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Business and the Olympics: Will it Leave a Legacy for Companies to Embrace?

Posted: 25/07/2012 09:49

As I cycled along the Thames this morning on my way into Pearlfinders HQ, I saw the Olympic rings hanging high above the water from Tower Bridge. I felt pride in my city and some excitement at the impending visit of the world's best sportsmen and women. But like many business leaders, I also contemplated the effects this year's games would have on my company.

The word "legacy" has probably been overused in recent months. Medal tables are a simple and tangible outcome for nations and individuals, but the impacts on the economy and wider society are much harder to read. Whatever golden moments British athletes may have in the next six weeks will not only inspire the sports stars of tomorrow but, hopefully, British businesses and consumers too.

As a business information company, Pearlfinders has been seeking to understand this legacy in terms of commercial effects. Our interviews with about 18,000 senior decision-makers in the UK every year, including HR directors, marketing directors, FDs and CIOs across all companies and sectors, delve into the challenges they are facing, the new initiatives being implemented, and their partnerships with external suppliers. Many of the conversations recently have naturally turned to the impact the Olympics may have on their organisations, and how they plan to leverage the 2012 Olympiad for the years ahead.

For HR departments, it's clear that their attention is on encouraging a corporate culture based on health, well-being and increased competitiveness. I believe this is a direct consequence of the Olympics. Of the 1,200 HR directors we have interviewed so far this year, almost half are firmly focused on wellbeing initiatives. It seems that HR Directors in companies ranging from John Lewis to HSBC are now ready to fully embrace this as an integral part of their corporate culture.

Put very simply, HR Directors realise that healthy and fit employees take less time off due to sickness, have more energy, a greater focus, and are generally more productive. Companies have been building strategies to capitalise on the new, healthier Britain that's expected to emerge over the summer, and to stay for many years to come.

Besides encouraging more activity, hosting the Olympics will serve to improve the UK's sense of competitiveness. A successful few weeks for Team GB will be a catalyst towards increased competitiveness across the country, and one HR Manager in a FTSE 100 company recently described how they are launching an initiative on the back of the Olympics for employees to each beat their "Personal Best".

For marketing directors, the legacy will involve lessons learned in this huge (and for many, hugely expensive) testing arena for new techniques and initiatives.

The good news for suppliers looking to do business with these companies is the spike in strategic and supplier reviews anticipated for the autumn months. Brands will be looking at what has worked from the summer's patriotic campaigns, as well as the use of new techniques and new customer messaging as the Olympic flame dims.

IT departments within the capital have been discussing flexible working solutions for many years, and this has increased in the build-up to the Olympics. As companies improve flexible working options for employees following the Games, the challenges for IT directors (who have to ensure geographically-dispersed teams are always connected) increase, but so do the opportunities for those able to provide solutions in these areas of technology. Many IT projects in London have been put on hold until after the Games, which means an increase in technology reviews in September and October this year.

For CFOs and Company Secretaries, the Games have been a bit of a double-edged sword. In small and medium sized companies there has been hesitancy on international and domestic expansion while they focus on capitalising on the opportunity presented by the Games. However, following this period, we anticipate an increased need for consultancies able to help businesses with expansion, which is already being clearly telegraphed for the latter part of 2012.

In almost every corporate department, the Olympics is having an effect. It has already created a great deal of opportunity since being announced in 2005, and will hopefully do so for many years to come. While there are concerns around the short-term impact of the next six weeks, it's essential that we look at the long-term potential. When the Olympic rings are no longer visible under Tower Bridge, the legacy of the games will provide huge opportunities for those with the foresight and planning to be able to seize them.

 
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