How to Hire the Best Staff for your eSports Organization
Aside from success from gamers, building an eSports organization requires help. One person can’t do it all alone. Well, perhaps they can, I’ve done it, but I’ve gained a few gray hairs and had to cancel a few dates. It’s okay, they weren’t anything to brag about.
Speaking from personal experience as a team owner, I found it difficult to grapple all angles of managing an organization on my own. I had my eSports life, regular life, regular work, and of course, college for which I am also a full-time student. Your position may be different than mine. My team wasn’t even that large, was tier-two, and I had trouble. I can only imagine the issues facing owners of tier-one teams! With that, having a competent and dedicated staff can help you focus on the general direction of your organization. You can put staff in charge of projects and tasks, such as sponsorship campaigns, social media management, even recruitment of players and staff!
Additionally, there’s the angle of helping the industry grow by means of fostering additional professionals in this industry; hiring those that haven’t worked here before can help push the entire eSports community one step towards even more global success and broaden the population of industry professionals.
We’re going to cover how to seek out and bring on new staff to your team. Candidates for jobs may also benefit from reading this article.
Building an eSports organization, and even sustaining a large one requires delegation. Lucky for you, there are qualified staff members out there.
Let’s take my former team for example. It was a small, tier two organization, which admittedly was quite impressive given its two-month age before a merger. Every staff member just happened to have these credentials below, and it wasn’t intentional:
- College graduate with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in the very field of study for which they worked at my team (marketing, HR, writing, communications). We even had a news manager with a Master’s in Creative Writing!
- Or, an undergraduate student (already has an Associate’s degree, working on Bachelor’s degree) in the field of study for which they work in at my team.
- Older than 21 years old
- 80% male
- Inexperienced in the field of work, but well-educated
- Usually a recent college graduate
- Required strong leadership, yet worked best under a laissez-faire approach.
- Unpaid/volunteer, with some incentives for landing sponsor contracts or selling off player contracts.
What have I learned? Namely, in eSports, experience trumps education, by far. I, in fact, have two college degrees and am working on a third. None of my degrees have anything to do with business (there is a stigma associated with this, and I don’t admit this fact often) though I have been involved in eSports for over 10 years. The experience during that time renders myself as competent and a strong leader with an overall understanding of what needs to be done in terms of the direction of the business, and when (or so I’m told). After hiring well-qualified individuals with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, it became readily apparent that these individuals, while highly intelligent, were still in need of direction. They have not worked in the unique and niche eSports field. Again, I am a firm believer that experience trumps education, at least in eSports management.
With some background, now let’s take a peek at why you really need staff to begin with, and how to get them.
If this wasn’t the first thing on your mind in making any change to your organization, then a mindset change is warranted. Anything you do in this very volatile and unpredictable industry must first have a careful strategy. If you arbitrarily pick up new staff without knowing what role to put them in or don’t have a vetting process, you may have set yourself up for disaster.
On the other hand, if you have problems with current staff, I recommend having someone on staff to deal with those issues. A human resources manager, if you will.
The first step is to take a step back from your organization and look at it, big picture wise. What current roles do you have? What are the current needs of the organization (is social media lacking? do I want a manager, coach, marketer?). To complete this first step, I’d recommend making an organizational chart of what you terminally wish your organization’s staff structure to look like. Here’s what one looks like from my very eSports team. There are many free programs on the web to help you in creating an organizational chart. I happen to prefer SmartDraw.
Color coding can help with organization!
Next, create job descriptions. Job descriptions set clear responsibilities and requirements.
Requirements and qualifications for your roles must be a careful balance of having a qualified candidate and not overly narrowing down your candidate pool. For example, mandating your entry-level journalists to have bachelor’s degrees greatly narrows down your candidate pool and may not be a wise decision. Additionally, most entry-level journalists may be very young or inexperienced in eSports, but may be fantastic writers. One must balance deciding the correct qualifications, but not narrowing down your pool of potential new staff too much! I recommend making “Requirements” and “Preferred qualifications” two separate locations on your job posting. Here’s an example!
