Rugby: Some Lessons to Build an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace


The Rugby World Cup is ranked as the third most-watched sporting event globally, after the football World Cup and the Olympics. France has been hosting the 2023 edition over the past few weeks, with the grand finale scheduled to take place on October 28 at the iconic Stade de France in Paris. Although not evenly spread worldwide, the oval ball has fans and enthusiasts on every continent.

But why are we talking about rugby on the website of an HR company? Good question. We will therefore try to give an equally good answer. In many ways, this discipline, born in 1823 in the town of Rugby in England, represents a rich tapestry of metaphors and allegories that can be applied at the corporate level in various situations related to leadership, teamwork, and even more contemporary themes such as diversity and inclusion.

Rugby is a team sport renowned for its values of teamwork, diversity, inclusion, respect, resilience, and support. HR leaders can gain valuable insights on how to cultivate a more inclusive and supportive workplace.


Rugby and Teamwork

Rugby epitomises teamwork. On the pitch, all 15 players must work together cohesively to achieve success, regardless size, speed, or skill differences. The scrum-half must trust the prop to win the ball. The fly-half must accurately pass to the winger sprinting down the touchline. This interdependency brings out the best in each player.

HR leaders can cultivate this team spirit by providing opportunities for employees to collaborate across departments and job roles. When building project teams, consider blending people with complementary abilities. Allocate dedicated time for team members to connect personally and gain insight into one another’s unique working styles.

Create cross-training programs so employees gain skills outside their usual remit and appreciate colleagues’ contributions. Hold brainstorming sessions for people to share creative ideas and solutions. Build trust through open communication and transparency about team objectives.

Most importantly, recognize that every employee has an integral role to play in the organization’s success. Find ways for each person to meaningfully contribute based on their unique talents. Just like a rugby squad, a workplace thrives when all players work together as one cohesive, supportive unit.


Rugby and Diversity & Inclusion

One of the great things about rugby is that it is played by athletes of all shapes and sizes. You’ll see tall and muscular players alongside shorter, stockier teammates. Rugby squads comprise players with different skills – from lightning fast backs to powerful forwards. This diversity is a key strength of rugby teams.

The same applies to workplaces. Organizations benefit tremendously when teams comprise individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. HR leaders can nurture this diversity and inclusion in several ways:

  • Actively recruit people from underrepresented groups and create an inclusive hiring process. Train recruiters to spot and overcome unconscious biases.
  • Provide regular unconscious bias and diversity training for all employees. These interactive workshops raise awareness of prejudices and give people the tools to create a more equitable culture.
  • Support employee resource groups that bring together workers with shared identities or interests. These groups provide mentoring, networking opportunities, and insights to management.
  • Highlight role models within the organization to celebrate diversity. For example, interview employees from minority backgrounds about their career journeys.
  • Encourage open conversations about diversity and foster a culture where everyone is able to bring their whole selves to work.


Rugby and Respect

Rugby is built on a foundation of respect. Players are expected to respect teammates, opponents, referees, coaches and fans. This creates an environment of dignity and sportsmanship.

Respect starts with the rituals of rugby. Before each match, players line up to face their opposition eye-to-eye while listening to their national anthems. Handshakes between rivals set the tone for fair competition. Appreciative applause is given for good play, regardless of who performed it.

HR leaders can foster similar respect in the workplace. Establish clear guidelines for professional behavior and enforce them consistently. Model respectful language and conduct, especially when under pressure. Mediate conflicts in a solution-oriented manner.

Create opportunities for colleagues to connect on a human level through team building activities and social events. Celebrate employees’ backgrounds, religions, cultures and identities to build understanding. Actively listen to divergent opinions with empathy.

When mistakes happen, use them as teachable moments rather than rushing to blame. Take time to understand the context and intent before reacting. Make respect the touchstone for all interactions, even in challenging situations.

This culture of mutual respect improves collegiality, psychological safety and employee fulfillment. Like rugby players lifted by the esteem of those around them, employees will be motivated to bring their best to work each day.



