Blizzard’s 2021 was a year marked by lowlights, with the company beset by allegations of a toxic workplace and rocked by the departures (and firings) of several key personnel. Now, with a new year and likely new ownership as well, president Mike Ybarra has outlined Blizzard’s plan to “rebuild your trust.”
In a message posted to the company’s website, Ybarra says, “2021 was challenging for all of us.” He continued, “As individuals, we care about treating everyone around us with respect and dignity. As professionals, we care deeply about our crafts, and we want to work in the most supportive and safe environment possible. Our top priority—now and into the future—is the work we are doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard.”
“I also was encouraged in reading forums, social posts, and emails from people within and outside of Blizzard, standing up for what is right and lending us your guidance”, he adds. “I want you all to know we are listening, and we are committed to change.”
To that effect, he says Blizzard is implementing a number of new policies and personnel changes, including pegging leadership compensation to “culture improvement” and instituting an “upward feedback program,” so workers can “have confidence in evaluating management.”
- We’re measuring our executive and management teams directly against culture improvement. This means their (and my own) success and compensation will directly depend on our overall success in creating a safe, inclusive, and creative work environment at Blizzard.
- We’re dedicating more full-time roles and resources to improving our culture. All too often, this important effort falls to employee resource groups, filled with people who already have full-time jobs. A few of the leadership positions we’ve established for this new team include: a Culture leader who will help us maintain the best aspects of what we have today, and change and evolve where needed to ensure everyone brings their best self to Blizzard, a new organizational leader for Human Resources who will build trust, empower our teams, and help foster a safe, positive work environment for everyone, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leader solely focused on our progress across multiple efforts in this area. We are committed to staffing these teams as a priority.
- We tripled the size of our compliance and investigation teams and have articulated clear accountability for unacceptable behavior. This applies to all employees at Blizzard, including leadership and management.
- We have shared representation data internally with our teams and have set goals around improvement across these metrics.
- We’ve put in place an upward feedback program so that employees have confidence in evaluating management, and we will use this to measure the quality and effectiveness of our managers.
Beyond Blizzard’s workplace issues, Ybarra also says, “We know we need to deliver content to our players on a more regular basis and innovate both in and beyond our existing games. We have some exciting things to announce, and I’ll be sharing more next week.”
These are certainly steps forward, but they’ll also be meaningless unless they results in tangible improvements in the workplace itself—something that we (and employees) will have to judge in due time. It’s also important to note for all the changes outlined above, none of them include the demands made by the ABK Workers Alliance for things like pay transparency or, even more crucially, independent audits (all of Ybarra’s points above relate to in-house solutions).
And who knows what the Microsoft purchase will do to these plans, and these positions, once new ownership kicks in.