(Okay) Gearing Your Business Up for Olympic Success

With the biggest event in B.C. history bearing down on us, it’s time to get your HR house in order.

The 2010 Olympics present an intriguing array of Human Resource challenges (and opportunities) for business owners. Even though the Games are only months away, an August 2009 survey (link) showed that 61% of respondents had either not begun to formulate their Olympics policies or were still gathering information.

Here are some of the crucial questions to address in your workplace:

Availability for Work
Will your employees be there? Many firms are grappling now with requests for vacation. What staffing levels do you need to run your business? Do you have enough “wiggle room” in case productivity levels decrease temporarily?

Travel and transit disruptions will put businesses to the test. Suppose it takes employees an extra two hours to get to work. How can you ease the impacts on productivity and attendance? School closures could affect the availability for work of employees with young kids if these individuals are unable to arrange adequate child care.

And employee’s attendance at Olympic events? If it will take three hours to travel to an evening event, a discussion with employees now could avoid unexpected “afternoon sick leave.” Sick leave could also increase if employers give so much vacation leave that remaining workers burn out from overtime.

There are no cookie-cutter solutions to these challenges since each firm’s situation is different. However, the recent BCHRMA survey reveals that the most popular solutions are establishing flexible hours and telecommuting.

The experience of other Olympic cities show it is near-impossible not to get caught up in the Olympic buzz. The Olympics is an opportunity for firms to build a feeling of community and teamwork. Some companies will allow access to television at work. Others may plan Olympic-themed social events. The key is to communicate to workers that while the Olympics should be fun, employees must still be productive for the business to succeed.

Firms are well advised to draw up a Critical Supplier list including suppliers who are integral to the production and delivery of their product/service plus those who serve their day to day office requirements (e.g. couriers, external I.T. support etc.). Communicate with suppliers in advance to develop a plan to deal with Olympics-related challenges.

You’ll be wise to schedule product and service delivery to clients for well outside of the Olympic period (if possible). It is important to start managing commitments to clients now and setting expectations at a realistic level.

What’s the bottom line? Get your house in order now. The 2010 Winter Olympics presents businesses with significant HR challenges. Set your policies. Communicate with employees, suppliers and clients. The work you do now to prepare for 2010 will allow you to engage more fully in the Olympic Spirit when we let the games begin!