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AC Sisterhood Interviews Ubisoft’s Anika Grant and Raashi Sikka

In September AC Sisterhood interviewed the employee advocacy group known as ABetterUbisoft about their ongoing petition for better working conditions at Ubisoft. In this exclusive interview, Ubisoft’s Anika Grant (Chief People Officer) and Raashi Sikka (Vice President Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility) give their thoughts on the progress made at Ubisoft and plans for the future.

AC Sisterhood: “You both joined in 2021, more than six months after the abuse allegations about Ubisoft started. What was the environment when you joined? What were the early priorities?”

Anika Grant:
“When I joined in 2021, Ubisoft was navigating a moment of change and taking important steps to build a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace. In those initial months, I focused on first understanding the context of our teams and business – speaking with as many people as possible and reviewing the data and inputs from past surveys and listening sessions. A key initial priority was to solidify the foundations of our Respect roadmap, making sure we had the teams, processes, and tools in place to achieve our goals and build back teams’ trust.

To start, I focused on strengthening the expertise of our HR function. We created the Employee Relations team who is responsible for managing misconduct reports and rolling out preventative initiatives to keep incidents from happening in the first place. We also revamped our reporting process, simplifying it to improve case management and better communicate with employees. As a part of this work, we clarified the channels and tools available to teams to report misconduct and developed a partnership with a third-party partner to ensure absolute confidentiality when reports are raised on our global alert tool.

In parallel, we wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page about what’s acceptable and what’s not at Ubisoft. We launched a revised Code of Conduct as well as a global anti-harassment training that is mandatory for newcomers and all employees in an annual refresh.

Finally, I knew that employee feedback would be key to making progress and identifying where we needed to continue to focus. I spent a lot of time looking at how we could better listen to our team members. We organized town halls and listening sessions, and put in place a more robust survey platform on which we’ve launched our global engagement survey Ubisoft XP, providing external benchmarks and powerful analytics. All this work helped us to drive insights and develop action plans at all levels of the organization.”

Raashi Sikka:
“I was tasked with creating the company’s first-ever global Diversity and Inclusion team and strategy. I spent my first few months on a bit of a discovery journey – listening to our team members and learning from their experiences. They provided so many important insights, and together with the feedback I heard from our teams and data we had available, we co-built a cohesive strategy based on four key pillars: Colleagues, Culture, Content and Community. Another important element was to also partner closely with our CEO Yves Guillemot and the leadership team to set a clear ambition for us all: to be the most inclusive, equitable, and diverse entertainment and tech company where differences are valued and celebrated, diversity is leveraged as a strength, and inclusion is at the center of the way we work. It’s the North Star we’re working towards as we move forward.”

ACS: “At the end of 2021, Anika stated in an Axios article that the company lacked an up-to-date code of conduct, anonymous reporting channels and goals for hiring a diverse workforce. While it’s clear the company is working to address these issues, there have been continued reports alleging privacy concerns in the internal process by which employees can report abuse. Are there plans to review these processes to protect employees’ anonymity?”

“It’s critical that all teams not only know how to speak up, but also feel comfortable doing so. As you mention, we’ve done a lot of work to build out relevant tools and channels available for teams to raise alerts, including an anonymous reporting tool that allows any team member to submit reports. These reports are received and analyzed by a neutral, third-party partner called Idoko to ensure investigations are anonymous, unbiased, and independent. We’re constantly reviewing our processes to ensure we’re providing strong case management and tackling issues as quickly as possible, and the experts in the Employee Relations team are responsible for ensuring we hold ourselves to the highest standards. Based on the results from our latest Ubisoft XP survey (which ran from mid-October to the beginning of November) the questions on respect, safety and reporting are the areas where we’re seeing the biggest increases in our scores, well above external benchmarks.”

ACS: “What is the Employee Relations team and what is their role moving forward?”

“The Employee Relations (ER) team is a highly specialized team who is not only responsible for helping to prevent and resolve incidents, but also engaging in meaningful dialogue with our teams. Over the past year, we’ve strengthened the team and now have a global function in place with experts based in Canada, Singapore, and France. These experts work hand-in-hand with local teams to ensure we’re taking into account different ways of working and cultural nuances when supporting teams. Going forward, the ER team will work more proactively, using the data we have from different sources – like internal surveys – to partner with formal employee representatives, the Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DIA) team, HR, and people managers to identify where we may have risks and intervene before issues emerge.”

