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Management practices in companies through sport

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Purpose ‐ The objective of this paper is to provide insight into how the practice of sports, commonly known as a pastime or leisure activity, highlights the human agent as an organisational resource and pulling force, and how it can lie within the framework of general employee management policies. But which functions can sport fulfil? Design/methodology/approach ‐ In order to answer this question, qualitative surveys were conducted at ten company sites in France (Adidas France, Apple, 3M, Caisse d'Epargne, Crédit Immobilier de France, Lilly France, Lohr Industrie, Nestlé France, Steelcase International, Würth France). A total of 14 interviews with decision makers on company sport policies were conducted. The empirical data were then cross-examined in two competitor observations: Steelcase and 3M France. Findings ‐ The study illustrates that sport at companies can take on multiple functions and forms: structures in situ, events, company sporting associations, sponsorship, and so forth. Its functions are often interrelated and integrated into human resources management (as training and motivational tools) and both internal and external communication policies. Furthermore, they contribute to the social policy of the company. Therefore, sport in business is a contributor to defining a company's identity by highlighting intangible and human resources. Research limitations/implications ‐ This research, completed in large manufacturing and service companies, does not mention the range of sports actions carried out within the framework of intercultural management of multinationals. It could be extended to cover small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to verify the findings. The research does not deal with the effectiveness of sports actions on employees. Only an employee investigation on accepting management practices would permit the verbalization their feeling of belonging to a company and their job involvement. Practical implications ‐ This paper describes possibilities to evolve human relations through a sporting means. Collective mobilizing around sports attracts just as much top management as "secondary executives". It creates network relations outside traditional work circuits and helps develop governance methods, management and human resources management practices, and the nature of human relations. Originality/value ‐ This paper shows how companies ‐ although obsessed by economic performance ‐ give the opportunity to empower staff through the means of sporting leisure activities for the purpose of a managerial target. This study unveils the uses and functions of sport in companies, and its associated attributes. It furthermore reveals contemporary transformations in the entrepreneurial world: new management styles and re-enchantment of the company by diffusing the image of an entrepreneurial employee. Henceforth, the man or woman in the company is more than ever considered as a social being endowed with assets in the form of available resources for the purpose of management practices.

Keywords: Communication; Companies; Corporate identity; Human resource management; Social policy; Sports

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00251740910929759

Publication date: February 6, 2009

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