The true legacy? Inclusion

Anthony Haynes writes: We are delighted to publish a guest post on the theme of diversity and inclusion — in recruitment and indeed much else — from Steve Girdler.

Steve was the Director of London 2012 for Adecco, sponsors and official recruitment services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He was responsible for Adecco’s sponsorship and delivery of the 8,300 permanent workforce for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With diversity and inclusion being such an integral and high-profile part of the events, Steve put those themes at the heart of our sponsorship. Evidently, the team achieved unprecedented results.

Steve Girdler writes: July 6th 2005, Singapore. The announcement of the city that would host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was coming to a climax. In his presentation on behalf of London, Seb Coe told the audience that the London games would be about young people, sport and the transformation of the poorest and most diverse communities in the UK, London’s East End. And to emphasise the point he invited onto the stage a group of young people of all colours and creeds from the East End.

It was a game changer. With host cities having to stump up increasingly vast sums of money to host the games and the anticipated extravaganza of Beijing to come with the world’s most populous country behind it, Seb Coe’s approach seemed to echo the Olympic ideals of the past. It was a master stroke and Jacques Rogge duly announced London as the host of the 2012 Games some hours later. For London it was the chance to reflect the diversity, skills and achievements of its people.

Recruitment of the 200,000 workforce which included the volunteers, paid workforce and contractors was one of the highest profile and most politically sensitive areas for London 2012. The Olympic movement has its own caravan of experts that move from games to games.

Whilst this expertise was not ignored by London there was pressure to hire local people, especially as the global economy took a downward turn after the 2008 financial crisis with the inevitable increase in unemployment in the UK.

Stephen Frost, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at LOCOG enlisted the support of Steve Girdler, Director of London 2012 from Adecco. Adecco were sponsors of the games and the Official Recruitment Services Provider, tasked with recruiting the highly skilled workforce that would make the games happen. Steve headed Adecco’s programme and had been looking for an innovative activation programme for Adecco’s sponsorship. Adecco ran the Athlete Career Programme around the world and Steve had signed the British Paralympic Association, the first National Paralympic organisation to sign to the programme.

Stephen discussed this and the challenges facing LOCOG and both it could a radical but innovative idea to put Diversity & Inclusion at the heart of Adecco’s sponsorship and put some real weight behind the groundbreaking work that would need to be undertaken.

The targets set for diversity & inclusion were based on census figures for the population of London but were none the less stretching. Whilst each strand of diversity was important two areas were fundamental to success: ethnic minorities and the disabled.

Ethnic minorities (or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic -BAME) were a focus because the Olympic Park was located in the East End of London, the most diverse community in the UK. LOCOG had committed to ensure 18-29% of the workforce were from BAME backgrounds and 15-10% came from the six host boroughs in the East End of London.

Additionally, for the first time, the Organising Committee incorporated the Paralympic and Olympic games. With this in mind LOCOG committed to ensure that 3-6% of the workforce were disabled.

Achieving these targets was a challenge made more acute by the immoveable deadline of 27th July 2012, the date of the Opening Ceremony. There could be no slip. Measurement was essential and the starting point as numbers would need to be demonstrated for political as well as organisational reasons and importantly, action taken if the targets were not being reached.

Adecco developed the software to track not only each stream of diversity but by recruitment stage and department allowing Paul Deighton, the CEO of LOCOG, to put diversity on the agenda of the monthly meeting with each of his direct reports. Another groundbreaking aspect of the measurement was that it was produced in real-time. Changes could be made or programmes developed if the data highlighted areas that needed attention.

Many of the programmes were developed as a result of the data. A Guaranteed Interview Scheme was implemented to encourage disabled candidates to apply, Talent Pools were developed for both BAME and disabled candidates. This pushed the boundaries of what had been done in the past as candidates needed to declare their ethnic background and/or disability, details that had been an anonymous part of the application procedure. It wasn’t just about internal recruitment programmes.

Engagement with the six host boroughs and local communities was crucial. In 2009 a number of recruitment evenings were held at the LOCOG offices in Canary Wharf to attract local people. The turnout was disappointing to say the least. Feedback from community leaders was that local people did not consider Canary Wharf to be their neighbourhood rather it was an elite banking sector.

LOCOG and Adecco organised a number of recruitment events held in the six host boroughs. The first, located in Mile End, attracted over 600 people. Engagement with Local Authorities, communities, Job Centre Plus was at the heart of the success of the unique workforce at London 2012.

The results were outstanding, exceeding the expectations of all those involved. Every target was achieved and in most cases surpassed. People with disabilities made up 10% of the workforce. Those from BAME backgrounds, 31%.  What was even more impressive was the fact that the diversity of the workforce was reflected throughout the organisation from the Board of LOCOG through Middle Management to the volunteers.

A few days before the Opening Ceremony, the stories in the press were about the likely failure of the games from transport system’s failure to cope, the poor weather, even a likely paucity of medals for Team GB. There was also comment that recent large projects Terminal 5, Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Dome had not been unmitigated successes.

By day five of the Games even the most cynical journalist pointed out that the games were brilliantly organised and that the diverse face of Britain was on show, welcoming the world with smiles and humour.

The organisation was down to LOCOG and the 8,300 strong workforce that really did represent diversity of London in every way and showed publicly the skills that London and every community and group within it has to offer. It is an example of how any organisation that goes the extra mile to find talent in different places, that looks to represent its local communities in its workforce, is more likely to have an innovative, effective, harmonious and productive workforce.

Steve Girdler is now Managing Director EMEA for HireRight, the leading provider of background screening, helping businesses around the world make informed decisions and reduce workplace risk.

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