Aaron Reading,

Group Talent Development Director,
Tripledot Studios


Talking all things talent development with Aaron Reading, Group Talent Development Director at Tripledot Studios

Aaron Reading,

Group Talent Development Director,
Tripledot Studios


Talking all things talent development with Aaron Reading, Group Talent Development Director at Tripledot Studios

Whilst Tripledot Studios may not be a household name such as the likes of Tesco or Facebook, there’s a high chance that you may have seen it flash across your phone screen innumerable times over the past few years. Since 2017, the games development firm has been on a fierce trajectory of growth, creating incredibly successful titles such as Woodoku and Word Hop, and capitalising on that oh-so human need to take some time out of hectic modern life and play a fun game on a mobile.

Originally founded in London, the company has swiftly created divisions in the likes of Warsaw, Barcelona and Jakarta. Such has been the studio’s success that many of its people are considered top talent in the field of game design and creation.

In June of 2023, the studio addressed its need for a more structured approach to internal development by hiring a veteran of doing just that, Aaron Reading, in the role of Group Talent Development Director. Reading’s history in talent development has taken him through roles at Safestore, Ocado, Mothercare and Specsavers, each of which has taught him vital lessons he applies to his current role. HR Grapevine caught up with the talent specialist on the eve of his first trip to Tripledot Studios’ Jakarta offices, to talk about all things development and skills.

What’s keeping you
busy at the moment?

Tripledot Studios is spread across seven global locations. We have one of our biggest studios out in Jakarta in Indonesia. I’m departing on my first trip out to go and meet our people over there, and possibly run a little bit of training while I'm there. I’m hoping to generally get familiar with the culture and the people, because it kind of helps to shape what they might need at a local level.

It must be complex to manage a workforce spread across so many different global hubs…

It's always hard when you've not visited the place. There's certain things that culturally that it’s important to understand and work with. So a great example is, say management development in Indonesia. They don't really believe in giving negative feedback. It's not something they like to do. They're always finding the positive and everything, which is great. Unless, of course, you have a real performance issue. In the Europe, we have less of an issue with that. Whereas in Indonesia, that becomes a challenge.

It’s incredibly frustrating when you see someone who is a technical expert, get moved into a management role. If you’re great at what you do, why would we move you to a job you may not be good at?

Aaron Reading | Group Talent Development Director, Tripledot Studios
Are your expectations to change how these professionals think about development, or to augment your strategy to work around their expectations?

I don't think you can ever fully change somebody's mind. If it's cultural, it's really hard setting. There is a filter that's already in place. What you can do, however, is work out what your next step is. I always treat it a bit like a ladder, which I think you see quite a lot in L&D related stuff. The idea of, ‘what will it take for me to get onto rung three or four?’. Then we take it in steps. I think also a lot around that, how to deliver it in a way where it doesn't feel like you're being negative.

Do you think that kind of positive approach to development is fundamental?

It's one of the first things I've worked on in quite a number of different businesses, and I've done a lot of different jobs. One thing that you realise really quickly is that a lot of the time it's about prevention rather than cure. First thing I get asked in any business is, do you do anything on challenging conversations? And I go, okay, define what a challenging conversation looks like the like.

Someone’s doing really badly, and we need to get them out of the business. Right? Well, here's the problem. You've already failed. If you've gotten to that point, it's already gone wrong. Sometimes it's not an instant fix. Here is where you might need to have a challenging conversation.

How do you ensure that you’re having those very human-to-human conversations with a global workforce?

So, take the business I'm working in at the moment. We have HR operations representation in every single one of our offices. We have somebody who essentially looks after the HR function in each space, which is helpful because they understand it. And then when I'm writing content, they'll take it out and look at whether it's fit for purpose across their demographic of the business. You have to make a decision on if we put out something that's local, because it's really specific to that population, or global because we need company-wide consistency. That relationship with local HRBPs is essential for me as they’ll give me open and honest feedback on whether something we’re doing will land well in their area, or if we need to go back to the drawing board.

What role do line managers play in this structure, or carrying out HR’s aims?

Across any business, line managers are absolutely fundamental. And it’s a very key set of skills that really, don’t have much to do with the skills of the team they’re managing. It’s incredibly frustrating when you see someone who is a technical expert, get moved into a management role. If you’re great at what you do, why would we move you to a job you may not be good at? We want you to thrive in your role, and be supported by a line manager with a very different technical skillset. And then when you’ve found an individual who may be a great line manager, it’s also frustrating how little development they’re often given. When you find that person, support them with coaching and mentoring! In fact, you should ensure you’re offering all staff the opportunity for coaching and mentoring.

What are other ways, apart from coaching and mentoring, that can fuel skills development?

We’re an extremely successful business, and we’ve seen some huge growth. As a result, we’ve managed to gain some incredibly skilled people. We’ve got people who are really at the top of their fields. So, offering these people training is complex as they’re probably more knowledgeable than most. All we can do is signpost where learning can happen, and make sure everyone in the company is aware that skillsets shift and change, and if they want to keep up with what’s coming, then we’ll support them.

I think everything you do is an amalgamation of experiences that you’ve had previously.

Aaron Reading | Group Talent Development Director, Tripledot Studios

To some extent, our bigger project is working out how to unlock that knowledge and disseminate it within the company. We’re still very much working on that, but we brought in a learning experience platform, rather than a learning management system. We try to make it more collaborative and get people involved in generating their own content as well. It definitely comes back to the point I made around utilising your top people as key coaches and mentors for others. The more we can get people talking and sharing their knowledge, the better.

What have been the crucial moments that formed your perception of your role?

I think everything you do is an amalgamation of experiences that you’ve had previously. I started off in training, working in retail. And I got spotted doing some training in a store, which people seem to like and were enjoying or getting something out of. One of the regional trainers saw that reporting back and then when he moved on to another role, he suggested they speak to me about that role. Then I got into learning design, then started doing broader learning design from there. I've kind of done a bit of everything. I'm willing to try anything. I try not to see things as an obstacle, it's an opportunity to try something, learn something new or get a fresh perspective on things I already know pretty well, because there's always another way you can view the world. And why not explore that and see if there's another way that you can approach your work or support other people.

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