Rugby is an intensely physical and mental game. Players endure bone-crunching tackles, race up and down the field in all weather, and push their bodies to utter exhaustion. This requires immense resilience and determination to keep fighting even when every muscle aches.

HR leaders can instill this grit and perseverance in employees by:

  • Offering development opportunities like training courses and stretch assignments outside people’s comfort zones. These challenges build confidence to tackle greater responsibilities.
  • Establishing flexible work arrangements so employees can recharge and avoid burnout. Be understanding when people need time off to replenish.
  • Providing confidential mental health resources like counseling and stress management tools. Create safe spaces for people to share struggles without judgment.
  • Celebrating “small wins” and milestones achieved through perseverance. Recognize the effort it takes to overcome obstacles, not just the final result.
  • Sharing stories of employees who exemplified resilience during difficult times. These role models inspire others to tap into their own inner strength.
  • Checking in regularly, especially when employees are under high pressure. Small acts of care and concern make people feel valued and motivated.
  • With the right support, employees will emulate rugby players’ ability to get back up after being tackled, again and again. Their tenacity will carry them through professional challenges and setbacks.



Rugby fosters an incredible sense of camaraderie and support among teammates. On the field, players constantly encourage each other with high fives, pats on the back and motivational words. Off the field, they form lifelong bonds over post-match celebrations and team dinners. They become an extended family.

HR leaders can replicate this culture of support in the workplace. Create easy access to helpful resources like employee assistance programs, mentorships and development funds. Accommodate needs like flexible schedules for working parents.

Organize team building activities outside of work hours to facilitate meaningful connections. Shared leisure experiences bring people closer together. Support employee resource groups and committees to provide peer support.

Check in frequently with employees to show you care about them as individuals. Celebrate personal milestones like birthdays and anniversaries. Be flexible and compassionate when people face challenges in their personal lives.

Build a workplace where people feel safe asking for help without judgment. Foster an “all for one” environment where people offer assistance without expectation of reward. Support goes both ways.

With the right culture of care and support, employees will unite around shared goals the same way rugby squads play as one for their teammates. They will tackle any challenge knowing there are others ready to lift them up.


Final Thoughts

The Rugby World Cup final on October 28 promises to be a thrilling showcase of talent, teamwork, and tenacity. While you may not know much about rugby yet, we encourage you to watch this epic sporting event. But it’s more than just entertainment. It holds the potential
to inspire and transform workplace cultures, aligning perfectly with the core values that Pyou upholds. We believe that success goes beyond filling job vacancies. We are dedicated to building empowering workplace cultures by nurturing leadership, diversity, resilience, and
camaraderie among our employees, candidates, and corporate clients.

As you observe the Rugby World Cup final, take note of how the players embody these values. Witness the moments of leadership where the captains inspire their teams to greatness. Observe the diversity of backgrounds and cultures coming together to form a united force. Marvel at the resilience displayed as players overcome challenges and setbacks. And most importantly, take note of the unwavering camaraderie as teammates support each other through thick and thin.

Once the final whistle blows, it’s time to reflect on what you can learn from this great team sport. It’s time to initiate a brainstorming session and explore practical ways to implement rugby’s cultural values within your organization. Imagine a workplace founded on trust,
where every employee’s talents are leveraged, and everyone feels respected and supported. Visualize an environment where people tackle challenges collectively and lift each other up after inevitable setbacks.

By integrating rugby’s cultural values into our activities at Pyou, we aim to create an inspiring experience for our employees, candidates, and corporate clients. We invite you to join us in fostering an environment built on these foundational principles. Who knows – you may even
gain a new appreciation for rugby and become one of the legions of passionate fans around the world!

At the very least, embracing these core values will ignite a fire within you to empower your
team to perform at their highest level. Together, let's unlock the potential for greatness and
build a workplace where talent flourishes and success thrives.

Join us in celebrating the Rugby World Cup final and embracing Pyou’s core values. Let’s make a difference in the world of recruitment and beyond!