HR lessons from FIFA teams

by Caitlin Nobes16 Jun 2014
Most of the world is glued to the TV with the FIFA World Cup under way in Brazil, but top sports teams offer more than just entertainment for HR managers.
Top soccer teams offer insights into everything from recruiting and developing talent, to creating a vision and finding good leaders, Hays Canada VP for GTA Andy Robling said. Looking for players that fit the team is the first step in not just finding great talent, but in getting the best results.
“There are still a lot of companies that will recruit purely on the basis of experience and the kind of job they’d had but we encourage our clients to recruit by skill set and what they achieved,” he said. “You can recruit a super star player but unless they have the right fit they can be quite de-stabilizing.”
French coach Didier Deschamps recently made the controversial decision to exclude English premier league star Samir Nasri from his World Cup squad. The decision was based on Nasri’s attitude off field, not his skills on.
“When he doesn’t start, he is not happy and when he is not happy, it shows. And it affects the team,” Deschamps said.
A 2013 Hays survey showed the key driver for employees is being challenged and being offered career progression. Robling noted that most soccer players peak in their late 20s, often 10 years after their careers have started. While most workers have longer careers than that, like professional athletes, they don’t want to ever stop learning so it’s up to employers to offer continuing skill development and opportunities to ensure they’re constantly challenged.
Robling also said having a joint vision was vital to success. Manchester City, which Hays Group sponsors, has had a lot of financial investment recently, but it’s the work the team has done building confidence and faith in the players and fans that has driven its successes.
“They’ve invested a lot in the vision of themselves as a top club and they attract the right players and support staff as a result because they have the vision of themselves as a winning team,” Robling said. “That translates into the business world in the form of creating and communicating a vision, with regular top-down communication from the CEO and two-way communication. That’s what builds a great team.”
A lot of organizations are facing leadership gaps, and filling those roles requires the right combination of roles – and often technical skills are not the best measurement of success.
“The best player is not necessarily the best coach,” Robling said. When top Manchester United and Republic of Ireland player Roy Keane retired from the field he lasted just a year and a half as a coach of a provincial team. The hot-headed, autocratic style that worked well as a leader on the field turned out to be much less effective behind the scenes.
“In a lot of companies you promote someone in to a coaching or management role because they were the best person at their particular job, but that doesn’t always make them the best manager. Personality fit and communication skills are more important than any technical skills.”
- Co-written by Steven McDonald


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