Angie Richardson: Building Connections that Inspire Innovation

The Visionary HR Executive Shaping the Workforce, 2024

Angie Richardson

Angie Richardson, Director of Human Resources at NeoPollard Interactive (NPi), believes in prioritizing people. Her 20 years of experience, positive, employee-first attitude, and passion have made her indispensable in her role at NPi and a leader in the field of Human Resources.

Angie describes herself as a “Connector”.  In her role on NPi’s leadership team, she strives to get a “bird’s-eye view”, observing how NPi’s teams work and collaborate, enabling her to build a more cohesive work environment. By recruiting top talent and supporting their career journey at NPi, she has helped transform NPi and usher in a new wave of technology that has revolutionized how players interact with their state lotteries.

For Angie, success means building thriving teams. Since NPi offers cutting-edge technology and a full suite of managed services like marketing and customer services, Angie must manage a multi-disciplinary recruitment program as well as encourage a culture where everyone feels free to innovate. To Angie, that means creating an environment of transparency and integrity.

Joining NeoPollard Interactive   

Angie joined NPi in October of 2019 because she was intrigued by the burgeoning iLottery industry and the possibilities for innovation in North America. “iLottery is an often-overlooked part of the gaming industry, but I think the category is the best of both worlds. It combines the excitement of technology and gaming to deliver revenue directly to the state lottery’s philanthropic causes,” says Angie. “I was originally attracted to the company because of the ground-breaking technology, but once I met the people, I just fell in love with them,” she continued.

Angie believes that clear and constant employee engagement is critical in a performance-oriented, technology-focused industry like gaming. “From an HR perspective, companies should prioritize people and results — that’s what makes NPi a great place to work,” Angie says. This employee-first attitude led Angie and NPi to win Electronic Gaming Review’s bronze Employer of the Year award in 2023. Dubbed the Oscars of the iGaming world, the EGR Global Operator Awards celebrate outstanding and forward-thinking performance among business-to-consumer gaming businesses.

Evolving with NPi

NPi is an award-winning supplier of best-in-class iLottery solutions which is jointly owned by Pollard Banknote Limited and NeoGames. Angie points out that the company helped pioneer the introduction of iLottery in the U.S. and is North America’s proven partner of choice. “We take pride in being the leader of the $107.9 billion lottery industry, with 65% of iLottery wagers delivered through NPi’s platform,” she noted.

When Angie joined the company, she was its first true HR leader. Angie recalls, “We had 80 to 90 employees. We all sat in a tiny office, crammed into a little space in Lansing, Michigan.” Reflecting on how much the company has changed since she joined, Angie says they have added more employees and refined their leadership team.

“So much has changed in these four years,” she adds. “It is a completely different company.” NPi now employs more than 150 individuals in eight different time zones. “Clear employee communication and clarity around processes and procedures has been paramount during this growth.” Angie says, “This has been key in maintaining high employee satisfaction with a growing virtual workforce,” Angie said.

When NPi was founded in 2014, it was a new industry. “Being a pioneer was exciting, but we had to learn a lot along the way,” Angie says. As the iLottery market matures and grows, NPi continues to meet the needs of their customers. “NPi has evolved. As NPi has continued to power the most profitable iLottery programs in North America, we have cemented our industry status as not just a platform provider, but as a strategic partner and consultant for iLottery programs searching for continued growth,” she says.

Positive, Proactive Leadership

As a champion of employee engagement, Angie conducts an annual employee satisfaction survey to help understand the ever-changing needs of NPi employees. “The most recent survey showed that 73% would recommend working for us to their friends and family, and 88% felt that they worked in a respectful and positive work environment. Because our staffers know their opinions are taken to heart, we generally attain a 90% survey response rate,” noted Angie.

Recently, Angie and NPi have initiated a series of game-changing policies. In 2023, the company introduced a paid parental leave program. Angie points out that the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. “This policy isn’t realistic for many families,” she adds, “Unpaid parental leave does not create an environment that supports working families as they grow.” Under her leadership, NPi has implemented a fully paid parental leave program for men and women — it is for all parents. “We pay them their full pay up to 12 weeks,” Angie says. “I’m really proud of this because I would have been extremely grateful for paid leave when I had my two children. It would have eased the stress of having a newborn baby at home.”

Angie is also proud of establishing a strong platform for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at NPi. Though still a continuing journey, she and NPi’s employees have found the DEI Committee’s “Culture Club” initiatives very rewarding. The Culture Club works closely with senior leaders to ensure the alignment of organizational business strategy and institute practical measures to improve employees’ day-to-day work life. Angie noted, “Our monthly Culture Club meetings have featured such topics as Neurodiversity, Cultural Traditions of Easter and Passover, World Adoption Day, and Accessibility and Disability Inclusion in the iLottery industry.”

As an HR leader, Angie intends to keep investing in the professional growth of NPi employees. The company prioritizes ongoing training and professional development programs like the NPi Leadership Academy, which trains emerging leaders on managing difficult situations, giving and providing feedback, and developing decision-making skills. NPi also covers the costs for staffers to attain certifications. In the past year, employees have received over 70 certifications in Anti-Money Laundering, DEI, project management, and more.

