They’re over. Done! Kaput! Finito! The London 2012 Olympics are history, sadly. For they were: “happy and glorious games,” according to IOC President Jacques Rogge. And for generations to come, we will all remember where we were in the summer of ‘12. The summer our little island welcomed 200 countries, 14,700 athletes, 21,000 media and over 100 heads of government and heads of state from across the world.

And we delivered.

What will the Olympic legacy be?

Now, our attention turns to the future, and legacy-making. Already there is one noticeable legacy. The number of organisations piggy backing on the Games: “Use us, and you too can enjoy that gold medal feeling,” is the message. Have you seen them too?

“London 2012′s leaders created a culture of success… (They) facilitated athletes to outperform against high expectations… Business leaders can emulate.”

But platitudes aside, what can HR leaders learn from the Olympics? What is the legacy for HR professionals beyond the obvious?

LOCOG legacy: managing your own demise

The answer may be the LOCOG legacy. It may sound like a John Grisham thriller (especially when one considers it is a follow-up to The Semler Principle) but the LOCOG legacy is the lesson for HR professionals.

LOCOG is the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Its role was to prepare and stage the London 2012 Games. And they delivered big style. 26 Olympic Sports, 20 Paralympic Sports and 10.8 million ticket-holders – they delivered a happy and glorious product. But a year from now they will be no more.

At their peak, LOCOG had a workforce of 200,000. In June 2013, it will be 0. The LOCOG Legacy is that of an organisation that was focused upon delivering. To quote their own words: “…the best possible experience for everyone involved, ensuring a real legacy and inspiring people to join in.” And then, with that delivered, managed its own demise.

Apply that to your organisation, any organisation. The quote fits. But the question is how many HR functions are dedicated to delivering an excellent product such that ultimately, they make themselves superfluous?

This is not a new idea.

Unconventional work practices

Ricardo Semler is known for having similar thoughts. His company, Semco, is renowned for its ‘unconventional’ ideas and work practices. When asked how Semco measures employee efficiency, he replied: “This would be the same as saying that people are basically lazy. We don’t believe in that. Even when we left people to choose their bosses, and set their own work hours and salaries.”

What about HR-owned activities like recruitment? “Hiring is done in a unique way: by those who really care.” Put simply, hiring is done by dozens of co-workers at a time with multiple discussions by potential colleagues choosing their new workmates.

And HR? “HR takes a decidedly backstage role at Semco. We want people decisions to be made by those who are close to the people… not a department.”

Are you making HR superfluous?

Put together, the LOCOG legacy and the Semler Principle equals an interesting challenge for HR.

The challenge is simply this. Do you have a ‘how HR eats itself’ plan? Think about HR admin – how is your plan eliminating or automating this to zero? And the activities HR does – where is the ‘knowledge transfer’ plan so that others recruit, train, and lead others with far more knowledge than HR has?

And if that is a hop, skip and a jump too far, simply challenge HR with the question: “Are you truly adding value in a Team GB Coach’ medal-winning way?”

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Written by Stuart Thomas, director, themybigtoecompany

Purveyor of fine quality copywriting since 2005. If you need simple words crafted engagingly email:

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