going for goldAs you may or may not know the 2012 Olympics are right around the corner and the world is watching London as athletes and attendees alike descend on the city. The 2012 Olympics are projected to be the most watched Olympics in history. The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing were the most-watched television broadcast of all time, with up to 4.7 billion viewers, or 70 percent of the world’s population, watching some or all of the Games. The next few weeks, with live streaming the London Games are poised to break this record.

With the world’s best athletes on stage and millions of attendees and viewers alike breaking records left and right, it’s tempting to overlook what’s going on behind the scenes. You probably see where I’m going here… staffing and recruitment.

Huh? Not the first place the mind goes but the staffing of these Olympics has been a roller-coaster ride of seemingly insurmountable staffing odds, severe shortages and a true testament of how important staffing, recruiting and the technology that powers it really is.

Still not convinced? Consider that G4S, the security firm that promised 10,000 security troops to the Olympic planning committee and received a hefty $444 million contract to do it, saw their stock stumble 8.7% after only supplying 4,000. The embattled CEO Nick Buckles admitted he should not have agreed to supply that many and in some last minute scurrying, had to rely on local police and security firms to supply the remaining troops. Buckles mentioned in his testimony that he “accepts 100% responsibility” but the Home Office said Monday that the contractor was suffering from a software problem, which meant it could not guarantee who would turn up where and whether guards had the right training.

But what about the sheer volume of people recruited to staff these, the biggest games in history? Before July 27, 2012 over 200,000 people must be recruited from 193 countries including:

-6,000 paid staff

-70,000+ volunteers

-100,000 contractor roles

How does that happen? Turns out that two companies DO have that covered. When the decision was made by LOCOG to have Adecco staff the Olympic Games, an RFP went out with some very tough to meet criteria: six weeks, strict budget, global accessibility, fully automated and branded and no downtime. Ever.

UK-based Skillstream answered the call providing the structure from their bespoke product in just four weeks. In the process the company learned just what it takes to staff the world’s largest sporting event. The site reports 6000+ applications for every role and has been accessed by more than 3 million people from every country in the world, with nearly 100,000 people viewing and using the site from their mobile devices.

In fact, employment concerns have made headlines throughout the countdown to the Olympics from engagement and team building exercises:

“The London 2012 Games are set to be the biggest events this country has ever witnessed. This is a great opportunity for employers nationwide to improve working conditions, improve team working, increase motivation and company loyalty, and fuel bonding between colleagues by running a programme of activity around the Games,” argues Adecco MD, Steven Kirkpatrick.

to governance and regulatory rules:

Skillstream developers created a rule within the system which priortised candidates from 6 key boroughs in London, supporting a government initiative to drive employment in key areas.

to diversity and accessibility:

The Olympics has seen the UK’s largest peacetime mobilisation of a workforce.   From ‘nowhere’,  the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has had to hire and train 200,000 people.  The workforce includes 6,000 paid staff and 70,000 volunteers (chosen from 240,000 who applied).  A feature of this workforce is its diversity.  LOCOG had set a target of having between 5 and 7% of its workforce with a declared disability and has about 9% paid staff in this category.  With regards ethnicity, their target was 18 to 29%, and it has achieved 24%.

to planned (but averted) strikes at Heathrow!

There is still far more work ahead, remember we still have to get through the Olympics without additional hiccups, and post-games, Olympic Village will be turned into private homes, adding additional headcount to the mix. Many of the companies will be working with the Games long after the final ceremonies are concluded. Adecco has been working with the Olympics and Paralympics place athletes post-games in professional roles and Skillstream will be continuing to provide technology for the site through November. Meanwhile, G4S (and its technology provider) have already reportedly made changes in the person or persons handling the Olympics’ troops and there are several calling for Buckles’ resignation.

While are probably not going to be any HR professionals, recruiters, staffing pros or technology vendors on the platform come Friday, this has been a battle for the best of them and like the real Olympics, not all are coming home with medals.

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