ACS: “Are there any specific initiatives to hire diverse candidates to leadership positions?”

“Definitely, we know that to further embed the lens of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility into our company culture, we need to include diverse perspectives in the company leadership and among decision-makers. To start, this means training leaders at all levels of the company to create space for dialogue with their teams about their experiences and ensure we’re providing equal opportunities for teams to grow into leadership roles. This year, we were excited to launch ‘Advancing Inclusion at Ubisoft’, our flagship diversity and inclusion training program for two key groups – top leadership and HR leadership.

However, we know it’s not just about hiring externally – we also need to continue developing our teams internally. We’ve worked with several studios to launch pilot mentorship programs that aim to support the career development of team members from underrepresented groups. Participants have shared really positive feedback and we’re building on our learnings to expand these programs globally. In parallel, we’re working to make new leadership roles more visible to people across the company, so they know what’s available and apply to roles within their skillset.

We know we particularly have room for growth when it comes to the representation of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, both within Ubisoft and the gaming industry at large. That’s why we created a multi-year strategy called Project Rise to ensure that Ubisoft – including our leadership – better reflects the diversity of our players, with a focus on racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. It’s a five-year plan that focuses on three key areas: talent acquisition, internal talent development, and external talent pipeline development.

Additionally, while not a single initiative, another really important piece of this work is the fantastic partnership that Anika and I have. We both believe that to make long-term, sustainable progress happen, inclusion needs to be at the heart of our HR systems and processes. My team works closely with our HR leaders across the world as we design and deploy talent initiatives ranging from talent acquisition to talent development and our performance management system, as some examples.”

ACS: “There have been reports that employees in some studios have faced difficulties advancing in their career due to a perceived French ceiling where French-speaking employees have consistently been appointed to leadership positions over local talent. What are Ubisoft’s plans to empower local leadership in studios where the majority of employees are not French or Canadian?”

“We absolutely want to empower and build local leaders in all our locations. We’ve leveraged great talent from our most well-established studios – including in France and Canada – in helping to drive growth and create new ecosystems of talent in countries where the video game industry may not have been as present. Over time our commitment to developing local talent and leaders has meant that today we’ve been able to build local successes. Over the past year, we’ve been excited to grow local leaders in India and China, as an example.

We’re constantly asking ourselves how we can further embed inclusion into our systems and processes to ensure equal opportunities for everyone. To address this, we’ve built a task force to tackle this topic and have several key programs that will launch in the coming year. First, we’re building a new internal marketplace where any employee can consult and apply to roles, and also develop their skills and competencies. We’re also revamping our framework for promotions and internal mobility to clarify the decision-making process and make sure everyone knows how they can evolve and level up in their career at Ubisoft.”

ACS: “Your team reported in September that there will be new global mandatory training on harassment and discrimination. How does this differ from previous training requirements?”

“We launched the first global mandatory training on harassment and discrimination in March last year. This was an important step in our Respect Roadmap and our commitment to a common Code of Conduct at Ubisoft. Prior to this, local studios or entities were responsible for ensuring the right training happened. What we realized was that we needed a global approach to ensure consistency and a common understanding and application of our global Code of Conduct. We’ve had great feedback and are also continuing to evolve the global trainings with more relevant content to ensure we better contextualize the content for teams, driving really meaningful learnings. These trainings are now part of all onboarding for new employees, everywhere at Ubisoft, and all team members are required to complete refresher trainings each year along with their commitment to upholding our Code of Conduct.”

ACS: “You’ve previously reported that the severity and number of abuse reports has diminished. Does this data take into account the way Covid-19 has changed the work environment (i.e. more people working from home, leaving less potential for abuse in the office), and does the team have a strategy to address employee anxieties about returning to the office?”

“The severity and number of reports of misconduct have decreased, and I’m confident this progress has been driven by the actions we’ve put in place as a part of our Respect roadmap. When we look at the latest results from Ubisoft XP, we see that some of the highest-scoring questions are related to our safe and respectful workplace culture. Over the past few months, Raashi and I have visited studios around the world as a part of a global roadshow, and the feedback from Ubisoft XP has been reinforced by the conversations we’re having with teams. During our townhalls and meetings with employees, Future of Work and remote working have been key themes – but people are more focused on how we can continue to optimize remote and hybrid working arrangements. As result, we’ve invested in people manager training, job aids, and best practice sharing for remote team management to ensure we’re providing teams the support they need.”

