In one of the most incredible stories in modern sport, Leicester City secured the English Premier League title last night, with Tottenham’s failure to defeat rivals Chelsea leaving “The Foxes” in an unassailable position with two matches still to play. It was the first top-tier championship in their 132 year history, and is being spoken of as the greatest upset in the history of professional sport- they were available at odds of 5,000-1 with some bookmakers at the start of the season.
In a league synonymous with financial largesse, and one in which success has seemed to be in direct correlation with the size of a club’s transfer budget and wage bill, Leicester bucked the trend. By brushing aside the traditional powerhouses of English football – Manchester City and United, Chelsea and Arsenal were left in their wake- Leicester’s surprise championship has built upon a trend that has become all too familiar in the corporate space where fast paced and nimble start-ups are pressuring slow-moving corporate behemoths into submission. This is particularly so in retail, with the rise of discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl disrupting the long-established hegemony of grocery giants, headed by Tesco; or the massive global growth of Netflix and other online entertainment channels causing many high street oldies such as Blockbuster to become redundant in the marketplace.
But how have Leicester done it, and can their remarkable results be replicated in the workplace?
Leicester’s most celebrated trait has been their collective spirit and work ethic, with Leicester’s Head Coach, the avuncular Claudio Ranieri, generating the highest level of productivity from his playing staff and fostering a camaraderie and togetherness which is the envy of more celebrated and better remunerated teams. These same methods can be applied in the workplace; away days and team building activities are a popular option, but what happens when your team is dispersed across the globe? With the rise of the digital workplace, and remote workers, the intranet has become critical to encourage collaboration not only within your departments but between them too. Having a cleverly thought out engagement strategy that encourages intranet adoption can engender a strong team culture in employees, who then become more bought into the company vision and goals.
Ranieri has been the face of the title charge and has deflected much of the media glare from his players, emphasising modest, short-term goals, with the satisfaction of these seeing the impossible gradually become a reality. As with football, leadership is vital in the full and proper implementation of any employee engagement strategy, and it is crucial that your Senior Management Team are fully involved, or at least visible, in the day-to-day operation of your internal communications tools. They must be seen to have a voice and demonstrate accountability; if culture change is to happen, it must start at the top
A rewards system, or a form of gamification, can also increase engagement and introduce an element of healthy competition to your workforce, further incentivising high levels of performance and providing recognition for both individual and collective successes. When his side were frequently conceding goals during the first few games of the season, Ranieri offered to take them for pizza as a reward if they could prevent the opposition scoring in their next game- they duly obliged, but even then were made to bake their own!
Perhaps the most identifiable part of the Leicester story though is that money and big names (be that players, teams or organisations) do not necessarily equate with achieving your set goals and ambitions. By helping your staff fulfil their potential and embracing a social, collaborative and industrious environment, Leicester have proved that you can surpass even those rivals operating in another financial stratosphere. You just need the right people, the right attitude and, just as importantly, the right tools to make this happen.