Entain Baltics & Nordics is the largest iGaming operator in the Baltics with an ambition to expand well beyond, becoming one of the leading online gaming companies in other regions of Europe as well. The company offers iGaming products through many of its brands and is a truly diverse company with more than 720 people from more than 15 countries working from 7 different offices all across Europe.
We talked to Oleg Karpušenko, the head of the HR department at Entain Baltics & Nordics, about how to build a great company culture that values diversity and inclusiveness and what are the essential elements for creating a friendly and down-to-earth company culture.
🔵 Let’s start with the first question. What exactly does Entain Baltics & Nordics do?
Previously known as Enlabs we are now known as Entain Baltics & Nordics and we represent the iGaming industry, which is well developed in the Baltics. We’ve been in this business for nearly twenty years by now, ever since 2006.
We offer our customers five key products.
- Online casino with a variety of games.
- Live casino with an actual dealer on the other side of the screen who communicates with players.
- Sportsbook, where it is possible to bet mostly on sports, but on specific occasions – also on elections, Eurovision, Academy Awards, etc.
We have a variety of brands with different products. “Optibet” and “Ninja Casino” are the biggest ones which perhaps you might have heard of. In total, we have eight brands as part of our company portfolio.
Essentially, we’re offering the purest form of entertainment. Compared to many illegal operators, which don’t have a license to operate on the market, we operate in the licensed and regulated markets with governmental institutions supervising and controlling our operations. We are on good terms and relations with these institutions, and we comply with every market’s rules and regulations.
We have also introduced different programs to address customer protection issues, and we have a department where our employees track the behaviour of players. If we see abnormalities, for example, someone is playing and losing non-stop, then we act upon it and limit or even restrict their activity. We have always said that we are up for fun, and as soon as the element of fun for our customers disappears, no one is winning.
🔵 Entain Baltics & Nordics operates globally, with offices in Tallinn, Riga, Marbella, Vilnius, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Valletta. In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages of a diverse workplace?
There are many aspects to it, but one peculiar thing is that a team consisting of diverse people will definitely help create better results, translating them into success for the company.
It has happened organically for us. There’s a reason why we have an office in all those locations. Having those gives us many opportunities and advantages. For example, people get to travel between different offices, change their environment, meet other people and exchange ideas.
🔵 What steps have you taken in your organisation to make Entain Baltics & Nordics a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Firstly, the decisions which have shaped Entain Baltics & Nordics into what it is today are because of actions the company has executed from top to bottom. One of the main key success factors is our CEO George Ustinov who has always supported all the crucial changes and trusted me as Head of HR as well as an entire function of HR and what it can bring to the table. There are quite many companies where CEOs see HR function only as a cost or as an administrative function tasked only with preparing employment contracts and doing the paperwork. I am happy and proud to say this is not the case with us.
We would never prefer to hire people from one specific country/region, only because it’s harder for us to relocate them or have a prejudice that they will not perform well. Sadly, if we look at this aspect broader, I think this kind of mindset seemingly exists in the heads of directors of departments and sometimes even CEOs. We have infused our philosophy and attitude into everyone within our company. That’s the first layer of diversity at our company.
Because of this trust from the top and a heavy support from my HR team, as well as fellow peers (heads of departments), we built the HR function the way I thought it had to function in the company. There is no internal company “culture” where there is a need to receive a formal approval for every little thing. I have heard and witnessed myself, from my previous experience, that in other companies there is a very high level of bureaucracy and over-formalised twenty-five layers of approvals to manage even the simplest things. This requires to go through unnecessarily plenty of approval stages, making it hard to get things done fast and efficiently.
Every day in our company we make an utmost effort to treat our people like they would want to be treated – we actually listen to them and make an effort to satisfy their needs when/if possible. We have built a very collective and friendly team where people communicate easily, openly and transparently. Yes, there is a certain hierarchy and a rational, logical, efficient organisational structure, but there aren’t too many unnecessary hierarchical levels which usually tend to complicate things. All our heads of departments/functions are friendly, down-to-earth, helpful, approachable and supportive. We do operate an “Open Doors” policy and, for example, if a junior level employee needs to talk to our CEO, they can just come in and do that. No need to “apply for an appointment” or operate other silly corporate “bs”.