ACS: “Members of ABetterUbisoft have expressed the opinion that the D&I department is understaffed and progress has been slow. Seeing how the global D&I department grew to nine people in a year, is this a fair assessment?”

“This doesn’t reflect the growth of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility team and the progress we’ve made. When I started at Ubisoft, one of my key priorities was to build a team that sets the standard for inclusion. I’m really proud of the team we’ve built, which over the course of a year has grown from 1 person to nearly two dozen talented professionals.

However, it’s a journey we’re on with all of Ubisoft and, as we’ve seen in our industry and others, progress can take time. We’ve put in place the foundations and we’re already seeing some early wins. For example, we’ve been working closely with talent acquisition teams and HR leadership to continue making progress on gender equality, and women now represent over 25% of our team members, up from 22% in 2020. Over the last year, a third of all hires were women. We’re also evaluating how we can expand these efforts to include more underrepresented groups. That’s why we’re launching Ubisoft’s global self-identification program, which is one of the first of its kind in the industry. This initiative will give team members around the world the opportunity to share additional information voluntarily and confidentially about their identities, such as gender identity, race/ethnicity, or disability. This input will help us to look at our workforce with a more inclusive lens, set more intersectional goals for the future, and take action that better supports our teams.

Over the past year, we’ve also developed an active community of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), with 7 global ERGs and over thirty local chapters. These groups are essential to developing a culture of inclusion where teams feel seen, heard, and valued. We’re also ensuring they have a true voice that is really listened to, for example through quarterly meetings with our CEO Yves, where they’re able to discuss and share their perspectives. Their insight is helping to drive the initiatives we’re rolling out as a
company, such as a dedicated neurodiversity program.

When it comes to content, we’ve created the Inclusive Games and Content team. This team is already collaborating with many of our projects and has developed a roadmap to ensure diversity and inclusion is at the heart of all our games. Thanks to the ongoing great work of the Accessibility team, we’re bringing an “accessibility by design” approach that embeds accessibility in our games from the earliest stages of development and ensures that more players can get the full experience of our universes. In the coming year, they’ll build on their expertise to further expand this thinking into the Ubisoft workplace.

This is just a snapshot of the progress and the innovative projects we have in store. We’ve got a solid team in place – I’m really excited by the progress we’ll make in the coming years. And I’m counting on the continued support of all Ubisoft teams on this journey.”

“Raashi and her team are doing such essential work, and it’s really a group effort. It’s important to remember the partnership that HR and DIA have – Raashi is part of the global HR Leadership team helping to ensure that diversity and inclusion are the heart of our HR strategies and priorities. We have almost 800 HR professionals globally – they are the arms and legs of the organization and work each day to bring our combined strategies to life.”

ACS: “After Yves Guillemot’s recent comments about generational differences and the belief that creative friction is necessary for the development process, there are many
concerned community members who wonder if Ubisoft’s CEO is truly committed to enacting real change. Can you give us a better sense of Yves’ role in this process? What is he responsible for and how much of this effort is driven by the HR and D&I teams?”

“I report directly to Yves, and from the beginning he has made it very clear that diversity and inclusion are a personal priority for him. Yves and I regularly touch base on the progress we’re making and the challenges we’re facing, and he often takes the initiative to onboard more diverse perspectives. As I mentioned, since I’ve joined, Yves has set up quarterly calls with our Global ERG leaders to discuss, listen to their feedback and answer any questions they have. Something I appreciate about Yves is that he is an extremely curious leader – he is eager to learn and grow on these topics, from voraciously reading articles and books to actively participating in workshops and trainings that we organize. He is leading by example.”

“To add to Raashi’s remarks, Yves recognizes that diversity and inclusion are core to Ubisoft’s mission to enrich players’ lives and wants Ubisoft to be a place where everyone can be themselves. When I was interviewing at Ubisoft, I remember Yves discussing the importance of including content in the Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility team’s scope, which felt like such an authentic approach, really putting D&I at the heart of what we do – creating great games. Yves has demonstrated that he is committed to enacting change by bringing in new leadership across the company with diverse perspectives. It’s also worth pointing out that he is personally assessed on Ubisoft’s progress. He shares D&I metrics with the board and part of his long-term incentives are driven by the progress we’re making on increasing gender diversity.”

