Can HR reach Olympian heights?

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates winning the men's 100m final at the Olympics Stadium at the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil

SO we've enjoyed some pretty good sport across the past few weeks with the Olympics providing thrills and spills (both in the same race if you're Mo Farah) and witnessing some of the finest athletes on earth furiously competing against each other to win their place in history.

Nations clash, old rivalries are renewed, new rivalries are forged and the desire for success is tangible.

So as with any situation where people are involved in pressurised situations we should ask: are there lessons to be learned for HR from the Olympics?

First off it's easy to see that diversity works and it's a force for good. Creating a cultural mix of different nationalities has led to the Olympics being seen as a truly world-wide event with global interest generated.

The easygoing mixing of spectators from all corners of the globe, representing different races, sexes, creeds etc demonstrates how we actually all can get along and share our different experiences while still maintaining a healthy competitive support for our own representatives on the track or in the pool.

It also reminds us that competition is healthy. Would we have been as intrigued in the men's 100m final if Usain Bolt didn't have Justin Gatlin nipping at his heels this past few years?

Would the world really be all that interested in the Olympics if they didn't have gold, silver and bronze but instead just gave everyone a medal for simply trying?

The Olympics also neatly illustrate the principle that great achievements are typically the result of great effort. If you are not prepared to work every day towards your goals then you are unlikely to gain the success you crave.

Perhaps the most salient lesson to learn however is around the old ‘PPPPP' (Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) adage. Work was still being done up to the last minute and concerns about water pollution, policing, crime, athlete health and the overall infrastructure were among many issues evident.

That's not even counting the last minute decision making regarding the eligibility of the Russian athletes. Could all this have been prevented with better planning?

As with most things it's unlikely that everything would have been 100 per cent but there is a certainly a better than average chance that improvements could have been made and the effects minimised if planning (and execution) had been better.

So the next time we are considering a major HR event, let's think about doing our due diligence and establishing a workable, actionable plan first. Do you have the time, money and resources that you need?

Half-baked or poorly executed plans can sometimes create worse effects than not doing anything. So this means you need to start the process by clearly thinking through your expectations. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish and how you hope to achieve this.

What are your best and worst outcomes? Is it possible to trial a sample group or even temperature checking your potential audience? Consider holding ‘devil's advocate' sessions to allow you the opportunity to properly assess the risks in what you are planning to do.

Check and double check that you have the resources (time, money, people, venue etc) and then finally make sure everyone knows what you are trying to achieve, why you are trying to achieve it, how it will benefit them and why they should devote their time to it.

So ask yourself: is there any reason ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius' couldn't be the mission statement for your company?

:: Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast

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