Games Makers Programme – London 2012 – and Employee Engagement 

The 70,000 volunteer ‘Games Makers’ became the defining and distinctive image of the London Olympic and Paralympic games and captured the hearts and acclaim of the world. It is not surprising, when you consider that these volunteers occupied 860 different roles, across 80 different venues, and worked eight million hours for free through collective goodwill. The success of the Games Makers programme has not gone unnoticed by the business community, with many corporates seeking to learn how to harness commitment from their people to achieve an enhanced bottom line.

A 3 Year Programme Planned to Precision

What happened last summer did not happen overnight or by accident. It was the product of a three year programme planned to precision. It is generally understood that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for successful employee engagement, however research captured in the Engaging for Success report to government shows that four themes consistently emerge. The effectiveness of the Games Maker programme can be viewed through the lens of these four enablers of engagement:

1. Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

Maintaining confidence in the organising committee was vital to secure the commitment of volunteers. At the very least volunteers would expect a well-run and properly resourced programme. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralypmic Games (LOCOG) had a clear goal to have the best trained and prepared workforce ever. In-line with this vision volunteers received both role and venue specific training amounting to a total of 1.5 million training hours across the programme.

Although the history of the Olympics is well understood by most and the direction for 2012 was covered well by the mass media, the strategic narrative was further embedded in large scale orientation events for up to 10,000 people where the desired ethos, culture and values were communicated. The Games Maker strategic narrative was to create the conditions for athletes to perform at their peak whilst spectators had the ‘time of their lives’.

2. Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.

LOCOG had a core team of in the region of 2,000 people on the paid staff of the organising committee. Those in leadership roles were recruited for their attitude and leadership skills. All of them were recruited on the potential to do ‘the best work of their lives’, and the ability to inspire others to do the same.

All LOCOG staff managing volunteers, in addition to those volunteers selected for team leader roles, undertook leadership training. The intent of this training was not to instruct staff in how to ‘be a leader’, but to place the already identified leadership skills and aptitude into the context of a major sporting event. Reinforcement of the crucial role volunteers had to play was a central pillar of this training; their morale and retention was pivotal to the strategic success of the Games. In addition all managers were encouraged to challenge every volunteer to produce their own ‘personal best’.

3. There is employee voice throughout the organisations, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.

A comprehensive communication and engagement plan was not only vital to quench the volunteers’ thirst for knowledge, but also to explain the scale and complexity of the programme. Every interaction with the volunteers, ‘the volunteer journey’ as it became known, was planned forensically to ensure the messaging was aligned to the ethos, culture and values. Views were sought throughout the journey and 98% of volunteers reported that they felt confident about what they were being asked to do. During the Games feedback questionnaires were available – and actively encouraged to be completed – on a daily basis.

4. There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap.

In addition to the communications plan reinforcing the values, the emphasis of the training was on the attitudinal side – being a true team player living the values of a common goal, nothing complex, but powerful nonetheless. In essence, the volunteer values and behavioural standards were never an adjunct to a presentation or document, but were embedded in every element of training and operations – they were part of the LOCOG ‘DNA’.

Tune in to our Radio Show to Hear About the Games Maker Programme

If you want to hear more about the Games Maker Programme and what made it such a success, please tune in to our Engage for Success Radio Show on Monday 20 May 2013 at 4pm (an archive will also be available) when we will be speaking to Phil Sherwood, Head of Volunteering & Workforce Training from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Phil now now runs his own consultancy – Purple and Red, assisting corporates in their engagement strategies whether it be on a project basis or via keynote speaking.

Photo Credit: los_bandito_anthony

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