Interviewees discussed diversity and inclusion activities, home working, and unionisation among other topics following the abuse allegations that rocked the company in 2020.
The interviews were conducted by the ACSisterhood group, a movement that began in response to those misconduct and abuse allegations.
It’s clear from the responses that not enough has been done within Ubisoft to enact necessary change. Responses were kept anonymous to retain safety.
“A reporting system for abuse was introduced. Some abusers were fired, some were allowed to quietly step down, and some took early retirement. But others were retained, moved to new roles and different studios. Some were even promoted. A handful of HR leaders were replaced and a new D&I department was created, but some individuals directly responsible for dismissing complaints and protecting abusers over many years remain in post today,” explains one ABU member.
While some positive changes have been made, these are considered local examples not applicable to all studios globally.
Working from home during the pandemic was a major talking point and was considered by ABU members as a key reason employees are leaving the company.
Said one response: “I hate how Yves [Guillemot, CEO] blames remote work for our drop in productivity during the pandemic and not the fact that people were sick, under constant anxiety, had to work while having their children at home, all while the world was falling apart before our eyes. It also grinds my gears when people discuss labour shortage without acknowledging that we lost a significant part of the workforce to COVID-19, refusing to discuss the effects of long COVID, and having a significant amount of people who died because of the disease and/or from the healthcare systems being overwhelmed.”
“Here’s an idea for management: take all complaints of bullying and intimidation seriously, get rid of all the offenders, and perhaps more devs will feel comfortable and safe returning,” reads another response.
The interviewees firmly believe that known offenders at Ubisoft studios have not faced proper repercussions and instead are promoted or moved.
“It is still happening. I believe that whilst global management may not be aware of it as such, on a local level nothing has been done to prevent the cultures that foster the protection of ‘the best people’,” reads one response.
“Even when they force abusers to quit, they are still protecting them. From what we know, Serge Hascoët, Michel Ancel, Maxime Béland and many others have not been fired, they simply resigned. They have faced nothing. They just moved away from the issue and did not justify anything. Some of them just find another job elsewhere inside the game industry,” reads another.
Interviewees also feel that not enough has been done to change the company’s “toxic culture” and that “Ubisoft still places its confidence in managers who have proven that they may still be part of the issue”.
The D&I department has so far proved ineffective at making change.
“It’s true that we have a new, very small but passionate D&I department who are working on cultural and systemic changes for the future. But that work is incredibly under-staffed and under-funded, and therefore painfully slow. So evidence of real, permanent change on the ground is extremely hard to see. In the meantime we’ve seen a clear backlash internally against the D&I work and initiatives, with measures and language designed to prevent abusive behaviour now being used to silence and shut down all dissent,” reads a response.
All of the ABU members interviewed believe unionisation is now the best course of action and have been buoyed by the work of Activision-Blizzard employee group ABetterABK. That’s despite accusations of union-busting tactics being used within Ubisoft.
So how can players support the ABU members and make a difference? Boycotting games isn’t always the answer.
“Gamers can vote with their money but they can also vote with their voice. I think it’s important, especially for content creators, to bring forth the issues but also when a gaming company gets it right,” said one interviewee.
Another notes that sometimes management pushes responsibility for low sales on other factors, including workers.
One interviewee summed up the current state of ABU within Ubisoft.
“One year later and management have completely failed to work with us or meet our four key demands. But we do know that our presence is felt and we believe our campaign has altered the company’s course. A rumoured high profile role for one serial abuser never materialised, and more have quietly left the payroll. What keeps us together is the open letter and our four key demands. In the process of taking that stand together, we’ve built a powerful foundation for the future: a huge support network that can collectively push to make Ubisoft a better place to work.”
Ubisoft’s chief people officer Anika Grant responded to ACSisterhood with a statement, here provided in full:
“Ubisoft responded swiftly to the allegations that arose in 2020, and since then we have made great strides on our commitment to building a workplace where everyone feels safe, valued and respected. As a part of this work, we have made significant changes to our HR organisation, including the creation of a specialised Employee Relations team that is dedicated to helping prevent and effectively resolve incidents. We have revamped our reporting channels to ensure all team members have the ability to speak up and feel comfortable doing so, and work closely with third-party external partners to ensure investigations are anonymous and unbiased. Any team member who has been named in a report and remains at Ubisoft has had their case rigorously reviewed and has either been cleared, or appropriately disciplined. If a disciplined employee does stay on they will have an individualised action plan to support and monitor their progress.
As we advance, we are also channelling our efforts in prevention. We have strengthened our Code of Conduct, created a new mandatory training on harassment and discrimination for all employees that is required for new hires and then for all team members in an annual refresh. We also introduced changes last year in our performance evaluation system to ensure we are fostering an inclusive environment where success is not just about what teams achieve, but also how they achieve it. Over the coming year we will partner with our teams to continue to evolve and refine our approach to further strengthen this link.
We believe in the importance of open, honest dialogue and ensuring our teams have different channels to provide feedback, through forums such as global and local townhalls, office hours and regular employee listening surveys. Our Employee Resource Groups participate in frequent discussions with leadership teams, including Yves, who meets quarterly with the global ERG leaders. In addition, leadership engages regularly with their relevant local employee representatives and we have elected employee representatives on our Board of Directors. Ubisoft’s people strategy is built upon the principles of listening, transparency and accountability. We are committed to continuing to engage in open and honest dialogue with all our employees and ensuring that their feedback can help shape our global HR strategies and initiatives.
Looking forward, we are committed to putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. To lead this work, we have created a strong and growing Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility team who is responsible for engaging everyone at Ubisoft on this journey and ensuring it is a strategic priority at all levels of our organisation, from our teams to our games.”