iGaming Leadership Roundtable Part 2: Is There a Digital Skills Shortage?

It’s exciting to see the iGaming industry continue to flourish as the world continues to transition into a digital landscape full of great opportunities for growth. However, in order to effectively satisfy this increased online appetite, operators will also need increased levels of digitally skilled talent.

In Part 1 (catch up here) of this future-focused industry roundtable, our esteemed panel explored what the key causes of the talent gap are and the unfortunate impact it is likely to have going forward if not addressed immediately.

Now, in Part 2, read as our experienced panel takes a deep dive into innovative solutions for mitigating these risks and the fundamental role that technology plays going forward.

Roundtable members:

  • Emma Clayton-Wright, Founder, Eye Spy Recruitment
  • Robin MacDonald, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Rubik Talent
  • James King, CEO, Flows
  • Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales and Growth, Intelitics

How can this talent shortage be overcome?

ECW: “Online learning is a very effective way of deploying training programs and quickly improving skills. Due to the pandemic, we have seen a significant improvement in the quality and accessibility of these courses. More broadly, we need to think about how we can educate people at a younger age about the career opportunities the industry presents. This could include running courses for HR, development, compliance, etc in order to help overcome some of the negative stigmas the industry still has while also showcasing what it offers.”

JK: “New technologies can certainly help streamline workloads and build more efficient workflows to support organisations further optimise the teams within their business to accelerate delivery. In all areas of business and life for that matter, we’re limited to the tools and products we have access to. If and when these improve, or we’re given better tools then this allows us to work and be more efficient and effective. In a work sense, this can then mitigate the need to keep adding more talent – talent that at the moment is not readily available.”

RM: “There is not enough investment in junior skills across the industry as a whole. Many technology departments view their people strategy in very short cycles (6-12 months) whereas an individual career can be 30 years or more.

“Technology departments have difficulty supporting people in the early part of their careers’. Typical excuses we hear again and again include – we need someone to ‘hit the ground running’. But with a lack of talent, the last-minute approach is no longer feasible.

“There are programmes including our own at Rubik Talent that support employers by training new entrants in Full Stack Software development alongside industry (iGaming) specific knowledge and professional skills. With our programme, you can plan your People strategy for 3-5 years in advance and benefit from skills retention. Further, we support diversity including more women in technology and those from underrepresented groups through our partnerships with the likes of All-In Diversity, Scholarship programmes and participation in government-backed schemes.”

AP: “The industry has done a good job at attracting talent from other industries over the last few years, and this has to continue. This will only increase innovation, bring in more highly talented people and also new ideas.”

Are there any technologies available to help? 

JK: “Flows is a great example of how technologies can allow people and teams to do more. Flows is an innovation platform that securely ingests data from any feed, learns it and then translates the payload into the no code Flows builder. From there you innovate and empower your organisation to connect systems, build features and drive digital automation and workflows. Flows is built to be one of the most agnostic pieces of software on the market, that is able to sit alongside any other piece of technology that you have or use. Flows plugs in to supercharge what you already have in place and what you don’t have, Flows allows you to build, all without code.”

Is the talent shortage forcing organisations to change? 

ECW: “Yes, and so too has the pandemic. I think it is safe to say that remote and hybrid working is here to stay, and this in turn is opening up additional recruitment opportunities for businesses in the sector. This is certainly true for some of the larger corporate businesses. I think talent now places more value on a work/life balance, and this is forcing organisations to consider ways of delivering added value beyond big salaries and stock options. This includes things like four-day working weeks.”

JK: “Absolutely. If you want to do things but don’t have the people to do them then you have to take an alternative direction. This means you either change your hiring policy – this could be paying above the odds for talent although this might not work economically – or you cut down your ambitions. Another option, as touched on previously, is to bring in new technologies that allow you to achieve your ambitions with the team you have in place today.”

AP: “Retention is more important than ever now. You are seeing more organisations going remote, not just in a given city, but hiring the right talent globally, and making sure they do what they can to retain this talent, not only through compensation but also through more of an acceptable work/life balance.”