ACS: “What have been some of the challenges of rolling out new initiatives across
Ubisoft’s numerous studios? Have there been delays or setbacks?”

“We’re lucky to have a worldwide network of studios and offices around the world, each bringing their unique perspectives and expertise. This decentralized organization also comes with its own challenges, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always make sense for our teams. Whenever we roll out a program, we always take care to make sure we’re adapting it to the context and culture across our locations. Navigating these differences is complicated and at times can seem to slow you down, but it also helps to ensure that we are building solutions that work for our unique and diverse context. I never cease to be impressed by how different each studio is, and the unique capabilities they bring to Ubisoft, and we need to ensure we are continuing to enhance and embrace that uniqueness.”

ACS: “What can you tell us about the Inclusive Games and Content team? What sort of benefits can the community anticipate from their efforts and how soon will we see their work reflected in Ubisoft’s products?”

“When I joined Ubisoft, I heard loud and clear from our creative and development teams that they were eager to create more inclusive and representative games. At the same time, they acknowledged we have progress to make to ensure the diversity of our teams fully reflects the diversity of our players.

Embedding inclusion in our production processes is a key focus for us and, to help us achieve that, we built a new team called the Inclusive Games and Content team. This team is responsible for ensuring that we approach inclusion as an opportunity for greater creativity. They help provide expertise and guidance in the creative development and production processes as early as possible by embedding inclusion frameworks throughout game development. This complements the work already in progress from our Accessibility team, helping to upskill production and ensure we account for the needs of all our players. It also builds on the work of the Content Review Group, a cohort of volunteer team members around the world that our production, creative, and marketing teams can contact to have content reviewed by a multicultural and diverse group of people.

This work takes time and much of the effort we’re putting in now is shaping projects that are set to release a few years down the line. Over the past year we’ve seen some early wins. For example, we’ve received positive feedback about diversity and representation in a few of our upcoming games, such as Assassin’s Creed Mirage. We’re also better leveraging trends and data we see to build out framework, guidelines and training on topics that development teams are asking for support on, such as cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. This is just the start for us – we’re continuously exploring ways to upskill teams and I’m really excited to see how this work will be reflected in our future games.”

ACS: “You’ve noted that there is still much work to be done before Ubisoft attains its goals. What do these goals look like? What still needs to happen for the company to be satisfied that the goals have been achieved?”

“Ultimately, we want Ubisoft to be a great place to work, where everyone feels respected, recognized, and rewarded for their contributions, and can do their best work every day. We’ve set some specific targets on HR and people objectives in the areas of engagement, diversity, respect and turnover, and we’ll continue to track, measure and report. But culture is not static, and as an organization we’ll need to continue to push ourselves to transform, innovate and grow. We’re on a journey and we are starting to see incremental progress – for example the encouraging feedback from teams in forums like Ubisoft XP but also when we look at the numbers of people leaving – particularly key talent, which is continuing to improve. A number of our studios have been recognized with external awards and certifications, such as Ubisoft Philippines with the Great Place to Work certification, Ubisoft Massive with the Company of the Year in Malmö award, and Ubisoft Toronto with their Studio of the Year win at the Canadian Game Awards. But no matter how much progress we’ve made, we can always strive to do more. Our job is to continue to work to better listen, understand where changes are needed, and improve our people experience, ultimately ensuring a workplace where everyone can thrive.”

“For sure, it’s a journey, and along with Anika, I’m a strong believer in progress over perfection – we can always do more and what success looks like will continue to evolve as we progress. Over the next few years, I look forward to seeing the fruits of initiatives we’re implementing now, such as Self-ID and Project Rise, as well as the value that the Inclusive Games and Content Team will bring to our future games. We’re still in the early stages of this work, but over the past year and a half we’ve planted seeds for the future. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far and I’m excited to see our garden continue to grow.”


Published by acsisterhood

AC Sisterhood is a movement that strives to highlight women's accomplishments as well as the challenges they face within the video game industry. Started by a group of passionate Assassin's Creed fans in 2020, the movement advocates for fair and equitable treatment of all who work in games, and solidarity and safe conditions for the players who engage with those games.

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