My twin brother is presently a ‘Gamesmaker’ based at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park and he’s loving it! So what makes a married, father of two with limited interest in sport take two weeks off work unpaid to show people to their seats or guard a highly important fire door? It may not be what you think.

He certainly had doubts. Once his training began he was told pretty clearly that he would have ‘no responsibility whatsoever’. This was a little bit of a disappointment. He is an intelligent, upstanding member of the community. Surely he could handle a bit of responsibility? What about a walkie-talkie? No, sorry, that is too much to ask of our volunteers.  So, the thought of dealing with customer queries and not knowing what he would be doing on a daily basis was not filling him with happy thoughts, but you know what, this is the OLYMPIC GAMES, it was going to be awesome!

So how do you motivate 70,000 volunteers to turn up, day in, day out, sometime starting before dawn to deal with the general public (who we all know aren’t always nice to deal with!). Well, you reward them. Not with much – a handbook here, a pin badge there – but you offer them something they cannot get elsewhere. They are in a ‘club’ and let’s face it, we all like being part of something exclusive. The most important factor here is that they are told they are making a difference, they are rewarded with praise. We hear it on the TV every day what a great job the Games Makers are doing. How many of you are told to an audience of millions that you are good at what you do? What is interesting is that there are also paid marshals, they are not called Gamesmakers, even the job title is significant, and as a rule my brother noted they were far less motivated to be there than the volunteers. It is a job for them so they have to be there to get paid. The volunteers turn up because they want to be part of something, because they want to make a difference. Daniel Pink’s excellent book  ‘Drive, The Surprising Truth That Motivates Us’ is an excellent read for those that wish to understand this more.

So how does this relate to the working world? People are motivated by a number of things but rarely is this money, or a nice car, or free fruit everyday. It is the intangible reward, being told you are doing a great job, being part of something exciting and challenging. It is stretching people to improve, giving them the opportunity to grow as individuals.

When was the last time you told someone they were doing a great job? Try it, you may get a big smile (and a more motivated employee) in return!  So my brother is half way through his last week, and something extra special happened – he was rewarded with some responsibility, he got a Walkie-Talkie! Now that’s power!

Shane Horn

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