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Activision Blizzard Continues to Take Corrective Action While Looking Towards the Future 

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In the wake of allegations regarding misconduct and failings in corporate culture, Activision Blizzard continues to step up its response to employee concerns. The organization’s efforts to further nurture an environment of accountability and equality are ongoing as leadership also works in cooperation third-party investigations into alleged gender-based discrimination. 

A recent piece in the Financial Times, along with several Activision Blizzard announcements regarding policy and staffing changes, shines extra light on the company’s dedication to addressing employee, investor, and public concerns. Ultimately, the organization maintains that misconduct at any level and of any kind simply will not be tolerated.

Dismissals and Reprimands for At-Fault Staff of Activision Blizzard 

Activision Blizzard Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend joined the organization in March 2021 and began an in-depth evaluation of existing employee behaviors and misconduct reports. Speaking with the Financial Times, Townsend shared that the assessment was designed to lead to appropriate measures: “If you’ve committed some sort of misconduct or you’re a leader who has tolerated a culture that is not consistent with our values, we’re going to take action.”

This action took the form of 20 employee firings in October 2021 after several months of internal investigation into claims of misconduct. While the names of specific individuals were not released, the company did share that those dismissed included a mix of game developers and supervisors. Those who were fired met established patterns of misconduct when evaluated by Townsend and her team. An additional 20 employees were reprimanded on the basis of what Townsend called “one-off instances that she hoped could be rectified with training.” 

Activision Blizzard has continued to make it clear to existing personnel that misconduct will not be tolerated, whether those incidents occur at off-site gatherings or in the workplace. Townsend’s message to employees who experience an issue with coworkers or management is clear: “When they speak up, they will be heard…with a renewed urgency.”

Additional Steps To Stay Vigilant

In addition to eliminating immediate obstacles to proper corporate culture and employee wellness, Activision Blizzard has also implemented programming to reinforce diversity and inclusion. Townsend noted that more changes will be forthcoming, as the company’s CEO and Board of Directors have given her “a blank cheque” to address equity gaps.

In another move, Activision Blizzard hired a new head of human resources and named Julie Hodges as its new Chief People Officer. These changes are designed to usher “effort to build a more inclusive workspace.” This aligns with the company’s explanation to the Financial Times that it “has committed to tripling its investment into training resources and said it is hiring 19 full-time roles for its ethics and compliance team.”

According to a September 2021 press release, this effort includes “expanded training, performance management, and anti-harassment resources.” With a goal of a truly equitable workplace, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also released an October 28 letter to employees updating them on the company’s commitment to strengthening inclusion policies and processes. Noting that this is just the beginning of a dynamic process, anticipated and in-progress changes include an updated zero-tolerance harassment policy with stronger protections for employees who file a complaint.

Another company-wide implementation for a more equitable and inclusive environment will include increasing the percentage of female and non-binary employees by 50%. To this end, Activision Blizzard will be investing $250 million in workforce talent development. Improved feedback channels for employees to report harassment, enhanced transparency around equal pay, and quarterly status reports on progress measures are also expected changes. 

Responding to Employee and EEOC Concerns for the Long Term

These regular progress updates may help to quell concerns from employees who, in August 2021, demanded broader efforts to “expand diversity and inclusion, transparency over gender pay and equity, and an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts,” as explained in the Financial Times. Townsend went on to explain that measures will be taken as needed to combat misconduct: “The impact on the business is not a consideration.”

What is a consideration is improving workplace experiences for every single individual contributor at Activision Blizzard. The organization’s recent agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which remains subject to court review, reflects its dedication to “strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination.” One initiative will use the company’s deep software and tech capabilities to create tools and training platforms to improve policies and promote fair reporting. 

Third-party oversight by an equal opportunity consultant will also help bring to light ongoing or additional areas for improvement in an ever-evolving workplace environment. Results will be shared with both Activision Blizzard and the EEOC for review and action. “We call it as we see it,” said Townsend. Even off-site misconduct will not be tolerated: “The consequences of it are going to affect the workplace, and so that’s the reason we say we have got to address this.”

Kotick underscored the company’s commitment to eradicating inequity. “There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind… and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.”