Many of us have residents addicted to CandyCrush. But did you know that behind this massively popular game, there is a 10,000-employee company called Activision Blizzard (which has uncanny parallels to companies in our sector)?

By Jacquelyn Kung

Many of us have residents (or parents) addicted to CandyCrush. But did you know that behind this massively-popular game, there is a 10,000-employee company called Activision Blizzard, which includes King, the maker of CandyCrush?

Activision as a company shares uncanny similarities with some of us in senior living. Namely:

  • They grew by acquisition, much like Brookdale and others have done in the last ten years
  • They struggle with running an organization of thousands of diverse employees and dozens of diverse locations
  • They face challenges of multiple locations and finding strong GMs or studio heads (similar to our dynamics of multiple communities and EDs)

Key Point: Here Is What We Can Learn from Activision

Activision has been recognized as having an amazing culture and raving fanbase. Activision has come back from the brink of hardship, when its founders had to find side work selling furniture, and now revenues and profits are soaring.

How did they do it?

Here are the three things we discovered when talking to the Activision leadership:

1.  Unique values that are memorable and actionable. 

Many companies have values like integrity, compassion, teamwork. These are all fine. But how are these squishy values lived? . . . Probably in a squishy way. And, how do your employees remember what’s important? Instead, Activision’s set of values is actually called Active Vision . . . get it? 

Here is a sampling – listen to how creative and differentiated these are:

    • It’s the people. 
    • Good enough, isn’t. 
    • You got to have fun to make fun. 

Yes, seriously these are their Company Values — and employees rave about how different a company it is because of them. It’s clear from these values that Activision focuses on hiring the right, fun people and developing them — therefore making it an incredible culture.

2.  A benefits package that works for the employee as well as the company.

Activision offers unique benefits as a workplace and as a company providing services.

For instance, their employee well-being program gets people moving. People love socializing with each other. At the same time, the company saves $2000 per moderate-health employee on healthcare costs. It’s very smart.

On the customer side, one of the unique benefits is being able to meet your life partner through this company. A common question the company asks is: how many employees users have gotten married because of their annual event, BlizzCon, or because they met through a game. The number is astounding, and it’s a big personal benefit for both employees and users.

Applying this to senior living, what can we do to create unique benefits that work for both employees and our organizations?

Here is one example.

A large CCRC company in our space offers the benefit of being able to get married at work. Imagine the amount of money an employee saves in not needing to book and pay for a wedding venue! It’s great for the employee. It’s also great for our customers: residents love seeing some of their favorite employees celebrate an important day in life. Who knows, residents may even have a few words of unsolicited love advice.

3.  They struggled when running in too many directions – and ultimately needed a core, shared purpose.

In many ways, Activision sounds like Brookdale: they bought a bunch of companies and have put them together:

    • Activision
    • Blizzard
    • King games (the makers of CandyCrush)
    • Major League Gaming

Here are a sample of the dozens of companies that Brookdale bought:

    • Brookdale
    • Horizon Bay
    • Emeritus
    • Renaissance 
    • ARC

As you can guess, everyone was running in a different direction.

So Activision got their many brands together to create a shared purpose.

Previously, their goal was to create games that sell (like CandyCrush). Their new vision is to transform the entertainment industry. They also created a concrete strategy on how they would achieve the vision. If this goes well — and it should with the talented team — we’ll hear more about them in the next few years.

Most critically, they unified all their people under the purpose of MAKE EVERY DAY FUN! Now, who doesn’t agree with that?

What can we do to further the companies in our industry?

  • Our residents are such fun people, and our team members are fun too. We work hard and we have fun together. Why don’t we have values that embody these traits?
  • There are many similarities: some CEOs are stepping up our purpose for existence. These leaders (of companies like Rivera, Benchmark — congrats on your marriage, Tom!) are creating a higher purpose. Rather than making senior housing units that sell, they are repositioning their companies to transform aging.
  • When you hear all this, ask yourself: where do you want to work? (I’d argue we offer so much more than CandyCrush saga…)