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A company that has cracked the challenge of staff engagement

Work begins when you dont like what youre doing, the American writer Joseph Campbell once said. If thats true then there probably isnt a lot of work going on in the 500 Game stores in the UK, France, Spain and Sweden. Most of our in-store staff are gamers PlayStation2 or X-Box devotees, says Carolyn McMenemie, its HR director. Working for us really is a dream job.

Game is Europes largest specialist retailer of video games and computer software. The majority of its stores, 360 of them, are in the UK, but the firm has grown fast in the past few years and has expanded into continental Europe. The business was formed as a result of a merger between Game and its acquirer, Electronic Boutique, which chose to keep the name of the smaller company.

Although the firm clearly operates in a specialised market, McMenemie believes that certain basic HR principles apply to Game as much to any other business. You need to get the recruitment, culture and values right, she says. McMenemie should know what she is talking about. She was formerly HR director at Somerfield, the supermarket chain. But Lara Crofts Tomb Raider adventures are clearly more eventful than an average day keeping the milk and white sliced fully stocked up. She joined the firm in November 2002 in a newly created HRD role alongside the companys first head of training and development a sign that the once small business was growing up fast and taking its future seriously.

In the past year and a half, she has been putting in place all the formal HR structures that a business of this size needs. When there were only 80 stores, senior managers knew almost everyone, she says. Its not like that any more.

Training from scratch

Training and development has been redesigned from scratch and a new performance management system introduced. Senior management has also received leadership development training, and a 360 appraisal system has been adopted. As many of the store managers and deputies are former entry-level store assistants, there is a natural continuity in the staffs career development. As part of its training programme, and to help motivation, Game holds an annual staff conference, where suppliers personally demonstrate their upcoming products. Employees are involved, hands-on, from the beginning.

Many employees are former students who, having worked part-time during university terms, have chosen to stay on in retailing. Games recruitment and retention of staff seems remarkably hassle-free. McMenemie regularly receives letters from graduates asking about vacancies. They seem to like the fast-moving, constantly changing environment, she explains. Its challenging and motivating at the same time.

Moving on

The firm has now outgrown its three buildings in Bracknell, and is moving to a new HQ in Basingstoke 25 miles away. Another development at the new HQ is a learning zone centre, which will offer ongoing training and development support for all staff, either remotely or on site.

In its own way, the company seems to have cracked the mystery of employee engagement. The staff are working in an environment they enjoy, with products they love. Whatever it is, it sounds like everybody is having fun. But then, what else would you expect from a company called Game?