The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games saw many employers link their employee engagement strategies to these huge sporting events.
In fact, more than one-third (34%) of delegates at the Employee Benefits Summit in 2012 offered themed events for staff during the games.
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- An employee motivation scheme can be themed around a major national or international event, such as the Winter Olympics.
- A scheme should have a clear objective and align with an organisation’s corporate values.
- The scheme’s objectives should be communicated clearly to staff.
The influence of the Olympics went far beyond the track and swept into offices throughout the country. For example, Procter and Gamble embedded the Olympic spirit into everything it did to help drive employee engagement.
Pansonic also held various activities for staff ahead of the opening ceremony, including a pin badge competition, a visit from Panasonic’s Olympic ambassador, heptathlete Louise Hazel, and a ‘20/12’ day with themed activities and meals.
Now, as 2014 draws closer, there is a range of events next year that employers can link into to boost employee engagement and motivation.
The Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia, in February, and the 2014 Commonwealth Games take place in Glasgow, Scotland, between 23 July and 3 August. These major international sporting events embody the spirit of fair play and athleticism: qualities that employers may want to encourage in their staff.
Employers could implement schemes similar to those introduced to link up with the Olympics last year and boost staff motivation. For example, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer used its role as an Olympics sponsor to engage and motivate its 1,600 employees.
Staff were invited to enter a draw to win free tickets for the games, and one employee was chosen through an organisation-wide vote to carry the Olympic torch during the Hackney, east London, section of the Olympic Torch Relay. Staff were also given the opportunity to attend engagement presentations with Freshfields’ three sponsored athletes, tour the London 2012 sites, take part in a sitting-down volleyball tournament, volunteer in the host boroughs, and take their children to an Olympic-themed party featuring games mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.
Another event to link a motivation scheme to next year is the FIFA World Cup, which takes place in Brazil in June and July. Football is popular throughout the world, and that universality transfers well into the workplace. Motivation events could include office sweepstakes, television screens in the workplace to watch big games, or employee football tournaments.
Implementing and structuring a themed motivation scheme can be tricky, and former Olympic swimming champion Adrian Moorhouse, managing director of human performance consultancy Lane4, says employers must link relevant parts of a sporting event to their overall motivation strategy.
Employers should first identify key parts of the organisation’s values that could be linked to a relevant event, and then use that connecting feature to promote a corporate value. Moorhouse says: “It’s a lazy view if you just go for the inspiration [aspect of a sporting event]; you need to drive it into something that matters for the individual and matters for the organisation.”
Moorhouse says the key message employers should focus on is analysing the lessons learnt from key sporting events and making sure they fit with the organisation’s goals.
Communication is key
Jonny Gifford, a research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says story-telling is important when attempting to link sporting events with staff motivation. “Story-telling creates and reinforces a collective sense of community in the workplace,” he says. “If an employer can do events-type branding in a way that manages to do that, then it sounds like it’s a great opportunity.”
But there is a danger that a motivation strategy linked to an event may be met with disapproval by employees, Gifford warns. “Employees may look at an employer’s engagement activity and just think ‘why on earth is this branded with the Winter Olympics? That’s got nothing to do with what we do on a day-to-day basis’,” he says. “A scheme’s objectives should be aligned with the corporate values of an organisation and well communicated to staff to ensure it has the desired motivational effect.”