The Olympics is a tournament of temporary workers
Last week Business Insider profiled the day jobs of 36 Olympic athletes. As participants at one of the highest levels of athletic competition, these athletes are actually on temporary assignment, taking leave from their full-time roles as garbage collectors or accountants, and temporarily rendering their services to their country to compete for the glory of Olympic gold.
Looking at Olympic athletes this way makes a strong case for why organizations should place more value on their temporary workforce. These athletes are the best of the best in their nations. They’ve earned the right to represent and compete for their country. Each athlete is a key team member whose individual success contributes to the success of his or her country’s overall Olympic performance. These athletes will go back to waiting tables or crunching numbers after the torch is extinguished, but they aren’t considered second class. Rather, they are regarded as critical members of a team, which without them would be incomplete.
So as these 2012 London Games begin to wind down, we must ask ourselves if we are treating our temporary workers as Olympians or afterthoughts.
Would you let them carry the flag? Flag bearer in the opening ceremony is a coveted and honorable role granted to a single team member. This year fencing professional and two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis was given the honor of carrying the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony. Zagunis is the quintessential contractor: She makes a living by fencing and is on assignment for the U.S. team in London. And yet she was given the highest honor that an Olympian could imagine. Would you allow one of your contracted employees to carry the company’s flag?
Do you give them critical tasks? LeBron James had just come off the 2012 NBA championship when he had to shift gears to his temporary assignment, Olympic basketball. He is shooting 61 percent so far and averaging 25 points a game. Do you think that Coach K had even a second thought about how to use this temporary? Unlikely. Are you reluctant to integrate your temps that have demonstrable talent to contribute to a crucial role?
Are you tapping the wisdom from their full body of work? Taylor Ritzel knows a thing or two about competitive rowing. Her resume is chock-full of victories and she holds a fellowship with the National Rowing Foundation. Her summer temp gig? Helping the U.S. rowing team win gold in the women’s eight. Do you think her temporary employers factored in her wealth of success and experience? More importantly, are you properly factoring in the history of success demonstrated by members of your temporary workforce?
As the games draw to a close, remind yourself that your Olympians represent a talented group of temporary professionals. These athletes lend their skills to Team USA for two weeks, plus training time, and the U.S. medal count might not be as high if these critical temps were not treated as valuable contributors.