It feels almost like clockwork at this point that Ubisoft is coming out with more and more startling facts about the ongoing environment of toxicity and sexually inappropriate behavior going on at the company. But it doesn’t seem to be coming to an immediate end either. Yves Guillemot recently released a company-wide letter showing the results of a third-party company audit, and while he promises changes and improvement, it also revealed an eyebrow-raising 25% of the company had witnessed or experienced toxicity or misconduct across all offices.
The illuminating letter about the depth of the problem was sent out from Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot to the entire company, as shared with Gamespot on October 2, 2020. When Ubisoft promised investigations into sexual and toxic misconduct, the company also promised an internal audit. The letter appeared to contain the results, showing that a startling 1 in 4 employees company-wide experienced or witnessed workplace misconduct. In addition, the report showed female employees experienced 30% more harassment than men and non-binary employees experienced 43% more harassment than men. Only 66% of employees who issued formal complaints reported feeling their concern was supported or handled satisfactorily.
While the numbers were alarming, Yves Guillemot did promise once more that changes were on the way to make the company better - an echo of his address before the September Ubisoft Forward presentation. In the letter, which can be read in its entirety below, Guillemot laid out a number of specific changes on the way to the company as it continues to crack down on workplace sexual and toxic misconduct:
As I promised, I am coming back to you to provide an update on the situation we are going through and give you an outline of our focus areas and actions.
From the start of this crisis, I wanted to hear from you so that we could take stock of all the problems you are encountering and put together a plan to resolve them. More than 2,000 of you participated in the listening sessions, and nearly 14,000 responded to the anonymous, independent survey to express yourself and to share your experiences and ideas for improvement. Accenture also conducted around 100 interviews and 40 focus groups on our culture and our processes: 1,200 employees were heard as part of this audit. Thank you all for the time you have taken and continue to take to share your feedback. It is essential for a better understanding of the situation and for putting in place the actions and means necessary to address these issues.
Our Head of Workplace Culture, Lidwine Sauer, and your Managing Director will schedule sessions to share some of the findings from these assessments. Overall, the results highlight four closely related areas in which we need to improve quickly:
- Guarantee a working environment where everyone feels respected and safe.
- Putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.
- Refocus and strengthen our HR function.
- Make the managers of the group accountable and empower them.
Here is more detail on each of these areas and the initial steps we are taking to improve.
- Guarantee a working environment where everyone feels respected and safe. The survey showed that roughly 25% have experienced or witnessed some form of workplace misconduct in the past two years, and that 1 in 5 do not feel fully respected or safe in the work environment. Since everyone’s well-being is the basis for our development and free expression, this subject is our top priority:
- From the outset, I wanted victims to be able to speak out with confidence and to be supported. New channels have been put in place so that each report can be escalated anonymously to the group level and handled by our partner, Idoko, with all necessary care, impartiality and confidentiality. In recent months, investigations have been carried out and have resulted in disciplinary action where warranted. Some investigations are still ongoing, and we will continue to investigate any new allegations raised through our whistleblowing channels.
- Specialized help and support units have also been coordinated by Idoko in order to support victims in complete confidentiality. My goal is to continue to improve our systems: reporting, support, processing of cases and monitoring of sanctions. I want everyone to feel safe and able to report something that goes against our Code of Conduct without fear and with confidence that all reports will be investigated.
- As a reminder, signing our Code of Conduct is mandatory. At the same time, we are completely revising it so that it is aligned with best practices in the field, and to include more concrete and actionable directives against all forms of violence, discrimination and harassment, or retaliation in the workplace. This project is being led by The Good Corporation, recognized for supporting many companies in the implementation of compliance and ethics programs.
- Finally, we asked each site to quickly set up a first level of compulsory anti-sexism and anti-harassment training, so that everyone can better understand these issues. By mid-October, 86% of teams will have received this training. Our goal is to reach 100% by the end of December. A more complete program adapted to the specificities of our industry is being developed by the International Learning team. Once developed, this program will be common to all countries, reviewed each year and supplemented with new modules. Particular attention will be paid to the training of managers, HR teams, and any person who regularly interacts with our communities and players.
- Putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. The audit and survey show that those of you who are part of minority groups are disproportionately affected by issues of respect and safety. The percentage of women who reported experiencing, witnessing or hearing of discrimination, harassment or inappropriate behavior was 30% higher than men, on average. For non-binary employees it was approximately 43%. A group united by the same sense of belonging and where every difference is welcomed and celebrated is a much stronger group. This has always been my conviction and I am determined that we become exemplary on the subject:
- I have met several high-quality candidates for the position of Head of Diversity and Inclusion, whose role will be to orchestrate and steer our efforts across the group. Our choice will be made within two weeks and we hope that this person can join us as soon as possible.
- Recruitment of new VPs to complement the Editorial team and help create more diverse and inclusive games is also underway. At the same time, I am testing new forms of collaboration between our Editorial and development teams. Brain trusts will be set up soon.
- We have also started to set up a review committee for our content and product marketing to ensure that they are aligned with our values of respect and fairness. Thanks to the people who have already been involved in the first reviews.
- A few weeks ago, I met with members of the US Anti-Racism Committee, as well as representatives of the local Green Forces. I found these exchanges very enlightening and their efforts to move Ubi forward on these topics particularly motivating. We will work with your MDs to go further in this area and assist these virtuous ecosystems by giving them more support and resources.
- In addition to our goal of ensuring women comprise at least 24% of Ubisoft’s teams by 2023 (compared to 22% today), we are in the process of defining other KPIs to measure our progress in terms of diversity.
- Refocus and strengthen our HR function. You also told us that your confidence in the HR function had been damaged. At Ubisoft, we have talented and passionate HR teams who have been particularly mobilized in supporting our strong growth (recruitments and integration) in recent years. We are in the process of re-organizing ourselves to make it clear that these teams need more independence and resources to be fully able to help those who need it and to support everyone in the advancement of their careers at Ubisoft:
- This will be the top priority of the Chief People Officer, who we are currently recruiting. I have already met several very compelling candidates. The CPO’s first mission will be to rely on the results of the various audits and on the existing teams to review the organization of the function, as well as all of our HR tools and processes (mobility, compensation, promotions, etc.) with the objective of making our tools more efficient and our processes more transparent and fair for all.
- Make the managers of the group accountable and empower them. The survey shows that a number of you do not trust or feel supported by your manager on these matters. Only 66% of respondents who reported an incident felt they had received the support they needed. The audit also highlights a lack of sensitivity and commitment from management on all matters of diversity, inclusion and respect. Therefore, we must better support our managers so that they are exemplary and become champions of these changes throughout the organization:
- I expect all Ubisoft managers to commit to meeting or even exceeding our diversity goals in their respective teams, including among their direct reports. On my side, I will review the composition of the Ubisoft Executive Committee to enrich it with new functions and perspectives.
- The International Learning team is working on a mandatory program aimed at strengthening the hard skills and soft skills of our managers, as well as their understanding and sensitivity to cultural and societal issues.
- As previously announced, we are working to revise the bonus structure of our managers and senior business experts in order to take into account their ability to foster an inclusive and positive work environment.
Some also expressed doubts about our ability to change. I assure you, these changes will take place, and we will carry them out together, because your testimonies also show a deep attachment to Ubisoft and a desire to defend the values of respect and benevolence on which the group was built.
When I created Ubisoft more than 30 years ago, I had no idea that it would become a leader with nearly 19,000 talents around the world. It’s a great source of pride. It is also a huge responsibility. That of guaranteeing a working environment where everyone feels heard, recognized and valued, not only for what they do as an employee, but above all and above all for who they are as an individual. Everyone at Ubisoft should be able to feel confident and have the same opportunities, regardless of their gender, skin color, religion, age, or other individual traits. Diversity is a strength.
As a major player in the industry, we must show the way by becoming exemplary in all of these subjects. My goal is for us to create an company that we are all proud of. Of course, not everything can be transformed overnight, but I want to assure you that we are mobilizing considerable energy on these subjects. I am personally following these changes and will keep you informed of the progress of these initiatives, in which you will continue to be involved.
P.S. We will also share more information via the Creating a Safe Workplace site.
The results of Guillemot’s continued promises remain to seen. Considering allegations of toxicity against Michel Ancel came up shortly after his supposed innocent exit, it would seem as though the company has a long way to go. That said, it doesn’t appear to be able to let these problems fall by the wayside anymore either.