Interview

Outplay's Emma Turner on the importance of HR for great company culture

Outplay's Emma Turner on the importance of HR for great company culture

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This time we spoke with Dundee-based Outplay Entertainment's head of HR Emma Turner.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Emma Turner: I lead our HR team at Outplay, the UK’s largest independent mobile games company.

As a team, our goal is to attract, inspire and develop the industry’s top talent whilst ensuring that our unique culture is upheld and evolved to make Outplay an amazing place to work.

My role is therefore specifically focused on identifying and delivering various initiatives that can meet these goals.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into the role?

I always wanted to work in a creative environment and the games industry seemed like the perfect place to experience real creativity. But I knew at the time that I lacked the specific skillset to pursue a career in that area.

It’s an incredibly dynamic industry and I relish being able to observe trends, plan, evolve and react to the challenges it throws up.
Emma Turner

So, I set about exploring other ways that I could contribute to the games industry and started my first role in HR and Office support at Visual Science in Dundee in the early 2000s.

From there I developed my HR and recruitment experience and joined Cohort Studios as their HR Manager.

When Outplay opened in 2011, I joined the team to focus on talent attraction – and creating and enhancing a culture at Outplay that is as inclusive, ambitious and compelling as our portfolio of games.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

I didn’t really have a desired career path when I left school and even in my early career in HR I didn’t have a set plan. I was just focused on gaining exposure to creative businesses. Quickly I felt the games industry was where I wanted to be and where I wanted to build my career.

It’s an incredibly dynamic industry and I relish being able to observe trends, plan, evolve and react to the challenges it throws up - it keeps things continually interesting.

Castle Creeps was one of the several games made at Outplay during Turner's eight plus years at the company

It is also an industry that operates like a family, with a unique and eclectic workforce who are passionate about bringing entertainment to players.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I studied a post graduate in Human Resource Management through the CIPD which is the chartered professional body for the HR sector. Part of this pathway was studying business awareness and advanced professional study. This gave me an incredibly useful insight into business strategy and research

It is very easy to see the games industry as an impenetrable sector if you don’t have the right skillset or industry exposure.
Emma Turner

This type of professional qualification allows you to study and apply your learning directly into a work setting. It therefore creates a positive learning experience where you can apply academic theory directly to the work you are delivering.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

I am fortunate in that my role is exposed to all areas of the employment experience. This allows me to define and shape what it is to be a part of our studio, to manage the recruitment experience, onboarding and most importantly the culture we have in place, encouraging people to then go onto thrive in the studio and in their career.

It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to influence all stages of the journey for our team.

Talent development at Outplay is integral to our ability to achieve our goals as a studio and we are on a mission to create an unbeatable, supportive culture of excellence where everyone can achieve their potential.

Having such a high-level commitment towards opportunities for continual development and an inclusive culture at Outplay makes it extremely rewarding.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

I think it is easy to overlook just how wide the remit of HR is and the direct impact it can have in a forward-thinking and people-orientated studio like Outplay.

In the right company, where people are recognised as being the company’s most important asset, HR plays a fundamental part in a business’s ability to engender a high-performance culture where both business and individuals can achieve their goals.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

It is very easy to see the games industry as an impenetrable sector if you don’t have the right skillset or industry exposure.

However, with the enormous growth of the sector there are so many opportunities on offer if you have a passion for games alongside your area of expertise.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

As well as in-depth knowledge of HR best practice, it’s imperative that you understand the industry, its products and the people working within it.

Understanding all facets of a company and the challenges and opportunities allows you to tailor your talent strategy to align with people, business and industry goals.

Check out all our Jobs in Games articles here

And you can check out Outplay's open positions via its Careers page

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is a freelance writer from Yorkshire, who's work has been published for Tech Radar, Nintendo Life, Kotaku UK and more. He regularly attends Smash Bros. tournaments, while trying to keep up-to-date on everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999.

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