Zynga’s CPO weighs in on how the company attracts and retains talent (Casual Connect)

Employment in the casual gaming sector of the industry is a rocky thing. The layoffs and studio shutterings certainly don’t help, but there’s also the issue of sundry companies looking to steal or court new employees. It’s a problem Zynga knows a thing or two about, and Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary hosted a panel on how best to acquire and retain talent.

McCreary has been with Zynga for over three years, and as such has seen a tremendous amount of change and fluctuation within the company. She showed the audience a chart detailing some of what Zynga’s undergone since around the time of its inception. In January 2008 (the company was founded in July 2007), there were only 11 employees. Fast forward to now, and there are over 2,800 employees located at 20 locations.

The trick to adjusting to rapid expansion is, according to McCreary, continuing to make sure that employees are happy with what they’re doing. Zynga tackles this by fostering a model which allows employees to work on a variety of different projects. In theory, this strips away the potential monotony of working on just one thing at a time. Broadening this thought process a bit, she mentioned that she felt every company should allocate around 20% of its time and efforts focusing on its people and talent. She was quick to point out that the two aren’t interchangeable, and that it’s a bad idea to focus solely on talent and neglect your people.

Beyond that, McCreary discussed the values that make the company tick. Employees are encouraged to “delight [their] players,” and “build games [they and their] friends love to play.” There’s also an onus on making decisions that serve the greater good of the company at large, which McCreary referred to as “Zynga First.” To put it another way, she wants employees to ask themselves how best they can help out the company.

The talk moved on to the importance of making your workforce feel as though there’s room for growth and expansion. Zynga does this by assisting employees in mapping out a career path within the company, and McCreary said she felt it’s something not enough places out there are doing.

The panel came to a close with some words of advice to other human resource workers. First, according to McCreary, it’s important to make sure people have control over the work, life, and happiness components of their life. Beyond that, she feels hiring employees with a willingness to take risks is crucial, as it puts your company in a better position to push the envelope. And lastly, she preached the importance of being selective in what you ask in interviews. There are certain elements — personality, work ethic — that are more difficult to discover in a person, but they’re the most important things you can learn about them.

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