Olympics authority must not drop HR baton

The chance to lead the marathon HR effort needed to stage the 2012 Olympic Games should be a golden opportunity for HR. You would assume that the head of HR for this prestigious event would command a premium position in the structure of the organisation (the Olympic Development Authority) with a salary to reflect the enormity of the job. But this assumption is way off track.

As soon as the decision was made to bring the Games to London – which will be one of the highest-profile and most exciting events in the UK for several decades – the government proclaimed that it wanted the brightest stars in business and public life to rise to the challenge. Culture secretary Tessa Jowell says she wants high-calibre candidates for the plum jobs, as all eyes will be on how London delivers. In other words, the success of the Olympics depends entirely on the skills and commitment of the people involved.

The job description says the head of HR role will be pivotal to the organisation, highly strategic and influential, and focused on delivery. HR will be involved right from the start so that it can help to shape the organisation, develop its culture, and support the strategic direction of the Olympic authority.

But there is a huge contradiction between what the authority wants and what it is prepared to pay. Senior HR professionals who spoke to Personnel Today say the salary of 75,000 is nowhere near high enough to attract the kind of talent the authority needs. Worse still, they argue, making the head of HR report to the finance director completely undervalues the contribution of HR.

If HR is not given the priority it deserves, it will look as though people don’t matter. This is yet another example of organisations saying that people are our greatest assets, but not really meaning it. In a situation where people really will make the difference, HR should have medal-winning status instead of being treated as an also-ran.

Karen Dempsey

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