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Building an Olympian Workforce

Man in business suit snowboarding, representing Olympian employees

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia revving up, people are not only marveling at the abilities of Canada’s athletes, but also at the level of resolve it took for them to make it there. It begs the question, however, about what qualities drive them to such success? And how can employers harness such qualities to go for gold in the arena of business?

What makes an Olympian employee?

Since 2005, Adecco’s Athlete Career Program has been there to support elite athletes transitioning from sport to work. In fact, Patrick Glennon, Senior Vice President and global leader at Adecco for the Athlete Career Program, has identified 10 specific qualities possessed by elite athletes that are highly desired by employers. They are:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Coachability
  3. Creativity
  4. Dedication
  5. Determination
  6. Focus
  7. Motivation
  8. Patience
  9. Steadfastness
  10. Cooperativeness.

Combined, these qualities amount to what is essentially a super employee: Loyal, goal-oriented, high-performing, and able to leverage those attributes to transform the destiny of whatever employer is lucky enough to have them.

But Olympian qualities are not only found in athletes. Many individuals possess the unique combination of qualities that drive Olympians; it’s just that those individuals have chosen to focus that energy in areas other than sport.

Signs of an Olympian applicant

The next time you’re sifting through resumes, keep a close eye on the hobbies and/or volunteer sections. As listed above, Olympian employees are cooperative, meaning they’re team players – and not just when they have to be. Rather, most of them seek the camaraderie inherent in team work and yearn to contribute to the success of a group. If you see a history of team sports or other activities, such as volunteer work with charities, you may have found your future champion.

How to attract Olympian employees

Of course, no employer should just sit back and expect Olympian employees to apply to their organizations. Such individuals are not only highly competitive amongst themselves, seeking those organizations that will present them with the greatest rewards, but they also spur competition among the organizations they apply to. In essence, to win an Olympian employee, employers must demonstrate their own Olympian qualities. Here are a couple of ways you can do that:

  • Promote your rewards and recognition program

    It should come as no surprise that Olympian employees enjoy recognition – and that doesn’t just include individual recognition. As most of them are inherently team players, Olympian employees also enjoy when the groups they work in are rewarded too. On your job postings and especially on your website, be sure to include information about the rewards and benefits you offer.

  • Win industry awards

    Amassing industry awards is a popular strategy for attracting the best talent. Just as Olympic athletes relish marching before the world draped in the colours of their homeland, Olympian employees take particular pride in talking about who they work for so long as that employer has made a name for themselves, not only as a financially successful business, but as an innovator regarding products and/or services as well as corporate culture. Reputation is key to attracting Olympian employees, so compete, defeat, and don’t be discreet about your victories. Have your employees list the wins in their email signatures, dedicate a page to the awards on your website, and proudly display them in all their glory in your reception area.

How to create Olympian employees

Even if someone on your team isn’t what you’d call an “Olympian” employee, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to become one with the right coaching and motivation.

  • Establish clear goals

    Regularly defining and reminding your employees of their individual goals and the overall goals of the organization gives everyone something to shoot for. With those goals constantly in mind, their work will become more focused.

  • Provide feedback – and data

    No Olympian athlete can get to where they’re going without knowing where they’ve been and where they are. Why would it be different for an employee at work? Ensure that each individual receives regular, detailed feedback about their accomplishments and room for growth. This feedback should also include disclosing pertinent data. Would a coach clock a speed skater and then refuse to tell them how fast they went?

  • Award them

    Just as it should help attract Olympian employees to you, your rewards and recognition program should motivate current employees to become more Olympian themselves. According to a 2013 study conducted by IBM, awards have a significant effect on employee motivation, primarily because they allow the winners to revel not simply in the fact that they won, but in knowing that all the non-winners know they won. This touch of schadenfreude may seem unsavoury, but it reinforces that the motivation to prove oneself the best at something is present in almost everyone – we all just need the opportunity. After all, how can someone own a podium if there isn’t one?

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