Four and a half years ago, when I joined the company, we had under 200 employees. Today we are a Team of over 720 people. People choose to stay in the company and our employee turnover rate is healthy. Also other key HR KPIs such as overall engagement and motivation scores, as well as eNPS (Employee Net promoter score) are very good. This growth of the business and actual HR KPIs allow me to believe that everything I have just described about our culture, diversity, and inclusiveness is working in real life and correlates with reality and is just not existing in my utopian imagination.
🔵 In your opinion, why is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?
Ultimately, it gives people the opportunity and an environment where they feel good, safe and protected. HR department employees, with a strong support of other heads of departments, are actively participating in creating this environment. The more diversity and inclusivity initiatives we do, the more present and happy people we get to have in our company. This directly translates into their output and performance and this in turn – directly into the company’s results and success.
I will gladly give another example of how we embrace, promote and celebrate diversity in our company. June, as you probably know, was the worldwide month of Pride celebration. For the first time in the history of our company this year we started talking candidly and openly about this topic with our employees, inviting the director of the LGBT Association in Estonia to discuss this topic during an open forum.
My logic is telling me – even if it is just one person who feels unsafe or insecure, and the same person sees or notices this effort from the company, my guess is that this person would think, “Okay, that’s good to know – I’m actually working in a company where they accept you being gay, lesbian, queer or transgender.”. If, let’s imagine, this employee comes back to their family and friends, and says “You know what? I am working in this awesome 21st century-minded company where they openly talk about these things!”, then for us in HR it is totally and completely worth our entire effort.
We are also aware and are openly discussing aspects where we know we are not exactly the best example when it comes to diversity. For instance, if I look at the top management team and the percentage of females represented on that level – I know for sure there is still room for improvement for us. And this is the exciting bit right here – we are aware where we can be better, and we are planning to work on that front to ensure higher gender equality and representation.
🔵 What metrics do you have in place to measure the success of your inclusiveness in the company?
We have quite a lot of metrics. Firstly, we have our key HR KPIs. We are constantly measuring and tracking our employee turnover rate (monthly, annual, voluntary, involuntary, etc.). We also consistently track our employee engagement scores, as well as eNPS. If we’re looking at more particular metrics, we have identified and set some specific diversity-related metrics, for instance, percentage of gender split.
Few other KPIs are related to pay equality. On that front – we have just done our internal analysis, and we are quite pleased with our findings. What is super important in my opinion is to measure those KPIs regularly, not doing an employee engagement survey once per year as some other companies still do. And this is exactly what we do in Entain – we follow and track our HR KPIs on a monthly, sometimes even on a weekly basis.
🔵 That’s an excellent thing! I’ve heard about companies doing their employee satisfaction surveys only once per year, usually during Christmas when everyone is happy because they received a bonus. That means they’re distorting reality.
The drawback in this situation is that most likely people in HR or heads of departments get a very tiny glimpse into employee satisfaction. They know how people felt on that specific day, once per year, giving them no valuable insights over the longer term.
We in our company are using an awesome HR tool called Officevibe, which enables us to track daily/weekly/monthly engagement rates and satisfaction, and measures happiness, relationships with peers, and a bunch of other relevant aspects. It allows employees to answer the questions completely anonymously.
Check out Entain Baltics & Nordics career page and open positions:
🔵 Could you name the essential insights, conclusions, or takeaways you’ve learned from the process of building a diverse and inclusive workplace?
I think the key to success here is actually quite simple: to genuinely, truthfully like and want to take care of people. Every time someone approaches you with an issue, question or complaint, it is essential to find the time and opportunity to listen to this person, give advice or consult, and help find a solution. It is vital to pay attention to your people. And the truth is quite sour in my opinion – if you are busy once and do not have time for that colleague the next time – very likely they will not come back to you. Ever.
I am hopeful that this behaviour of mine, and actions – the way I have been treating our employees throughout the years – have been noticed by my peers, superiors, subordinates, fellow colleagues, and that they have been inspired by it and have also adopted this way of thinking and the mindset of how people have to be treated in the organisation.
One more thing I will gladly share with you on a closing note – in order to build a diverse and inclusive workplace – you need to have a clear understanding, plan and a roadmap which combined will answer all of these questions: why do you want to build such an environment? What advantages will it give you? Do you have your CEO’s and colleagues’ back for it? Do you have the tools and resources for it? Are you sure it will be sustainable in your organisation? And most importantly – are people ready for it? If you have an answer for the majority of these questions – brace yourself and get ready for the journey! And I promise you it will be a very exciting and exhilarating one!