How Zynga Uses Data to Support Remote Workers and Create Personalized Experiences

HR leaders at the creator of the popular social games “Farmville” and “Words with Friends” discuss how they’re engaging their newly remote workforce—and why data makes a big difference.

Even before the effects of the pandemic, the future of work was trending toward a remote workforce. As the global crisis evolves, companies are making changes to support their employees as many expect to work from home for the near future. And though this change was necessitated by COVID-19, many companies are taking this opportunity to look closely at how they plan and execute their HR strategies as they move toward recovery. 

In a recent webinar with Workday, Senior Director of People Operations Eamonn Stanley and Director of HR Technology Nathan Stearns from Zynga, one of the world’s leading social gaming companies, joined us to discuss their efforts to keep employees connected even though they’re physically apart. 

Zynga owns some of the world’s most popular social games, like “Farmville” and “Words with Friends,” and has over 88 million active monthly users, leading to $1.8 billion in revenue last year. Here are a few highlights from the webinar, including how they’re engaging their remote workforce and how data and analytics make a difference. 

How did you help your people stay engaged and positive as you shifted to fully remote? 

Stanley: The success of Zynga depends on the creativity and the productivity of our teams. They are spread across multiple locations and make up of a very broad range of skills, from game designers to engineering to analytics.

So when COVID really kicked off, our leadership put together a special task force and the organization transitioned to a work-from-home model. The transition has gone well, despite this challenging time and we have heard from employees that overall; it went well for them.

Having easy access to HR data really helped, whether it was specific to high-risk locations or onboarding new hires due to start during that transition. Having one reporting hub in Workday saved time too; instead of having to ask “How do I get this?,” key stakeholders were able to go to that reporting hub and find links to key reports.  

As much as possible, we focused on having a proactive, forward-looking approach to workforce planning and made sure we had a solid process to get new hires on board. And we used data to make better decisions and move faster. In difficult times, that’s enabled us to make a difference for our employees. We had a plan, and the data to support the plan. 

“We focused on a proactive, forward-looking approach to workforce planning and a solid process to get new hires onboard.”

Eamonn Stanley Senior Director of People Operations Zynga

How has your work in gaming analytics influenced your approach to people analytics at Zynga? 

Stanley: In games, players want a personalized experience. They want to pick their cars, their teams, their avatars. Likewise for employees, they want a personalized experience when it comes to data, and they only need access to certain data and information that’ll help them do their job and make better decisions. 

One other parallel: If a gamer is stuck at a certain part of a game, you give them a boost so they can move along. We use that approach at Zynga; if we see an employee getting stuck on a particular part of the workflow, we want to help them get through it. 

That’s even more important now, since we are remote. Whether we’re in the office or working from our dining rooms, it’s always our goal to partner with our employees to help them succeed. 

It sounds like data is the cornerstone of your approach to workforce management. Could you expand on that? 

Stanley: We’re striving for employees to have the same experience when it comes to data, whether they’re in London, India, or San Francisco. We want them to have a personalized experience, and we want data to help them do their jobs better. And it should help our leaders be aware of existing and future HR needs. 

Especially during this time in a global pandemic with a remote workforce and a changing environment, having a data hub is even more critical. Data is essential for strategic workforce and talent planning, as we evaluate what talent needs we’ll have moving forward, especially in rapidly changing times. We also want to use data to show how we’re building operational efficiencies and benefits to the organization.

“We’re using Workday as our source of truth, where people come first for whatever report they’re looking for.”

Nathan Stearns Director of HR Technology Zynga

Stearns: As we started on a path of transformation with Workday, we had a lot of demands for data. We wanted to have data at every important point of an employee lifecycle, from start to finish, and make sure we were using it correctly. And we wanted to use it to help our organization have a common goal to work toward.

It was imperative to make sure our employees knew their data was always safe. We’re using Workday as our source of truth, where people come first for whatever report they’re looking for. It’s important to us to tell the right story with data.

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