As industry leaders and investors place a higher emphasis on developing technology-led enterprises, can betting stakeholders secure talent and develop employee resources competing within a global marketplace?
The ‘Big Rethink’ panel at the 2018 ‘Betting on Sports Conference’ examined the complex subject matter of industry talent and enterprise development amid changing business and social values.
Opening discussions, panel moderator Kelly Kehn, Partner at the All-in Diversity Project, puts forward the frank proposition of whether “the industry is in a good place to recruit and retain top-level talent”.
Answering Kehn’s tough question, Britt Boeskov, CPO of Kindred Group Plc, did not hesitate in her response:
“We have to admit that there are challenges,” she said. “It’s tough for many of us, as we believe that we are in a ‘good place’, and we try to represent that through our businesses, with nice offices, training programs and good environments.
“Yet we keep asking ourselves what is the problem here, and why is the talent not coming to us?”
Boeskov tells the audience that ‘reputation matters when trying to capture top talent’ , and if incumbents want to broaden the talent pool, legacy values and dynamics have to be tackled head-on.
“We need to see what the talent sees, and be able to address their concerns openly,” she continued. “I feel its time to grapple the wider issue of what society feels about gambling, in relation to sustainability, integrity and sports marketing.”
The need to change the industry’s reputation is the dominant factor in the panel’s discussion with regards to broadening the sectors talent pool.
Todd Johnson COO of Smarkets, spoke from personal experience having joined betting from the financial services sector.
“Joining Smarkets, one of the first tests my CEO gave me was going to the ICE conference,” he said. “I had spent six years running a hedge fund, so I have seen excess but never in my life have I seen anything on that scale. Events like that don’t do us any favours.”
Nevertheless, as an industry executive Johnson has been surprised at the progressive and transparent employment practices Smarkets has effectively implemented, detailing that sector incumbents can ‘think alternatively when addressing standard businesses practices’?
“At Smarkets, we operate a completely transparent salary process. Everyone in the company knows what everyone earns. Salaries are set by employees in consultation with their colleagues.”
“I thought that was insane, especially coming from banking. But people can handle this information, and it has brought us benefits such as reducing gender pay gaps and eliminating big salary differentiation in terms of role and talent. This may be too radical for others, but we are big proponents of transparency.”
Discussions move onto ‘developing culture’, with Kehn proceeding to ask the panel whether sector incumbents can ‘learn from the outside, and which companies and sectors should leadership follow?’.
Christina Haralambous Chief Marketing Officer at Kambi Plc, details a cautious approach when following outside parties.
“In short yes, as its always good to learn from the outside, in order to evolve and take up modern practices. Looking outside can give you new insights, that can propel your business if implemented correctly. However, I stress that this does not mean simply copying models, as employees can see that, let’s remember that culture cannot be replicated.”
Kehn notes that the industry is rethinking its talent development processes and structures during a period of constant disruption be it through M&A, regulatory or investor pressures. ‘Can leadership therefore really afford to place an emphasis on talent development’?
Petra Zackrisson Chief Corporate Development Officer at GML Interactive, states that talent development and HR cannot be treated as luxury domains.
“We realise that conditions are tough, but retaining talent through HR should be critical to any industry leader. I can point to Mckinsey studies which detail that companies that train staff have 6x better returns, than those that choose not to.
“Yes, we do compete in a mature, digital and technology led market. However, if you look at any betting company’s accounts, you will see that HR and recruitment is a top 2/3 expenditure, this is a leadership reality that cannot be neglected.”