Clear and concise! Just the way a candidate would like it!
Side note: I referenced being a team owner before. All of my staff were volunteer, even those with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Competent and qualified people are out there, and this article will help you find them. As a general rule, those in supervisory roles or public-facing roles, such as marketing or public relations, I required to have past proven experience in that role. Journalists were the only exception.
Creating your posting
I have no financial disclosures here, but wish to fully and publicly endorse http://esportscareer.org as likely the best way to find quality candidates. Again, I am in no way affiliated with that website other than having been a user of it myself.
In case you’re not familiar with it, and can’t connect the dots of the website title, and haven’t visited the website yet (shame!), esportscareer.org is a means for those looking for jobs in eSports to find eSports or tech/gaming organizations to find candidates for vacancies in their businesses.
After you’ve made your job descriptions for vacancies, or have paired up with perhaps a freelance eSports management consultant (like myself; self-plug!) to do so, the next step is spreading the word that you’ve got openings! Esportscareer.org is an excellent starting point. They have a review process of every submission, so there may be a day-or-two hang-time. After it’s posted on esportscareer.org (you’ll receive an email alert saying such), it’s time to hit social media! Engage your fans and point links to the esportscareer.org page with a catchy headline. Additionally, it’s generally good practice to put this up on your website.
With those minimum steps for promoting that you’re hiring, here’s a few more ideas to spread the word about your vacancies:
- Game-specific message boards
- Steam groups
- Gaming league message boards
- eSports news outlets (it helps if you have a press release already made)
- Youtube videos, if you have a significant youtube following
With these tasks complete, you assuredly will not need to actively seek out candidates.
Moving on, how will you have the candidate apply? Will you require a resume? To have a great resume, one needs education and work experience. With that said, a resume requirement is a fantastic idea. It eliminates uneducated. undedicated, and under qualified individuals, especially absurdly young candidates. Did you require a cover letter? Most of the time if candidates apply via email, the body of the email is filled with their cover letter. If you receive a blank email with an attachment, I’d like to think that the candidate made a mistake, but it usually means lack of effort, and we can draw a conclusion they’d be a substandard staff member.
There is software out there to handle hiring, for which you can have candidates apply online, but licensure for this renders those interested having a highly successful business. I don’t think those parties could learn anything from this article, so we won’t cover that here. I usually think having a Google Forms / Zoho Forms page is an unnecessary step, as a good resume should cover all those topics you have, as well as an interview.
The “unicorn” candidate is out there. To get the highest chance of recruiting them, channel your inner marketer and publicize your vacancy! A simple listing on your website will not always do the trick. It will get you applications, but only fans. We want the best person for the job, right? This is why publicizing the position is critical.
Screening and interviewing candidates
So, you’ve got your jobs posted, the emails are flying in, and you’re overwhelmed.
First off, review submitted resumes to ensure that the candidate is actually a match and meets your requirements.
Let me take a moment to just say: Respond to EVERYONE that applies. Remember when you were job hunting and were stuck in no-man’s land waiting to hear back from potential employers, only to hear nothing? I am of the camp that it’s extremely disrespectful to customers and fans AKA YOUR APPLICANTS to not respond to their inquiries and keep them updated on the process. It’s a respect and courtesy matter. These people are very likely your fans and probably found this vacancy through your own website or social media channels. I understand you want the best person for the job, but be respectful.
Taken straight from a notable team’s website, publicly shaming their applicants who simply want an update on their application is extremely disrespectful. Please don’t make negative examples out of people (like I am, but I already have an eSports job, rather three!). These people would probably make good candidates and can channel their eagerness into productivity!
Don’t do this, EVER (taken off this website’s front page). They’d probably make a great candidate and be extremely efficient. A simple “We’re still waiting” three-word sentence would work great here!
