I was going to resist the temptation of writing a blog about the Olympics, but in the end I gave in and these are my observations. One of the most interesting things that I have seen since the Olympics started is how the it can bring people together. We seem to find more similarities than differences with our neighbours, friends and acquaintances during the competitions and talking about the events. It appears in the first few days to have united people and for the moment the financial crisis and other problems have taken a backseat.
There is something to learn from that, particularly for senior managers and leaders in both public and private sector organisations. Motivating the workforce is one of the biggest challenges being faced at the moment. Internal communication is being seen as a critical factor to continuing business success, but it is not just about telling staff something. So, what are the key elements needed to recreate this Olympic feeling?
The first thing is that there is a shared experience or a shared story. Something that everyone can access and understand, with the Olympics this is being seen for the opening ceremony and the competitions so far. In business, it is important to create a shared understanding about what the organisation stands for, what it is doing and what the future is going to look like. The shared experience of taking the business forward should help to unite everyone especially if it is a story that is easy to understand.
After that the story needs to be maintained and developed with events that can bring people together from across the organisation. These may be formal events such as awards and recognition or informal where staff bring people together to share things in some way. It can be expected that more time needs to be invested in formal events until things become established.
Work needs to develop a ‘buzz’. Using technology, effective communication and networks to get people talking about the things that matter. There needs to be mechanisms in place to support the buzz being built and developed. This Olympics feels different from all the others I can remember and that, I believe, is linked to the fact this is much more of a shared experience than ever before. There are more channels and sports available to watch, there are more online discussions and forums, and through social media information can be shared as it happens. I can feel I am in the stadium or arena or by the field of play even when I am hundreds of miles away. Social networking is as crucial across organisations particularly those with a large number of staff, or staff based at a variety of locations.
And I know the media headlines are about empty seats, but that isn’t what most people are talking about. Generally the conversation is about the teams, the winners, the hopefuls, the events and the timetable. Often organisations get distracted by the media coverage that surrounds them and can risk making unnecessary changes to their purpose and direction when they should just be aware of the coverage and continue on their course.
The Olympics will come and go and I know the message is that they are keen for some legacy to exist for the future. Perhaps the best legacy would be for some of the unity and collective support that exists during the Olympics to last as we deal with the financial challenges ahead. The key thing is to do more than recognise the importance of effective internal communication and help to write, develop and promote the story.