Operators and suppliers must attract the best talent in the business if they are to achieve their ambitious goals in what is a highly competitive market. We sat down with Brady Eagle from Van Kaizen to learn more.
Talent acquisition is one of the greatest challenges for organizations in North America to overcome, with the demand for experience and skill on both the operator and supplier sides high. But with the first half of the year marked by micro and macro-economic challenges, set against the maturing of the online gambling sector in the US and Canada, the pace and scale at which organizations recruit have slowed significantly.
With some of those challenges now behind us, it looks set to be business as usual for operators and suppliers when it comes to identifying and onboarding talent for the rest of the year. To learn more about current recruitment trends, including where the supply/demand balance currently sits, we spoke with Brady Eagle, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Van Kaizen.
How has the recruitment space in North America played out so far this year?
Recruitment in 2023 has been quite different to years past. Where there were hiring bursts from the end of 2020 to the end of 2022, the first half of 2023 saw a perfect storm of micro and macro-economic factors that hit all around the world, including North America, that slowed down the pace of talent acquisition.
These factors included the USA hitting five years post-PASPA with share/stakeholders telling companies to stop spending money and demanding they become profitable, and even layoffs hitting the iGaming sector which we hadn’t really seen before.
Off the back of a challenging six months, the second half of the year was always going to be the timetable for companies to pick back up hiring. Come the end of July the speed at which companies were looking to onboard new talent accelerated ahead of the busy fall sports seasons, along with the continued anticipation of iGaming state expansion.
So, we have seen a steadying out of hiring across operators, suppliers, and the wider iGaming ecosystem (including newer niches in North America like media and affiliates), with the main hires coming across product, digital marketing and commercial roles including sales, account management, customer success, etc.
What have been the main challenges faced and what impact has this had on talent acquisition?
The biggest challenge in 2023 was the economy’s ups and downs and the ripple effect this had on the industry. It was important to educate those in the iGaming space that the layoffs that were happening in the North American economy were mostly across the digital and B2C sectors and especially at the ecommerce power players (Meta/Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) that had expanded exponentially during and post-Covid.
It was a reminder to clients that the iGaming sector isn’t affected as much by economic volatility as other industries are, and that it can even see a slight uptick during an economic downturn. So, for roles in competitive spaces like product and digital marketing, companies need to continue with those hires before the next upturn when they will find themselves back in competition with organizations from both the iGaming and other sectors. This was a tough message to get across at times.
What are the biggest hurdles organizations are up against when it comes to attracting the best talent? How can these hurdles be cleared? What does talent expect from an organization?
One of the biggest hurdles is the competitiveness within North America’s iGaming and sports betting space. With the industry being regulated for five years in the States, and even more recently in Canada in Ontario, it’s become mainstream to the point where even the most novice of bettors and/or those interested in casino want to work within the industry. iGaming is seen to provide the stability that some industries currently lack, with the ability to grow versus more mature industries that have become stagnant.
These hurdles of identifying and hiring talent can be cleared by having a very streamlined interview process, from candidate introduction and interviews, to offer, to the onboarding stage, to the candidate starting with the company. So many times, we see the interview process get off to a great start only for the final interview and offer to happen after one or two weeks of waiting during which time the candidate has potentially moved on to another opportunity. In such a competitive market, companies just can’t hand this sort of advantage to their rivals.
Where is the balance between supply and demand currently sitting? Which roles are in the highest demand?
In the iGaming and sports betting space, you’ll always see product managers, digital marketing (especially acquisition and CRM) and commercial roles (sales, business development, customer success) as being those that companies are looking to identify top talent for.
When it comes to the supply and demand of candidates, companies very much have a need for iGaming/sports betting talent, especially for Lead, Manager, Director and above levels. They need these candidates to have started/built/conceptualized and led a product roadmap end-to-end, or for them to understand campaign management on the marketing side or have a good “rolodex” or client base to be able to “hit the ground running” on the commercial side. So, the supply-and-demand, while getting bigger as a whole, is still pretty finite for senior-level roles.
Do North American businesses prefer to hire from within the US/Canada? Or is there a preference for experienced talent from Europe? What is driving this?
Unfortunately, most companies in the US are tied to immigration laws where they are only able to use US citizens or those with a Green Card (permanent residency). Even more so now, we are starting to see companies (like those in other industries in the US) wanting candidates to be located within the metro where they are headquartered or have a hub so that they can be a weekly hybrid company. With that, we are seeing an advantage handed to those companies that are still offering fully remote working.
On the Canadian side, there’s a little more flexibility, but most companies want to have the candidate based in Ontario and ideally within Toronto. But, if they are in a major metro area like Vancouver, Calgary or Montreal, there’s scope for remote and hybrid working.
How’s the recruitment space shaping up for the final quarter of the year?
Most companies have weathered the storm of the first half of the year, and things are starting to pick back up. With conference season in full swing with SBC Barcelona having just taken place and G2E in Vegas and SBC Latin America in Miami on the docket for the end of this year, you’ll see companies celebrating their successes by hiring across sales and business development, marketing, and product.
The continued (and more recent) push is for those with iGaming and especially iCasino experience as there is hope for more states to launch iGaming next year – Rhode Island is ready and raring to go – and the need for them to start to prepare for that given how much of a revenue driver it is for organizations.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share about recruitment in North America?
I think that recruiting will be back to somewhat steady and normal levels in 2024. With the steadying of inflation (as of September, at least!) and potential new jurisdictions coming down the line or launching, it should be another exciting year for both operators and suppliers to continue to carve their way to more market share on the B2C side, or to be able to get in and bring their product to operators on the B2B side. At Van Kaizen, we look forward to supporting clients on the hiring side, along with finding that new adventure for candidates.