The Canada Summer Games: Short-term Staff; Long-term Impact

Your non-profit organization might operate on a five-year strategic planning cycle. The Board might have a long-term planning committee and you probably hire employees you can train, nurture, and shape for the future. And, hopefully, you have succession planning on your mind.

So how would you manage an organization that’s only supposed to be around for a couple of years – a non-profit pop-up designed to meet a short-term need? That’s the challenge faced by Jeff Hnatiuk, President and CEO of the 2017 Canada Summer Games Host Society.

“Even though this is a short-term enterprise, we recruited with the spirit of building capacity for the future,” said Hnatiuk, the long-time President and CEO of Sport Manitoba, seconded for the Canada Summer Games. “We were looking for younger employees along with a few more experienced people who could serve as mentors.”

While a few employees were actively recruited – particularly those with some experience from the 1999 Pan-Am Games and other major events – about 90 percent of the 65 staff positions were filled through an open process. Many hundreds of people applied for jobs that would only last from a few months to about four years.

“I think people who applied knew that this was a very special major event and they wanted to be a part of it,” said Hnatiuk, who has worked in sports administration since 1986. “They also know that if the games are a success, their job here will look great on a résumé.”

Hnatiuk also notes that that the workforce has changed over the years and “people aren’t afraid to take on a short-term assignment.” There is a lot of mobility in the workforce, he added, and “there are people who choose careers in sports administration. After the Pan-Am Games in ’99, there were people who took assignments with other games, including the Olympics. The Canada Summer Games offers the same opportunity.”

That all said, in an organization with a short lifespan there are some HR challenges, especially retention.

“We’ve hired great people so it’s no surprise that some of them entertain other opportunities while they work here. After all, their jobs will end soon,” he said. “We have lost a few people along the way.”

For Hnatiuk, retention is best supported by fostering enthusiasm for the event itself. The excitement can take on a life of its own, creating a sort of shared community adrenaline. “The motivation to excel and to stay through the hard work, long hours, and strict deadlines is the belief that we are doing something very special for the community – something with a remarkable, long-term impact,” said Hnatiuk.

He also notes how important it is to create short-term goals and targets around which people can rally – whether that means hitting volunteer recruitment targets, securing accommodations for over 4,500 athletes and officials, achieving ticket sales goals, and a number of other benchmarks.

“The importance of having short-term, measureable goals is an important take-away for me and something that any organization can benefit from,” he said.

The Canada Summer Games – celebrating its fiftieth anniversary – are expected to generate over $150 million in economic impact in Manitoba. The Games have attracted nearly 6,000 community-minded volunteers, and are certain to create new fans and admirers of amateur sport – something very close to Jeff Hnatiuk’s heart.

“I see amateur sport as a social good,” he said. “Not only does participation in sport make us physically healthier, but it is also an exceptional way to welcome newcomers to Canada and strengthen the community. I see the Canada Summer Games as a celebration of everything that is great about sport.”

The 2017 Canada Summer Games run July 28 to August 13. For more information, visit