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A Community of Enthusiasts: Corporate Sports Initiatives at Polyus

17 January 2020
A Community of Enthusiasts: Corporate Sports Initiatives at Polyus

Polyus has been vigorous in promoting a healthy lifestyle. The company supports sports events in its regions of operations, supporting with the development of the necessary infrastructure as well as encouraging employees to go in for sports.

Alexey Nikitin, HR Business Partner, and Nikolay Zaikin, Senior Internal Communications Manager, have provided some insight into how our employees get involved in a sports-oriented lifestyle and how it influences their perception of reality.

Alexey, Nikolay, let’s summarize the Polyus’ sporting events in 2019. What would you like to highlight?

Alexey Nikitin (A.N.): 2019 turned out to be a magic year for us, especially when it came to cross-country skiing, jogging and running. In the winter, we selected ten ambassadors and invited them to come to Moscow. They are proactive people, keen on sports and ready to participate in any sporting activity in their free time. Having completed some training, they returned to their regions, and we got the first results a month later! The cross-country skiing team includes over 200 Group employees, who trained in their regions: Magadan, Bodaybo, Aldan, Krasnoyarsk, Yeruda, and Moscow.

Nikolay Zaikin (N.Z.): It was actually a little different and not quite so easy. This story began in 2018, when we launched The “Together from Moscow to Magadan” campaign. There are approximately 10,000 km between the cities, and we had 10 business units at that time.

10 times from Moscow to Magadan is exactly 100,000 km! If all our sports fans contribute their achievements towards the total result, we will conquer this huge distance altogether. It’s amazing. We launched a special website to accumulate the results of our runners, swimmers, bikers and skiers.

But we needed a lot of enthusiasts to reach 100,000 km. Therefore, an idea to find sports leaders and ambassadors in each of Polyus’ business units came to our mind. These people are tasked with engaging their colleagues into sports. We decided to add cross-country skiing to jogging and running. We found the employees who would like to become an ambassador and invited them to Moscow.

So did you get your tickets to success back in 2018?

N.Z.: Yes, we did. At first, we were a bit skeptical about the idea of ambassadors but it worked for us! For example, some towns or villages lack professional coaches and high-quality sports infrastructure.

People got together with ambassadors, and their enthusiasm became the real magnet for sports! We trained cross-country skiing ambassadors first and then those for running and jogging.

But skiing came first, didn’t it?

N.Z.: For our ambassadors, yes, because we introduced our initiative in winter. Our regions of operations are favourable for winter sports.

What other challenges did you face?

N.Z.: We were afraid of running out of time because we implemented our project right after the New Year holidays. You might remember, the beginning of 2019 was a warm and short winter, whereas in March there was snow everywhere. But we were in time. For the competitions, we presented medals, bright sports caps and T-shirts. The ambassadors arranged skiing training. Around 200 people participated in the first run.

Where did it take place?

A.N.: Well, the first run is a kind of collective notion because the competition was held subsequently in various locations. Moscow was the first place followed by Magadan, and Bodaybo and Krasnoyarsk came third and fourth.

Anyway, we were late for Krasnoyarsk with the skiing competition taking place without skis. How about that?

N.Z.: There was no snow so the athletes ran without skis.

People did participate, didn’t they?

N.Z.: Yes! The idea was to hand over the baton between time zones and run within the single day. However, in reality it was a bit more complicated. When there was still snow in Moscow, the temperature in Krasnoyarsk was above + 12°С.

A.N.: Meanwhile, Yakutia was experiencing the extremely low temperature of —30°С...

N.Z.: ... And there was no chance of runing at all for health reasons. And yet, the people were enthused by the idea of sports.

Leader factor

Did you invest much money into the project?

N.Z.: No, we spent a small amount on designing corporate medals and T-shirts. And then the ambassadors came in!

In what particular way?

A.N.: When someone is enthusiastic, he or she motivates others.

For example, Anton Kuznetsov, Leading Specialist of Transport Management Group at Polyus Logistics, exercises with dumbbells, practices jogging and skiing.

The people join in when they see that a man working a long shift then goes for training and has a full-fledged life outside work.

The other examples are Darya Tsarkova, Leading Cost Control Engineer at Polyus Magadan, and Natalia Rotkina, Leading Communications and Social Programmes Specialist at Lenzoloto. We couldn’t have achieved the brilliant results without their energy and organizational skills. You can meet these motivators among our employees in every region. You know, it could be the end of the road without a true leader, no matter how much you talk about healthy lifestyle and value of sports.

How many people participate in the skiing and running competitions?

A.N.: The total amount is approximately 600-800 skiers and runners across Polyus. Most of them prefer jogging and running as these are cheaper sports — get your sneakers and ready to go. Our colleagues often ski in winter, while in warm weather they do running and jogging.

So there were 100 people early in 2019 and now it is over 600?

N.Z.: Yes, it may grow even more. We would like to raise the number of the Polyus sports team members up to 2,000 and for this purpose we intend to develop other kinds of sports inside Polyus.

United team

Which business units are the most active participants at the moment?

N.Z.: Polyus Krasnoyarsk and MC Polyus. Lenzoloto is catching up, but they were late to join in.

The employees of Polyus Project contributed around 5,000 km to the total result. The uprise of such people is one of our victories. We also have such outstanding personalities, one of them is Sasha Demin. He is a skiing ambassador from Polyus Krasnoyarsk, who has run and cycled over 8,000 km. He is worth being a standalone business unit in order to give the rest a chance to catch up.

A.N.: Our main success factor is our community of enthusiasts. When like-minded people, our teams take part in the Moscow, New York, Irkutsk, Saint Petersburg, Munich, Krasnoyarsk or Chicago Marathons, everybody knows they win a round of applause.

How do you populate the project?

A.N.: We have the special internal website with the slogan “Together from Moscow to Magadan”. Employees enter their achievements there and the number of kilometers, is summed up. Instagram photos tagged #командаПолюса (Polyus team) are uploaded to the website.

Instagram posts are featured in the photo gallery on the website.

N.Z.: We have a WhatsApp chat. Alexey posts statistics on the individually run distance. We also track the contributions of employees and business units to reach our target of 100,000 km. By the way, I was involved into our community of joggers and runners.

Going jogging is like going to a party

The sports merits seem to be clear.

But why does the whole Company do it?

N.Z.: First, it is developing the horizontal communication and building a team: it is simpler for employees to communicate after they competed together. People don’t feel shy about talking to another. Second, it is uniting. Our colleagues identify themselves with Polyus as a large company, which unites several remote regions. Third and the most evident: jogging and skiing improve health and fitness.

A.N.: The project fosters leaders of completely different levels, from operation staff up to experts.

It helps develop informal leadership within the organization, doesn’t it?

A.N.: Yes, it does. Get up early, put on your sneakers and hurry up and exercise because you have promised it to yourself, you have a goal. This is a sort of unique skill. People change themselves and others. The whole world is transforming for the better and society in every region of our operations is improving.

Furthermore, they change their view on sports in cities, turn competitions into festivals...

A.N.: Exactly! People jogging as if it’s a get-together, I mean with their kids, friends, and neighbours. The business unit management delivers a motivating speech just before the start of any competition. Afterwards, competitors receive their prizes and together celebrate with their supporters over a barbecue. Our events have turned into city-scale festivals! This year we aim to reinforce our success formula.