Members of the ABetterUbisoft group have spoken out on the state of the company ahead of the Ubisoft Forward event and more than a year after the group launched its public campaign.
Interviewees discussed diversity and inclusion activities, working from home and unionization following the abuse allegations that rocked the company in 2020.
The interviews were conducted by the ACSisterhood group, a movement that began in response to those allegations of misconduct and abuse.
It is clear from the responses that not enough has been done within Ubisoft to make the necessary changes. The answers were kept anonymous to maintain security.
“An abuse reporting system was put in place. Some abusers were fired, some were allowed to quietly resign and some took early retirement. But others were retained, moved to new roles and other studios. Some were even promoted. A handful of HR leaders were replaced and a new D&I department was created, but some individuals who are directly responsible for dismissing complaints and protecting abusers for many years remain in office today,” explains an ABU member.
While some positive changes have been made, these are considered local examples and will not apply to all studios worldwide.
Working from home during the pandemic was a major topic of conversation and was considered by ABU members to be a major reason why employees leave the company.
Said one comment: “I hate how Yves [Guillemot, CEO] blames remote working for our drop in productivity during the pandemic and not for the fact that people were sick, under constant fear, had to work while they had their children at home, while the world was collapsing before our eyes. It also grinds my gears when people discuss the labor shortage without acknowledging that we have lost a significant proportion of the workforce to COVID-19, refuse to discuss the effects of prolonged COVID and have a significant number of people who have died as a result disease and/or because healthcare systems are overwhelmed.”
“Here’s an idea for management: take all bullying and harassment complaints seriously, remove all violators, and maybe more developers will feel comfortable and return safely,” reads another comment.
Those interviewed firmly believe that known offenders at Ubisoft studios have not suffered proper repercussions and are instead being promoted or relocated.
“It’s still happening. I believe that while global management may not be aware of it, nothing has been done at the local level to prevent the cultures that promote the protection of ‘the best people’,” reads a comment.
“Even if they force abusers to stop, they still protect them. As far as we know, Serge Hascoët, Michel Ancel, Maxime Béland and many others have not been fired, they just resigned. They have not experienced anything. They just left. of the problem and did not justify anything. Some of them just find another job elsewhere in the game industry,” reads another.
Interviewees also said not enough has been done to change the company’s “toxic culture” and that “Ubisoft still trusts executives who have proven they are still part of the problem.”
The D&I department has so far proved ineffective in implementing changes.
“It is true that we have a new very small but passionate D&I department working on cultural and systemic change for the future. But that work is incredibly understaffed and underfunded, and therefore painfully slow. So evidence of real, permanent change on the terrain is extremely difficult to see, meanwhile we have seen a clear backlash internally to the D&I work and initiatives, with measures and language designed to prevent abusive behavior from now being used to silence all dissent and shut up,” reads one comment.
All ABU members interviewed believe that unionization is now the best course of action and have been supported by the work of the Activision-Blizzard employee group ABetterABK. That’s despite allegations of union-breaking tactics being used within Ubisoft.
So how can players support the ABU members and make a difference? Boycotting games isn’t always the answer.
“Gamers can vote with their money, but they can also vote with their voice. I think it’s important, especially for content creators, to bring the issues up, but also when a gaming company is doing well,” said one interviewee.
Another notes that management sometimes shifts the responsibility for low sales to other factors, including employees.
An interviewee summarized the current state of ABU within Ubisoft.
“One year on and management has completely failed to work with us or meet our top four demands. But we do know that our presence is being felt and we believe our campaign has changed the course of the company. and more have quietly left the payroll. What keeps us together is the open letter and our top four demands. By taking that together, we’ve built a powerful foundation for the future: a massive support network that collectively pushes to love Making Ubisoft a better place to work.”
Ubisoft’s chief people officer Anika Grant responded to ACSisterhood with a statement, reproduced in full here:
“Ubisoft was quick to respond to the allegations that emerged in 2020, and since then we have made great strides in our commitment to building a workplace where everyone feels safe, valued and respected. As part of this work, we have made significant changes made to our HR organization, including the creation of a specialized employee relations team dedicated to helping to prevent and effectively resolve incidents We have revamped our reporting channels to ensure all team members are able to express their views and feel comfortable feel, and work closely with external third-party partners to ensure investigations are anonymous and unbiased.Each team member named in a report who remains with Ubisoft has their case rigorously reviewed and either approved or appropriately disciplined. If a disciplined employee stays on they will have an individualized action plan to support and monitor their progress.
As we progress, we also channel our prevention efforts. We tightened up our code of conduct, created a new mandatory training on harassment and discrimination for all employees that is required for new hires and then for all team members in an annual refresh. We also made changes to our performance evaluation system last year to ensure we foster an inclusive environment where success is not just about what teams achieve, but how they achieve it. Over the next year, we will work with our teams to continue to develop and refine our approach to further strengthen this link.
We believe in the importance of open, honest dialogue and ensuring our teams have multiple channels to provide feedback, through forums such as global and local town halls, office hours and regular employee listening surveys. Our Employee Resource Groups regularly participate in discussions with leadership teams, including Yves, who meets quarterly with the global ERG leaders. In addition, management regularly consults with their relevant local employee representatives and we have elected employee representatives on our board of directors. Ubisoft’s people strategy is based on the principles of listening, transparency and accountability. We are committed to maintaining an open and honest dialogue with all our employees and ensuring that their feedback can help shape our global HR strategies and initiatives.
Looking ahead, we are committed to putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. To lead this work, we’ve created a strong and growing Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility team responsible for involving everyone at Ubisoft in this journey and making sure it’s a strategic priority at all levels of our organization, from our teams to our games. ”