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Game-Maker Electronic Arts Revamped Its Workforce to Remake Itself

To shift from retail to online sales, the game-maker used LinkedIn, other tools to hire creatively as part of a global talent overhaul.

November 8, 2012

When Electronic Arts Inc. decided to shift from selling its popular games on disk and focus on digital game delivery, the company had to overhaul its workforce—fast.

Electronic Arts needed the overhaul to keep up with modern gamers who prefer to play Madden NFL 13 or Command & Conquer on a smartphone, online or through downloads to a game console, rather than just buy a disk at a store, a change that has hurt the company's bottom line.

To make the switch to a digital delivery strategy, Electronic Arts needed to hire thousands of software engineers, data scientists and online marketers in a short time, far surpassing the hundreds of people it normally added in a year, says Nellie Peshkov, Electronic Arts global talent acquisition vice president. But the company's existing recruiting structure, applicant tracking system and other tech tools used to source and hire employees wasn't up to the task, Peshkov told a crowd of recruiters at the LinkedIn corporate user conference held in October.

Peshkov started a 12-month transformation by reassigning recruiting managers who previously were organized by region to operate inside Electronic Arts business units. There, they translated each unit's goals into the types of people they needed to hire, and communicated that information to recruiters who could go out and find candidates.

Peshkov had recruiters and sourcers use LinkedIn Recruiter software to identify potential candidates by region and relevant skills. It was worth the investment, she says, because it made her team look "supersmart" to business-unit managers and other executives because of the data they could produce. Sourcers also produced weekly reports based on LinkedIn data showing which companies around the world were laying people off or were acquiring targets "or were having some kind of unrest," all events that might make an employee or soon-to-be ex-employee open to a new job, Peshkov says.

To raise Electronic Arts' profile as an attractive workplace, Peshkov's team created a career microsite inside the company's popular EA Sports website. They also started a LinkedIn group for engineers and sponsored "hackathons," videos and other career-oriented networking events. Recruiters sent high-level Electronic Arts executives to university recruiting events "to talk about the amazing careers students can have" at the company, Peshkov says. "Every executive shows up," she says. "It's not an option."

Electronic Arts isn't out of the woods yet. In the 90 days ended Sept. 30, the company lost $381 million on revenue that was essentially unchanged at $711 million. Revenue from digital sales, however, grew 40 percent from the same period in 2011, a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy report and a sign the talent makeover is working.

Despite being understaffed, the talent acquisition team hit its 12-month hiring milestone, Peshkov told the LinkedIn conference crowd. "The team is being viewed as being a phenomenal success," she says. "It's been the hardest 12 months of my career and certainly for my team. What we accomplished would have taken me three, four years to accomplish in my previous roles."

Michelle V. Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

Nov. 12, 2012

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

An article about Electronic Arts, published Nov. 8, incorrectly characterized the company's new business strategy. Electronic Arts will continue to sell packaged software as the company shifts its focus to digital game delivery.