When one thinks of the Sports Day at school, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?
Children get together in their respective houses with the aim to win that alluring cup. They put their best foot forward with weeks of team practice to get better each day. From perseverance, second chances to mastering the skills they already had, and turning failures into wins with the right guidance, sports had a lot of lessons to teach - all while having fun through play. In this competitive environment, failure was not perceived negatively, instead seen as an opportunity to rise from the ashes. Although there was not, and never will be, a guarantee of victory, there was most importantly, always a level playing field where everyone was treated equally.
So what happened to those children when they grew up?
As adults, there’s little fun in the way we learn every day. Sports for some is seen as leisure post-work hours, for some others as a way of keeping fit and still others to de-stress. The question is – can you bring back that fun with learning and bonding, using SPORTS as a tool for engagement at the office? Can sports also be seen as a tool for making the work environment inclusive? Yes, it can!
Experiential learning & engagement
Based on an HR Survey conducted by SportzConsult India last year, almost 83% of the companies use sports as a tool for employee engagement at work as it contributes to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interactions. This environment of fun and play helps foster essential skills like discipline, leadership, decision-making, teamwork, tolerance, and innovation while finding solutions to solve problems, effective communication and coordination. All of this in a hand-on experiential format as against a closed classroom training that is less interactive and engaging.
It is no surprise that an employee’s productivity increases when he is engaged, happy and healthy at work.
Sharing her views on sports as a tool for engagement, Shwetha Kalappa, Head - Employee Engagement, Human Resources, Kotak Mahindra Bank, says, "Most of us spend more than 70% of our waking hours at work and what if you could feel energetic, happy and raring to go at the end of it all? Physical activity and sports integrated into the corporate work life gives you a fresh lease to life and an entire new feel of the workplace –camaraderie is built, energies are gushing and teamwork is at its best – the after effects are that this gets released to the workplace as well.
Everyone is equal
Team getaways, family days, festive celebrations and annual off sites are great ways for team building. Sports on the other hand, provides the edge with not only relieving stress but also giving an opportunity to employees across all levels to communicate and interact with the senior leaders. Picture a CEO bowling his best to the opposing team that has a newly joined intern at the wicket, where the latter is not shy of hitting the ball to a glorious boundary and scoring for the team.
Building on this note, Niren Srivastava, Head HR and Administration, Aditya Birla Health Insurance says “Sports, I believe is the most powerful and engaging tool to drive employee collaboration across all levels, competitiveness and wellness in organizations especially in today’s world of highly stress-full jobs.”
From hosting IPL-like auctions for cricket tournaments to football leagues at the turf, companies organize a lot of the initiatives through the year, also theming them to the seasons. It is also not surprising to know that a significant lot of these events are not necessarily HR-driven but self-driven by different functional teams that take ownership towards conceptualizing, coordinating and executing the games. At corporate offsite meets, teams are seen breaking into an on-the-spot cricket or football match in their free time where everyone from the junior most to the senior leadership team come together as one team.
The trends beyond Cricket
According to the SportzConsult Survey, amongst various sports engagement options, 58% of organizations use inter-corporate tournaments as an employee engagement option. Tournaments like these prove beneficial for organizations as employees not only race each other to finish but are also pulled together in the process to collaborate and win pride for their company. It provides a platform for the employees to showcase their talent, foster friendship and network.
A sport, as you can see, has several benefits to grab that inevitable position in a company’s employee engagement calendar.