4 world-class team engagement techniques we can learn from the Olympic 'Games Makers' army

Have you been enthralled by the Olympics? I certainly have! As we all well know, organising these Games has been a mammoth (and not always smooth) task, but there’s one area that London 2012 seems to have really excelled at: their volunteer programme.

Learning from the 2012 Olympic Games team 

London 2012 has faced the enormous challenge of recruiting, training and motivating 78,000 unpaid ‘Games Makers’ and ‘Ambassadors’ for a myriad of roles both in and out of the Olympic venues. So far, during the Games, the volunteers have received much praise for being friendly, helpful and professional, and there is no denying this has come from each and every one of them being equally engaged, regardless of role. As myself, and quite a few of my colleagues from Brand Learning are volunteers, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what the London 2012 organisers did to engage and inspire us. How did they manage to so successfully get so many people, from different backgrounds and all walks of life, to deliver the promised Olympic Games experience for the millions of spectators attending the various events?

Between us, we’ve identified 4 classic world-class team engagement principles that, in our opinion as Games Makers, were very evident in their efforts:

The leadership show it is important: they are the first to live the brand

It’s got to start at the top and cascade down. If the leadership team is not on board, if they aren’t visibly engaged and responsive, how can anyone else be expected to? Since London won the bid back in 2007 the leadership has been single-minded.

Get the right message, to the right person, via the right channel, at the right time

We agree this has been a real area of strength for the organisers. As Games Makers we were kept in the know via targeted, relevant and regular communications. We received a welcome pack loaded with information, a CD explaining how it was all going to work, and regular email updates and news.

Make it real and personal

With any engagement programme it is vital that the people being engaged understand why something is happening and what impact it will have on them personally. We have each spent around 3 days in face to face volunteer workshops understanding and appreciating our role in helping to deliver the greatest show on earth.

It’s a long-term journey that needs to be sustained

No engagement programme will change behaviour overnight or deliver immediate results. Having a clear vision, objectives and a well-planned strategy is vital for maintaining the necessary momentum. As volunteers, we too have been on a journey which probably began when London won the bid but ramped up in earnest after we applied and were selected around 18 months ago.

So in a relatively short space of time an army of highly engaged and enthusiastic people have been turned into an organised group of volunteers, or Games Makers as we have fondly become known, representing London 2012. The takeaways from the journey for us are easily transferable to any organisation wishing to create a truly engaging employee programme, which can transform its success by having the right people, momentum and energy behind it!

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Image © 2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited