Wednesday 1 August 2012

London 2012 – taking a sickie / playing the game


   I’ve spent a couple of non-Olympic days in London this week and have been pleased to see travel disruption significantly down on what had been feared – in fact away from the Olympic venues and major train stations there seem to be less people around than there are normally.

The other big fear of many organisations was that sickness absence would rise to Robbie Grabarz heights as employees take unathorised leave to attend the games in person or more probably watch them on TV.  Badenoch & Clark’s not thoroughly believable survey even suggested that a quarter of young employees (18-24) were likely to take sick time.

Of course the issue isn’t really about management of sickness absence as it is about more progressive employee support.  For example, Nicola Linkleter, MD at Badenoch & Clark comments:

"To discourage employees against pulling a 'sickie', employers might consider embedding the London 2012 Games into the workplace. Showing events on big screens in breakout areas; allowing workers to take breaks to coincide with coverage and organising socials around major events could all help to increase employee engagement during the six week period."


Indeed, and I still think this sort of informal support would provide much more value than big, high profile corporate sponsorship schemes.

You could extend things beyond this too.  Some progressive organisations already provide duvet days for employees who on some ocaisions just can’t be bothered to make it in. (I don’t think that should be seen as a criticism – the more engaged an employee is on an ongoing basis probably the more likely it is that they’re going to have the odd disengaged spell.)  So how about ‘ticket days’ for those employees lucky enough to get one (perhaps only for the £20 tickets so it doesn’t just reward the richest).

What I don’t think organisations have to do is organise their own mini-Olympics.  It can work in some organisations but just because your school kids have done it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to work for your employees!

So, yes, there is a lot of talk about gamification around these days and there should perhaps be a link between the games and organisations’ use of gamification.  But gamification isn’t just about playing games (on an ipad or on a soccer field). It certainly doesn’t have to involve being given points and league tables as this article by the normally sound Will McInnes sort of suggests.

Gamification is simply about learning what makes games (including sporting ones) so compelling to make employment a bit more exciting too.  Part of this is about striving for the best possible performance. As Lord Coe put in during the Opening Ceremony:

“The Olympics bring together the people of the world in harmony and friendship to celebrate what is best about mankind…  There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity, a spirit that makes it irresistible to take part in and irresistible to watch…  In every Olympic sport there is all that matters in life. Humans stretched to the limit of their abilities, inspired by what they can achieve, driven by their talent to work harder than they can believe possible, living for the moment but making an indelible mark upon history.  To the athletes, gathered here on the eve of this great endeavor, I say that to you is given something precious and irreplaceable. To run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.”


What games aren’t about is traditional reward. Though it’s interesting that some countries pay their gold medal winners up to £600k the UK doesn’t and I think that’s the right approach.

This is perhaps the real lesson from Olympic Games-ification – we need to make employment less about the salary and more about the mission of, performance development opportunities in, and the potential to have fun within, our organisations too.

More breaks, social events and ‘ticket day’ type flexibility are all examples of how organisations could make this sort of change.


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