What Talent Acquisition Can Learn from Sports

Hiring is competitive, and competition drives up costs. Finding, attracting, and retaining talent costs money. Depending on your talent needs any or all three of these things might be your specific hiring challenge.

Sports teams face the same challenges and their talent acquisition strategy directly affects their ability to win. While some teams don’t have the same tight budget you have, they do however have salary caps that limit what they can spend on salaries, which has the same effect as a tight budget.

In order to gain a competitive advantage through talent acquisition, the best teams have learned 2 valuable lessons:

  1. Qualifications cost money.
  2. More qualifications don’t necessarily improve total team productivity.

I’m not saying you should hire unqualified people, I’m saying there is a way to redefine what qualified means.

How? The best sports teams have built execution strategies around a strong small core team that allows the surrounding team members to be highly productive with fewer qualifications.

Let’s look at a few examples. In the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have done this really well. They have a small group of core All-Star players and these people are so good that they ask the other players to do a few things only. And because they ask them to do fewer things, they can look for people who only do those things well. To the rest of the league, these are players with deficiencies. Take Patty Mills: before signing with the Spurs, he had previously been playing in leagues in China and Australia, and in a developmental minor league. It’s safe to say he was available to the rest of the NBA for quite a while before the Spurs signed him for very little money (relatively speaking of course). As a member of the Spurs, Patty Mills became a contributing member of the team and won a championship in 2014.

In the NFL, most teams need their pass catching receivers to be very tall, very big, and very fast. But the New England Patriots use a system where most passes are thrown a shorter distance which lets them play receivers that are much shorter and smaller. For example, Julian Edelman is only 5 feet 10 inches which is small for an NFL receiver. Because of this Edelman wasn’t even invited to the NFL draft combine, but the Patriots drafted him in the 7th round (232nd overall). Edelman has become one of the Patriots’ primary receivers and won a championship in 2015.

The Spurs and Patriots have proven it is possible to build extremely productive teams while simplifying “hiring” and lowering salaries!

Smart team building strategies paired with smart execution strategies that allow you to reduce required candidate qualifications, can help any talent acquisition plan reduce costs and improve team productivity.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Jobhubble

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