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David Barnes is head of Reward at King – the World’s leading mobile gaming company. He is responsible for Compensation, Benefits, Global mobility, Equity and Recognition. David has been at King just under 5 years, and had two children during his tenure there.
With a background in tech and media companies, and interesting side steps writing quiz questions for University Challenge and playing poker on the European tour, David isn’t afraid to shake things up and has taken extended parental leave for the recent birth of his second son.
We spoke to him about diversity in gaming, taking parental leave as a senior leader and how companies can support returning parents.
Parental Leave as a Senior Leader
David’s first son was born in 2016, when King were just implementing their enhanced parental leave policy, and he told us,
“I only managed to take 2 weeks off, which really isn’t enough to either help your partner through the tough first month or to properly bond with your baby.”
For the birth of his second son Marcus, David wanted to be able to spend more quality time with his baby. He took four weeks parental leave following Marcus’ birth six months ago and another seven weeks a few months later.
We know that only 2% of people who take primary parental leave are men, so David is in a minority when it comes to parental leave, but King is fully supportive. David felt no expectation from King to work while he was on leave, but because he heads up a team he;
“didn’t want anything to slip through the net whilst I was off [so did] keep on top of emails and urgent items that came up in brief moments of peace between nappy changes, feeding, cleaning etc”
Now that he’s back at work full time it’s important to David to maintain a close connection with his family.
We make sure we have breakfast together as a family every morning and I drop my older son to nursery, and in the evenings I do my best to leave on time so I can help out at bath time and read them some stories. I think that’s really important even if you have to then log back on in the evening.
How Companies can Support Returning Parents
At King, employees continue to accrue their bonus whilst on carers leave and are guaranteed country average wage increases at their first return-to-work pay review. These initiatives help encourage parents to return to work and help combat the gender pay gap that often starts around the time of having your first-born.
Flexibility is a big factor for returning parents, trying to juggle drop off and pick up, as well as school events and kids’ activities.
At King, David tells us, “there’s always flexibility around family needs, and a number of family parties each year where you can meet other families. Our benefit provisions are very family focused, for example in the UK there is employer paid family medical through BUPA.”
Diversity in Gaming
Gaming is notoriously male-dominated, with 70% of the workforce being male and cultural challenges encompassed by Gamergate.
King are determined to break the gamer-mould and have a huge focus on Diversity & Inclusion. They have a company goal to have a 50/50 hire rate by 2020 and achieved 40% women and non-binary hires in 2019 – well above the 30% industry rate.
King are doing other work to combat the gender pay gap, such as producing statutory gender reporting, undertaking ‘blind’ compensation benchmarks to prevent unconscious bias and building ‘gender nudges’ into annual processes such as pay rises, promotions and bonuses.
"What this means is that we produce a deck for leadership approval and call out the split in awards and value by gender. This ‘nudge’ very often results in a shift in the distribution of awards."
It’s not just lip-service at King, with David telling us;
“The games we produce are truly diverse and are played by a complete cross-section of society. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that our employees reflect that mix and bring different perspectives and ideas to the table.”
Diversity & Inclusion has been, and continues to be, incredibly important at King. We have a lot of established groups at King such as our Women@King group, LGBT, we participate in Pride in our main locations, we have external guest speakers and we are also increasingly doing more work and initiatives around mental health and wellbeing.
A Royal Culture
When I asked David what makes King’s culture so great, he had plenty to share. Their offices are fun and vibrant, with a slide in their Berlin office, and consoles and pool table in the London office.
He said everyone needs to Google Kingofmarket 2019, an annual event where all 2000 employees gather, learn about the business and “have a great time at an epic party.”
David tells us,
“Every company says this, but the culture of King is unique. The employees genuinely live the values and it is hands down the most fun company I’ve ever worked at.”
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