to work.

 

The effects of the pandemic on the gaming studios' recruitment and relocation needs and trends

We started the discussion with a short overview of a survey conducted before the start of the event. We asked the gaming studios to share their experience and views on their recruitment needs during the past year, how has the pandemic affected the recruitment, relocation, and induction process and how do they foresee the near future.

 

It was great to see the unanimous response on a few very important issues. The gaming industry has actually been positively affected by the pandemic. 100% of the respondents have confirmed that they have continued to recruit regardless of the COVID-19 restrictions, and all respondents foresee an increase in their recruitment needs in the near future.

During the past year, the recruitment needs of participating studios have either remained as before or increased. More than 50% of the respondents find talent outside of Finland, which is typical for this industry due to the demand, its international market scope, and the lack of sufficient skilled talent locally.

What comes to the challenges faced during the pandemic, gaming studios share that the restrictions have caused challenges to recruit talent from abroad. Nevertheless, many employers avoid opting for remote employees as an alternative to relocation.

Our discussion revealed that there is taxation and other bureaucratic reasons behind that, but it also includes other concerns related to working culture, employee benefits, etc. Regardless of the challenges to recruit, respondents confirm that they have still managed to find the talent they have needed.

The recruitment process has somewhat changed but not all new practices will necessarily be kept after the world go back to normal. Almost 70% have come faced challenges when onboarding new talent remotely and have shared that this process has required more time and efforts than before the pandemic.

 

How does the recruitment process differ for foreign candidates compared to local ones?

The panel guests shared the same views on these issues and shared a bit more light and practical experience on these issues. If we look at the recruitment process of talent that would be relocating from outside of Finland, they would often include an onsite visit in the last round of the process.

This would offer an opportunity for both the employer and the candidate to meet face-to-face. Often that process offered the candidate and their family the opportunity to see the new place they would relocate to and allow them to make a more informed and confident decision.

Unfortunately, the pandemic and the traveling restrictions have made this part of the process, so employers have been creative to find alternatives. The recruitment process has included more online meetings, both formal where valuable information on the relocation process has been provided, and informal – virtual beer get-together facilitating casual bonding. The importance of involving the family in this decision and information gathering process, cannot be clearer.

Candidates who are based locally still have the opportunity to meet their employers, although that process has also been adjusted creatively to fit the current restrictions.

 

What is the most essential relocation support that employers should offer?

When it comes to the offered relocation support, panelists’ experience showed that there are many ways to offer support. All were unanimous that support is needed, both with the immigration process and local paperwork but also with the practical arrangements related to finding accommodation or settling in the family.

The relocation process has been more challenging during the past year with many unknowns and constantly changing variables. Relocating employees, especially EU citizens, have needed more guidance and support when it comes to the local authority registrations, simply because the pandemic restrictions have made this process more complex.

All panelists share a positive experience from leaning on Barona Relocation’s or other relocation service provider colleague’s support. A reliable partner, particularly during the past year, has managed to stay on top on the latest adjustments to the authority process and has found the smoothest way to implement each part of the process.

 

What have been the greatest relocation-related challenges? 

The immigration process has notoriously been a challenge even before the pandemic. One of the guests shared an experience from before the pandemic challenges when they waited for a candidate for 9 months to receive a permit and arrive.

The Finnish Immigration Service has worked on improving its processing terms, especially for certain target groups, like highly skilled talent, which is in severe demand.

The pandemic brought additional hurdles like delays in submitting the permit applications due to local restrictions, lack of available appointments (both in the foreign service points and in the local ones). Regardless of these difficulties, the panel guests were unanimous that when an employer makes a decision to hire a foreign candidate, a talent they need, they are prepared to go the extra mile and wait for the long process, adjust the timeline, if needed and support the new hire throughout this process.

The overall relocation process has been a puzzle, to say the least. The traveling restrictions imposed by the Finnish government for the past several weeks have made it more challenging or at least more uncertain to relocate an EU citizen compared to a Non-EU national arriving with a residence permit.

Self-quarantine, COVID-19 testing, and other measures to maintain the spread of the disease have already become an unquestionable part of the traveling process. As already mentioned, the local authority registration process has shifted into a more complex one and has demanded a little more patience and flexibility from both the employees and the employers.

 

The role of family when relocating foreign talent.

Family plays a key role in talent’s decision to relocate and in the talent’s integration and retention. When asked about this, all panel guests unanimously agreed on the necessity to see the relocation process holistically and consider the entire family unit, finding ways to help all family members to build their network in the new environment.

Practical tips included a buddy system, which extended to spouses as well, or casual virtual and physical events allowing the participating of the entire family. The main lesson to share is to show commitment to supporting the integration of the entire family.

 

What adjustments have been made to the onboarding process?

As the survey showed, the on-boarding process has brought an additional challenge during the pandemic. As most of it is done virtually via remote meetings, the sharing of so-called hidden knowledge has been quite a pickle. The panel guests shared a few very valuable tips on that issue as well. The common aspect in all was that all aimed at creating a safe environment to ensure open and transparent communication where questions can be asked, concerns can be raised, and peer support can be offered. In practice, that means creating communication channels, buddy/peer systems, casual events, and investing time into this process.

I particularly liked that one of the gaming studio’s CEO took time every couple of months to call personal all employees just to say hi, offer a shoulder of support and hear their voices.

 

Our discussion felt very open and despite the fact we were talking about a tough year and the difficulties that came along, we had good laughs and could openly share the frustration along with the solutions that turned out to work. We had the pleasure of almost 400 viewers, and it was nice to note that the audience had a vivid chat on similar topics while listening to these issues. Likewise, the Q&A section had managed to fill with a lot of good questions, and we managed to address most of them.

My personal favorite was whether Finnish studios pay less to foreign employees. The reaction of the panel was immediate and unanimous: No! We pay for talent and we believe in equality!

Fortunately, this positive trend is visible in many other industries. Many industries have already managed to adapt to the so-called “new normal”, have embraced the opportunities that come along with the crisis, and have simply decided to move on rather than stand by waiting.