The 10 Things The Olympics Can Teach Us About Recruiting & Staffing

Sochi 2014 Company Olympics

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Alright folks, I've been watching the Winter Olympics and rather enjoy this time of year for the vital lessons that the Olympics can teach us - specifically about recruiting/staffing, I'll get to that.

I remember watching Apolo Anton Ono - who won multiple Gold Medals in his sport, and Shaun White, whom has suffered a medical injury only to be back on the world stage.  These athletes and others across the world are perhaps role models we might emulate on our staffing journey.

Case in point there are many different events all of which have multiple things in common - but I'll get to those commonalities in a minute - here are some of the more interesting events:

  • Bobsledding
  • IceSkating
  • Speed Skating
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Luge
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Ski Jumping
  • Curling
  • Biathlon
  • Snowboarding.

Alright - any one of these events has multiple areas of accomplishment that can be obtained but the goal is ultimately Gold, where individual athletes show the world and excel to the top of their sport.  Irregardless of what country one hails from, I think there are quite a few lessons/traits I think we might all benefit from or in the heat of the moment that any one of these traits all important mind you to successful outcomes would be equally applicable to the recruiting world:

1. Determination - how many times have you gone the rounds to fill a job, candidate gets another offer, manager and candidate don't mesh, etc, if you push forward to make the fill and match and make that your absolute passion, solving the key problems the manager has well that is a key aspect of recruiting offers, matches, outcomes.

2. A Competitive Spirit - we all think our company is great, but what sets you apart?  What key candidate experience matters are vital to success, and can you give credence to the employer value proposition that this candidate's investment of time in your company will need to bring to pass?  Recruiting is sales, therefore, much can be written about the key competitive spirit you may need to fill the job.

3.  A Sense of Urgency: Athletes in the Olympics have multiple obstacles to overcome on their way to Gold, one thing that sets them apart is a sense of urgency.  Take this trait and apply to your recruiting world, can you match your sense of urgency to that of the hiring authority and manager?  How important is that.  In my opinion very.

4.  Strategic Thought - Somewhere out there right now around a business table are hiring managers, HR Professionals or others whom are planning their strategy around Workforce Planning, in these sessions they are reviewing the pipelines, the future staffing needs, and are accelerating their hiring push, it is here that staffing pain might be identified.  An athlete must plan their point of attack, and excel by pure grit, a plan of staffing action like a athlete's chosen plan is vital.

5.  Passion for Your Craft/Sport/Profession - These athletes have so much passion for their sport, if we in recruiting could grasp even a bit of that, I think the world is our oyster, I firmly believe that any recruiting venture if backed by passion and resolve is vital to success.  It will cause you to continue to hone skills, build momentum and charge ahead with no fear.  That's recruiting/staffing at it's best.

6.  What are you Capable of? - Athletes in the Olympics may not always know what they are capable of until they set out to drive ahead, it is there that they like staffing realize just how they may achieve far more than they ever realized.  That tough position, that tough search, coming to a resolution with a hire that was hard fought and earned.  In the Olympics like staffing we can see that what the human mind sets out to accomplish is vitally important.

7.  Open Feedback - Athletes listen to their coaches, and keep applying new steps.  In our world, hiring managers, clients, candidates, may teach us areas we never even realized we could work on, do we listen to that feedback?  I think that is central to success.

8.  Managing The Future/Adapting - Just like athletes have to learn when and where to focus their energy, Staffing Professionals need to learn how to manage the fluctuating changes of their desk.  The sourcing tools of today, LinkedIn, Indeed, Job Boards, Referrels, are before our eyes changing.  These athletes too can show us through their example how we might manage our desks in the future by adapting.  Change is the one constant.

9. The pinnacle: These athletes reach the pinnacle and had others help open doors for them.  You know we do so as well as staffing professionals, the pinnacle is realized by great candidate outcomes, and by meeting the mark and bar the manager has set.  The bar is high for different skill sets, sometimes the value a recruiter can add is in the moment where the right candidate has been placed on the path to the pinnacle.  Not an easy thing.

10.  Finding: Whether one is finding what they need to do better, or pinning down the absolute needed adjustments, or changing up a search, or sourcing in a new way, thus like Olympic Champions I suppose we too as staffing professionals dig down deep to find our core, and to find the right candidate by reevaluation, recalibration, constant professionalism borne of experience.  Sometimes the hiring manager needs our consultative approach.  Just like the role of a coach to an athlete, or finding a new way of going about a search. 

The Olympics in sum are a vital lesson for each of us.  Athletes at their prime perhaps and in their struggles and stories we can see a bit of ourselves.  The Olympics to me is a proving ground, and the vital hope is when one is fighting in the trenches to fill a job, well as the Olympics show us, there is so much more to recruiting than meets the eye, just as there is so much more to what an Olympic Champion does to get to the Gold in their lives, only by constant practice, honing their craft, and finding new ways of doing their best, well Staffing could learn a lot from an Olympian.

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Comment by Keith D. Halperin on February 12, 2014 at 12:46pm

Thanks, Mike.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is a $50,000,000,000 (more than all previous WOs combined) boondoggle/vanity project of a repressive autocrat filled with buildings that'll probably not be effectively used/filled again, and even worse- you can't get real beer in the stadiums! The lesson (which you can also learn from many arrogant founders CXO, sr execs, and hiring managers) is that if you control enough money and power, there's little you can't do, however foolish and wasteful.



Comment by Mike Rasmussen on February 12, 2014 at 7:24pm

Agreed - it's unfortunate in some respects that different factors may taint the Olympics - but I have to say the athletes are in so many ways inspiring and I do believe have lessons to teach us in staffing.  I just sat down and saw some parallels so decided to share.  Thanks for your comment.


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