Is it making them rethink their cultures, compensation, etc?

ECW: “Curating company cultures is always a difficult task because what appeals to the wider workforce – hybrid working, four-day weeks, etc – does not usually work for the C-suite. Ultimately, companies need to offer an environment and a package that delivers the highest value to the talent they are seeking to onboard and what that looks like will change from organisation to organisation. But yes, with a demand and supply issue, companies are rethinking cultures and packages to make sure they appeal to candidates.”

JK: “It is, and I think a growing number of companies are also looking at ways of improving retention. We can often focus too much on attracting new talent or hiring in “big names”. But when there is a talent shortage like we are seeing at the moment, the defence is even more important than the attack – in short, stop people from leaving the organisation in the first place.

“That is why it is important to ask why people are leaving the business and this may ultimately require a rethink of the company culture. Companies don’t always understand what their employees value or how they want to be treated. They offer incentives that don’t hit the mark or bring in policies that don’t meet their needs – the pandemic has changed where and how people want to work with most seeking a combination of home and office working. Companies that understand what their employees need and provide it within their cultures are far more likely to retain the best talent.”

RM: “Many organisations are rethinking their work culture as part of the impact of the pandemic. Location strategy is one example of this. With new services including ‘employer of record’ organisations do not need to be tied to one legal jurisdiction.

“In a related trend, remote working is on the rise across most technology focussed industries. Employers are experimenting with part or fully remote workforces on the basis that it provides employees with more personal freedom. There are certainly cost savings associated without the need for a dedicated physical office too.

“This has also led employers to source technology skills from lower-cost technology centres in eastern Europe or further afield. However, beware that these centres are also experiencing salary growth at even higher rates as competition for new skills increases.”

Is the industry doing enough to sell itself to talent?

ECW: “There has been a lot of investment by businesses in their employee-facing brand and the reputation they have among talent as a place where you would want to work. Ensuring employees can access social experiences and have fun at work has fringe benefits that might be the difference between a candidate choosing to work for one company over another.”

JK: “Historically it has been a difficult industry to sell to new or external talent. In markets such as the UK there is often a negative perception around online gambling and that can make it hard to engage candidates that might be the perfect fit for a role, but they ultimately decline the opportunity because gambling is seen in a negative light. I think the opening up of the US market is positively changing this and acting to normalise our space so I think we will see new, younger talent enter the market as a result. This will be further driven by the adoption and roll out of highly innovative technologies within the space.”

RM: “When we speak with young people and graduates about iGaming they immediately think of Playstation, Fortnite and video games, generally. When you explain that the term includes casinos, gambling and as an extension sportsbooks and betting the typical response it that they haven’t considered a career in those industries.

“Only once you start to tell the compelling story of digital transformation, growth, geographical expansion and technological evolution do their ears really pick up.

“There are historical barriers that the gambling industry needs to overcome including player safety and a lack of diversity and inclusion. This however should be seen as an opportunity to innovate through a modern people strategy, embrace new skills and a diverse workforce. Those companies which embrace these guiding principles will ultimately attract investment and be the commercial leaders in the industry.”

Editor’s Note:

After hearing from our industry leaders, it’s clear that all is not lost and there are some simple yet effective solutions available to us, as an industry, to help plug the ever-growing digital skills gap.

Casting the recruitment net in new territories is key. iGaming companies need to look more at junior talent, focussing on incubating talent from early stages. Also, understanding the power of diversity is very important. Attracting different sectors of society that can bring new ideas and ways of thinking is fundamental to our industry’s future growth.

The role of technology is also unavoidable. New AI-powered tech solutions have the capacity to lighten the load of operation teams significantly and enable improved agility at scale.

Once these vital aspects are prioritised in our industry, our panel believes the skills gap will no longer be such a growing issue and we can get ahead of the curve. We look forward to seeing more iGaming stakeholders adopt these ideas going forward.