June 27, 2016

Disruptor Beam CEO on Helping Employees Avoid Gaming Industry Burnout

Hidden in Framingham, you'll find the ultimate fan-focused gaming company, Disruptor Beam. Disruptor Beam takes your favorite shows - think Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and the like - and transports you to those worlds via free mobile and web games. 

The company was founded in 2011 by Jon Radoff, CEO, with employees and culture at the core of it all. Perhaps the most significant signal of it's people-focused business approach is the team's newest addition: Jennifer Ramcharan, Vice President of People Ops. I recently caught up with Radoff to learn more about his views on culture, employee engagement, and how adding a President of People Ops will impact his company. Read more in our interview below. 

Kaite Rosa: First things first. What are you focused on now and what are some of your goals over the next year? 

Jon Radoff: We’re currently focused on growing our team and are actually hiring across departments with open positions in engineering, design, and marketing. Over the course of the next year, in addition to growing our team, we plan to continue to expand our most recent game Star Trek Timelines with new content and features, while working toward the launch of our next, to-be-announced game.

KR: You recently announced the addition of a VP of People Operations to your team. We're seeing more companies - especially in the tech sector - add leadership roles to drive employee engagement and culture. At what size and scale should a company consider adding this kind of role? What led to the decision to add this role to Disruptor Beam?

JR: Our employees are our most valuable asset. Without an amazing team, a company cannot produce amazing products and services.

That said, our company and team are growing rapidly and we needed someone at the helm driving not just the hiring process, but also cultural development. Disruptor Beam was founded surrounding three core values (Authenticity, Continuous Improvement, and Effectiveness) and these values drive every aspect of our hiring and culture.

Shortly after the release of Star Trek Timelines, it became apparent that we needed someone solely dedicated to making sure these values and our culture was and continues to be nurtured.

KR: Adding a VP of People Operations says a lot about your view on company culture. How important to recruitment and retention is a strong company culture? Why do you believe more organizations are investing in culture?

JR: If a company invests in an amazing recruiting program, but does not nurture employee engagement and culture, the recruiting is essentially wasted. Culture is what keeps amazing employees around for the long-term. Smart companies get that and invest in their culture appropriately.

KR: I know you offer a generous PTO policy for employees. From your careers page, it sounds like it's unlimited. There have been a number unlimited PTO critics out there, claiming that employees are actually less likely to take time off - especially in high growth cultures.

What does Disruptor Beam do to ensure employees do take their time off? How do you help set a tone and culture around taking PTO and expectations while employees are away? Is there anything you do to ensure employees don't burnout?

JR: We actively encourage people to take time off and see people at all levels taking full advantage of the PTO policy at Disruptor Beam. In the game industry in particular, burnout is common when companies embrace “crunch” periods leading up to a game or feature launch. We’ve actually never experienced crunch here at Disruptor Beam because we’ve embraced an agile development model that allows us to adjust project load based around two week sprints. Sure, we work hard when there is an upcoming feature.

But, we will never, ever say to employees, “over the next two months, you need to work 12 hour days so that we can ship X or Y feature.” It just won’t happen. Furthermore, as we are operating live games, we are constantly shipping new features - this is a sustainable model both for our business, but also for our employees. This model provides a better working environment.

We also do what we can to make sure that employees are having fun. When people are having fun and enjoy those they work with, they are less likely to burn out. We have weekly frisbee games, weekly cocktail hours and game nights. There is even an ice cream truck in our parking lot right now for all employees to enjoy. We go on a company-wide daily walks around the parking lot. And we plan movie outings and other fun social gatherings.

When you work hard, you should play hard - and we certainly do both.


Kaite Rosa is Director of Content & Marketing at VentureFizz. Follow her on Twitter: @KaiteRosa

Image via Disruptor Beam