Inclusivity in gaming: more than a buzzword

By Tyjondah Kerr

To increase and further the gaming industry’s inclusivity, we need to look at it from three aspects: a player lens (external), an employee lens (internal), and that intersection of player/employee interaction.

We need to know who our players are and how they play to keep them at our sites and platforms,; and we need to make sure our employees know they are valued in our organizations and have a sense of belonging, and to ensure we know who they are and how to retain them. Then, when our employees are interacting with our players, the question becomes: does each side have the emotional intelligence and cultural competency to handle conflict with the other to resolve concerns?

Great results happen when we work to build an inclusive culture. We do this through curiosity and empathy. Curious empathy!

What is that? Well, it’s about being brave enough to ask the questions to which we don’t know the answers while also understanding how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to be more knowledgeable about their lived experiences. That knowledge will help you figure out the diversity of your customers and employees and understand the impacts and barriers for them within your organization. Getting demographic data such as race and ethnicity, disability, gender, and others about your players and employees is extremely important to navigate the equity, diversity, and inclusion space. Data gives you an evidence-based approach to drive the gaming industry toward building inclusive cultures.

The data can show you gaps, and it is by closing these gaps that you will not only help sustain the success in this industry, but drive inclusion for the long term.

For example, in our brick-and-mortar facilities, we can assess how we are serving our customers across those differences? What is the level of cultural competency being passed from our employees to our customers? Cultural difference can be a barrier, so how are we giving our employees the tools to be culturally competent in order for us to eliminate conflict on the gaming floor? Are we teaching our employees empathy? A human-centric approach is what will keep your players loyal to your facilities and make sure you are equipping your employees with the right tools, such as emotional intelligence.

Consider, also, the future of gaming. The maturing and future generations will only work and play at organizations that align with their social values. Well-being is a high priority for them, so evaluate the key questions. Is your environment a flexible one? Do your benefits offer programs based on individuals’ needs? How are you evolving your brand to show them that you are socially responsible? It is such a competitive market for attracting talent and players. If you are feeling the pinch, work on an inclusivity strategy!

If you are wondering where to start, I’d suggest collecting the evidence in a safe way. Listen to what your employees and your players are telling you. Then, be authentic in your response and make changes.

This is not the time to be performative; this is the time to be thought leaders in the space and change the game in gaming. Create spaces where employees can be their best. That can be as simple as having a gender-neutral washroom or having a courageous conversation on race or accessibility. Expanding your player base will mean attracting more folks to your brand. The more inclusive you can be, the more people will be inclined to work and play with you.

It does not have to be complicated. Start the work and the rest will come. I have been in this industry for over 25 years and my colleagues and mentors have been innovative, thoughtful leaders. Now, we must push a little harder to ensure that inclusivity is always top of mind.

Tyjondah Kerr is the Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. She was a featured speaker on the topic of diversity and inclusion in gaming at the 2022 Canadian Gaming Summit.
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