Angie feels a sense of achievement when she receives positive feedback from the company’s employees. NPi’s industry leadership and strong culture have made it a sought-after employer, with 85 new employees joining in the last 12 months and a low 13% attrition rate amongst professional services staff. “I believe our employees appreciate our efforts,” notes Angie, “88% of employees said that they felt valued by NPi’s management, and 80% said that NPi welcomes their ideas and concerns and makes them feel comfortable communicating openly.”

NPi also intends to keep investing in technology. “Technology and innovation are critical for us, but at the same time, we also understand that they should have a human connection as well,” Angie says. “So, we will continue to invest in technology that is human-focused and human-centered at its core.”

According to Angie, NPi is poised for a great year ahead as it approaches its 10th anniversary in 2024. “From our humble beginnings as a start-up, we have grown to become the leading provider of iLottery in the United States,” she says. “To commemorate this transformation, we intend to refine our corporate mission, vision, and values.” She reveals that they also plan to host an all-employee meeting to celebrate their success over the past 10 years as well as discuss their plans for the future. “This gathering will be the first time when our colleagues from across the globe will come together,” she adds.

Changing Landscape of the HR Industry

Angie did not step into the HR industry after exploring other career options — it was her first choice. When in college, Angie was attracted to Psychology. “I always had this love of people and how our minds and emotions work, and how all that connect and work together and create our lives,” she says. After just a few classes, she realized she wanted to do “a little bit more with that knowledge.” She also wanted to find out how to apply one’s understanding of humans to one’s life. “So, when I looked into HR, I knew this was for me, she says. “Maybe it was my calling, but I knew right away that this is what I need to do all my life,” Angie says. “And I have been in HR ever since.”

In her career spanning nearly 20 years, Angie has seen the HR industry grow and evolve. She has seen technology becoming one of its essential features, recalling that on her first day as an HR generalist, she saw a typewriter at her desk. Her first thought was that someone was pulling a prank on her by keeping it there. It, however, was not a prank. The typewriter belonged to the person from whom she was taking over. That person, Angie says, had very outdated processes; she used the typewriter for almost everything, including forms. At the time, she told her manager that she would not be using the typewriter. “This is why we brought you on board — to help us evolve,” the manager replied.

Angie also recalls that when she first started working, she learned the transactions and legalities of HR.      Over the years, she has seen HR grow into a strategic partner and become an important part of the leadership team. “Rather than HR being behind the scenes and offering support, we are now pushing ourselves forward to say, ‘Hey, HR is in the room, and you need to listen to what I have to say’,” Angie says.

Angie also points out that DE&I has helped open discussions about the important differences in people. As this discussion continues, one realizes that differences in people are not just limited to face value, skin color, location, and age; there are a lot more differences underneath the surface, which people can now talk about, according to her. “Before, we were always afraid to talk about that at work. It was like “Leave your personal life at the door’. Now, it feels like people are allowed to be humans and themselves,” Angie says. At NPi, she and her team encourage people to come out of their shells, be their authentic selves, and share their ideas and personal experiences. Angie is very proud that in the most recent Employee Satisfaction Survey, 88% felt that they worked in a respectful and positive work environment.

Dealing with Challenges

As a young HR professional, Angie wanted to fix everything. She learned to overcome this urge by realizing that approach wasn’t always practical. “I learned that sometimes people don’t want help. They may not be willing to accept or receive it,” she says. “For me, as a person, it was a tough challenge to accept that.”

At NPi, especially during the pandemic, the employee turnover rate increased significantly posing a major challenge for Angie. She handled this by implementing flexible work arrangements for their call center employees. “We had to adapt according to our employees’ preferences and needs,” she points out.

After the pandemic, when the company asked people to return to the office, offering them a hybrid work model, many of them were not keen on doing that. They said that they no longer have a car or have not driven one in two years. Again, the company’s turnover rate increased significantly.

“We had to adapt our style because we realized that the world was not going back to what it used to be like before the pandemic. We adapted according to the future of work,” Angie says. “We had to implement new policies and new technologies, and we had to adapt our HR process to could accommodate this new world of work.”

Message to Aspiring HR Leaders

Angie encourages aspiring HR leaders to look for their calling and not just look for a job or a career. “Find what you are passionate about in your career because that will help you move forward. People may have goals such as making an X amount of dollars or getting a certain job title, but if they are not passionate enough, they will ultimately get bored even after achieving those goals,” she says.

“Find what really sparks your passion,” Angie adds. “And, incorporate that into your job, and if that is not in there, ask for it. Take the initiative, give ideas, write business proposals, do research, and say, for example, ‘we should implement this wellness program as it will reduce turnover’.”

Angie also advises aspiring HR leaders to find a mentor because, according to her, “one-on-one support is invaluable.” She also highlights in her message that she owes her success to her two mentors. “Without them, I wouldn’t know what to do,” she says.

“The great thing about HR is that we are very nice people, so find an HR chapter by them and ask for someone to mentor you,” Angie adds.

Still, More to Achieve!

Angie believes she has achieved more than she had thought possible in the HR field. But she also feels she still has much more to look forward to. “Each year, I come up with more goals and dreams that I want to accomplish over the years,” she says.