Putting the Games plan into practice

19th Jul 2012
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“The Olympics is a big morale booster for the country this year,” believes Phoebe Leet, head of HR for UK and Ireland at IT network giant, Cisco.

And as a technology partner for the Games, the vendor has naturally had the event on its mind for some time.   As a result, it has already put plans in place to combat travel disruption and staff absenteeism but, just as importantly, it is also determined to use the Olympics as a way of trying to engage staff and build community spirit.  “Given some of the previous Games, we do know there can be some increase in absenteeism and travel disruption for employees, particularly for employees in London in this case,” Leet says “So we are planning - you can’t hold the Olympic Games and have 10 million ticket holders coming through the city without some kind of disruption.”  To reduce travel problems, some staff will be allowed to work away from the office. But for Cisco, this is very much business as usual anyway: connecting people and places using technology is what it does day in, day out.   In a bid to cut 90% of its travel costs following the downturn, the company had already devised a remote working policy, and its employees are already used to employing its own telepresence and WebEx web conferencing tools in order to undertake online meetings.  Similarly, flexible working has been part of the DNA of its 2,500 UK personnel for some time. They are used to shaping their working hours to suit personal commitments or in order to deal with colleagues in different time zones.   Therefore, while the Games may well bring different forms of disruption, Cisco’s staff will already be well-placed to adapt their working day to cope. A sense of community  In order to stem the number of possible ‘sickies’, however, employees will be allowed to watch Olympic events at work. “It’s something we encourage. We encourage people to enjoy the things they enjoy at home here. It’s not a nine-to-five job anymore,” Leet points out.  Because a good number of workers had never met each other face-to-face due to the widespread use of web conferencing tools, Leet also saw the Olympics as an opportunity to try and create a deeper sense of community among them.  “One thing I noticed was that there was still a need for some kind of physical belonging and community, and I thought, how do we really create sense of community in UK and Ireland?” she says.  So using the five Olympic rings as inspiration, Cisco created an employee engagement programme covering five areas: health, wellbeing, pride, opportunities for fun and global awareness. Each ring has its own executive sponsor and there are 15 initiatives in total.  For example, as part of the ‘pride’ initiative, there will be a family BBQ held at each of the firm’s sites during the Olympics opening ceremony. A ‘bring your kids to work’ day has likewise been scheduled for early summer and Cisco will also support Sports Relief.   Also on the agenda is a “Fit for the Future” programme, which will include workshops on wellbeing, health, good nutrition, handling stress and a “step challenge” that will consist of a virtual walk around the world.  Leet herself says that she is particularly looking forward to the ‘Gold Challenge’, which is aimed at encouraging staff to sample an Olympic sport. Her team is trying horse-riding, indoor cycling, badminton and boxing and there are also opportunities to try out Paralympics sports. Being prepared  Olympic plans are equally well under way at Ricoh, meanwhile, but the printer manufacturer and service provider acknowledges that it still has to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s on many its programmes.   The vendor initially kicked off its efforts by appointing a leader for each area of the business. Their job is to assess the impact of the Games on sales in their own individual part of the organisation and to share best practice with other leaders.   The company has also been reviewing its business continuity plans in order to ensure that it would still be able to function effectively in the event of a disaster.  Only one of its offices, located in the East End of London near the Olympics zone, is almost guaranteed to experience travel disruption, however. But if employees there do have problems commuting, they should be able to go straight to the top - the office is below the Olympic planning committee in Canary Wharf.   Even though Ricoh’s other London sites are west and south of the capital, it still anticipates experiencing widespread travel problems, particularly as staff travel across the city to try and reach customer sites. But because it is crucial that employees can get to customer premises to deliver new or service existing equipment, customer relations considerations have been a key focus in terms of the company’s Olympics planning.   To try and cope, it has been contacting customers in a bid to gauge their own state of readiness and encourage them to order extra stock and/or put plans in place in advance in an effort to keep any delays to a minimum.  Rebekah Wallis, Ricoh’s HR director, says: “A small minority of customers contacted us about six-to-nine months ago to ask us what we were doing about the Olympics, but the vast majority hadn’t really thought about it.”  Boosting morale  Generally, the company would prefer staff to be on site at its own offices, but Wallis and her team are also identifying which individuals really have to be there and who could work elsewhere if necessary.   Although sales people don’t officially work from home, many do so on an ad hoc basis, which means that there is a possibility of making this situation ‘official’ during the Games. But introducing such measures will take planning and Ricoh must still assess whether an increase in home-working and using technology such as video conferencing would be too much for its current IT network infrastructure.  Similarly, because allowing staff to stream Olympics events onto their desktops in the office would clog the network, the company plans to encourage people to gather round existing TV screens but will also add more.  The company’s volunteering policy, on the other hand, has yet to finalised, notes Wallis. It already gives employees up to two days paid leave each year to undertake volunteer work, but this practice may prove to be a problem if too many people all decide to take up such options at once.   “Our preferred approach is to leave it to individual managers, but it has to be fair. In some areas, it’s not as easy to release people - such as in the call centre,” Wallis explains.  Like Cisco, Ricoh also intends to try and use the Olympics as a jumping off point to boost staff morale and engagement.   Last year, for instance, it introduced a ‘pedometer challenge’ in order to encourage people to increase their fitness simply by walking. And the practice will be revived in order to get people moving again to coincide with the Olympics.  


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By Peter Cook
21st Jul 2012 22:55

 A very good case study of principles translated into practice here - thanks

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