Don’t get me wrong, candidates; Please don’t email your recruiter or future employer daily. Give it two or three business days before following up. I like this picture because it shows what an organization thinks is the right thing to do, but is the polar opposite. This candidate was left out to dry after 4 days and after asking simple questions that would take no more than a minute to fulfill.
Anyway, getting back on track. So you, as an employer already told bad applications no, in a respectful manner, and you’re left with a few good ones! Where you go from here usually involves an interview or two (or three), and each organization is different.
Using the majority of organizations that I’ve been involved with as an example, here’s a step-by-step process of how we did it, with details. You’re free to modify as you see fit.
We did a two-step interview process. Our HR manager would field and respond to all inquiries and applications. He would also do the screening/general interview to ensure they are a quality person overall. Then, a second interview would be performed, with HR manager’s approval with the candidate’s direct supervisor. For example, a marketing agent would report to a marketing manager. The marketing manager would conduct the second interview, then make a hiring decision. The second interview is more about the job itself, and if the candidate would be able to perform well in that role in your organization.
- PLAN — Craft a standard set of interview questions. Determine the step-by-steps of your interview process. How many interviews will there be, and with which staff members? Choose which candidates you wish to interview
- VETTING — Vet the candidate. Maybe do a google search on them. See what comes up. Check out their Twitter/Facebook. Judging from the content, is this someone you want representing your brand? Do they use proper punctuation even on a casual social media post? Is there any racism? Foul language?
- SCHEDULE — Set a time and location for an interview. Skype may work well for you.
- INTERVIEW — Be on-time! Be calm. Have your questions written down. Comfort the candidate with some small talk before the hard-hitting questions. We’re all people. No need to be harsh or rude.
- FOLLOW UP — Thank the candidate. Did they do poorly on the interview? Notify them that they won’t be proceeding in the process via email. Did they do well? Invite them for another meeting or offer them an on-the-spot job! Some organizations will have follow up interviews with department supervisors at this point.
- WRAP UP — After you’ve made a hiring decision and have notified the hired candidiate, ensure you’ve notified all candidates that they’ve not been selected, out of courtesy. Close the job postings, edit your website to reflect closing the vacancy, and so on.
- ON-BOARDING — Send over the legal forms! More info is in next section of this article.
On-boarding is the industry’s general term for what happens after you make the offer to the candidate. If you happen to be an American organization, now’s the time to send over the 1099 for signing (if applicable), any non-disclosure agreements, and any employment agreements. I’d recommend consulting with an attorney familiar with contracts and business law to assist you in this regard. There are templates on the web customizable, but perhaps they are missing critical clauses that an attorney or paralegal can advise you upon. Additionally, if money is leaving your bank account into someone else’s for the purpose of compensation for work, ensure you’re in compliance with your locale’s laws. For volunteer employees, a standard volunteer agreement and a non-disclosure agreement sufficed.
If the money is there, which most of the time it is, a quick google search on eSports attorneys can bring up quite a few notable community figures. eSports attorneys are usually in the $300/hour range give or take.
A touchy subject. So you have a consistently underperforming employee? Someone not sharing in your vision? Again, if you have the money to spare, an hour with an eSports attorney is much more than plentiful to remedy this situation.
A few considerations before you even think about termination
- Do you have a valid reason for termination? (If yes, then progress)
- Classes of people: age/gender/race/sexuality/etc are not solely permissible reasons for ending employment.
- Did you talk to the employee and give them a chance to improve? (If yes, then progress)
- Did they improve upon the issues? (If no, then progress)
- Did you give them reasonable time to improve upon any issues? (If yes, then progress)
- IF they are under contract, are there clauses to allow termination of the contract by the organization? This should be in any employment agreement. Did you imply a contract at any point?
If you can answer those questions and they still point to termination, call the employee and their supervisor, along with any HR staff you have with you. Keep the meeting very brief, fact-based, and I like asking for a signed resignation letter. If they will not submit this, notify them their employment is terminated.
