No Room for Failure – Lessons from the 2012 Olympic HR Director

No Room for Failure – Lessons from the 2012 Olympic HR Director

In 2006, Jean Tomlin was appointed as HR Director for London 2012; what turned out to be the most successful Olympic Games in history. Her position included mobilising 200,000 Gamesmakers and staff, which was a feat all by itself, as well as being in charge of workforce management and recruitment. Through her hard work, as well as the support of those beneath her, she managed to recruit 8,000 paid staff, 70,000 volunteers, and over 100,000 contractors.

Before she was able to deploy the workforce, she had to ensure they undertook 1 million hours of training between them. This was a formidable task, and one that required a high level of organisation and co-operation from other departments. On top of this, she was involved in the day-to-day operations of the HR department, and the activities of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). All of the staff had to be accredited and kitted out with the correct uniforms and equipment, and there was no room for error.

To ensure the satisfaction of the countries and societies involved, there had to be a high level of organisation when it came to diversity and inclusion in the staff. They couldn’t be seen to favour one particular culture or ethnic origin, just like they also had to ensure that people with disabilities could also get involved.

Tomlin began her career as a graduate trainee with Ford Motor Company and worked in training and industrial relations and personnel at a time when  the auto industry was  in crisis. She followed that up with the role of Head of HR at Egg, the online bank of Prudential. and from there to Marks & Spencer in the same role.

Due to the success of her Olympics venture, she was awarded on OBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List. She also received the CIPD Special Achievement Award in September 2012, which was for her services and achievements in HR.


Present Day

After such a successful enterprise, what is Jean Tomlin currently up to? After all, being head of HR for the most successful Olympic Games in history is something that is hard to improve upon.

She is currently on the board of Sainsbury’s, as a non-executive director. On top of these duties she has also held a number of other non-executive roles, including for the Student Loans Company and the Greenwich Healthcare Trust. She is an Independent Director of Michael Kors Holding Limited, and a Board Director of the Join In Trust.

Because of Tomlin’s incredible accomplishments, she is a highly sought-after speaker for all sorts of corporate events, and has travelled all across the world in order to inspire others with her story and her overall motivation to do well in life. She is particularly well regarded by businesswomen, as she has proven that women no longer need to be held down by the supposed restraints of their gender.

As a speaker, she discusses a variety of different topics, although mainly focuses on human resources, change management, talent management, leadership, diversity, and strategy. Her talks tend to sell out pretty fast, which just goes to show how much influence she has in the present day, beyond the work of the 2012 Olympic Games.

About the author:

Samuel Davis writes for a number of UK business publications on topics including human resource management, effective leadership and recruitment.

Published by valentine belonwu


  1. jdexkhkbpo · August 25, 2020

    No Room for Failure – Lessons from the 2012 Olympic HR Director | Business Gross