Ensure you remove any administrative rights they may have and ensure you change any passwords to accounts they may have had.
Again, if you fear you may be in a legal problem area, it is always advisable to consult with an attorney, before the termination occurs.
Why to hire more staff
As a leader, your focus should be on “steering the ship.” In the military, police, fire service, and other paramilitary government service organizations, multiple studies have been performed and it is now common knowledge in those fields of the doctrine of “span of control.” This doctrine can be applied to the business world, which is where you’d fall in, in running a professional eSports organization. While young teams may be able to get away with having their hand in every cookie jar, as you scale upward, inefficiencies will emerge, rendering need for more staff. Additionally, there may be staff more qualified than you to handle your marketing, social media, or other aspects of your organization. Humbleness is very important.
Span of control references the fact that one leader at any level is most efficient in overseeing a maximum of seven people, and a minimum of three. If the topmost leader is overseeing all aspects, things get missed, forgotten, and efficiency of employees may suffer. It is for this reason, I suggest your organization take a hierarchical approach with your board, president, owner, or CEO at the top, and having no more than seven individuals (likely individuals that hold another supervisory capacity themselves) that are to be under the prime leader of the organization.
If you’d like some more reading and source material on the doctrine of span of control, follow this link:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Span_of_control
To optimally fulfill this role hire managers. See our organizational chart above? We have 4 executive officers, each with about 4 managers under them, each with 3-4 entry level staff below them! This setup allows people to do their job without micromanagement, and leaders to flourish, actually leading! Staff are happy and perform well.
Another suggestion if you are to go through with this method is regular meetings with upper management. Everyone can fill each other in on the happenings since the past week, as well as receiving and assigning projects from and to other leaders of the organization. Scheduling a weekly meeting involving all staff in a VOIP program like Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, or Skype can improve upon coordination and project management of the organization as a whole.
The subject of pay
While I am not proud to say it, my entire staff structure on nearly every team, gaming league, news organization, casting group, etc., that I’ve been involved in has been overwhelmingly volunteer. In my own experience, out of all of the eSports jobs I’ve had, only 18% of them paid me.
In my most recent management position, I owned a team. I wish it was possible to pay my staff even a minimum wage, but then we need to discuss sustainability. If you have 30 staff, and your organization only generates $1,500 a month. It is not even possible to pay staff at this point. Even if your organization receives a lump-sum from an investor, if you elect to pay staff from this large sum of money, you can easily go in the red! I feel this is a common-sense issue for which little further discussion is necessary.
If your organization can afford to pay employees, and you wish to hire employees, ensure you are in accordance with your locale’s laws and tax code. Most American organizations go the Independent Contractor route, due to not having to pay insurance for the employee, namely. Again, I’d recommend a brief consultation with an attorney about venturing into the subject of pay, especially an attorney heavily involved in eSports, though the decision is yours. Such discussion I believe should take no more than 30 minutes with a competent eSports attorney.
You may also be able to discuss incentivizing some positions. Perhaps if a member of your sponsorship team lands a financial sponsor, you may elect to offer a lump 3% sum of that aid as an incentive.
It is unfortunate, but the case with eSports presently with limited revenue streams, especially for the majority of teams, those that are not tier one, renders the need for volunteers. Most volunteers have some form of desire to further progress into eSports or in related fields, and some do. Try to foster these goals and embrace them! Remember, you’re (probably) not paying these volunteers, so they will very likely leave you at some point.
We’ve discussed many aspects upon the who/what/where/when/why/how of bringing fresh blood to your eSports staff. It is a big decision, and an important one to ensure proper scaling and growth. Most eSports staff are volunteer, and pay is not generally expected. With a careful and strategic approach to this matter, and consulting industry experts, you can scale your team much easier.
For the complete article regarding how to hire the best staff for your organization, the orignal article will be credited down below for your pleasure.
Written by Harrison, @eSportsHarrison