If you’re a sports fanatic like me, this time of year is special. Not only have we had the regular annual feast of football finals, the commencement of cricket season, motor racing and golf, but this year was also a Rugby World Cup year. We’ve hardly had time to take a breath.
When I’m not watching, coaching or playing sport, I spend most of my time thinking about how organizations can improve the attraction, retention and development of their talent.

We can learn a lot from how professional sports organizations tackle these very same HR issues.

If I was to ask you what you thought the core business of, say, the San Francisco 49ers or Manchester United was, you would no doubt tell me it was football or perhaps selling merchandise. Well in my view you would be wrong. They are in the business of managing talent. Everything else is an output or a by-product of this fundamental activity of sourcing, attracting, retaining, developing and off-boarding players (or talent in the truest sense of the word).
With so much at stake in financial terms in this era of professional sports franchises it is no wonder the “football departments” of these organizations are so incredibly well resourced. Consider the sorts of activities that are managed by these departments – from scouting for new young talent, attracting them to the roster, coaching and developing them in team and individual capabilities, managing their health and well-being, team culture and leadership, list management, match day strategy, to name but a few.

“The best franchises in the world are multi-billion dollar businesses due in large part to a consistent targeted approach to identifying and managing their key talent year-in year-out from generation to generation.”


I’ve always thought that successful organizations in the corporate world could do well to align their HR functions along the same lines as the “Football Department” of the very best sports franchises.

What if you re-purposed your Recruitment team to focus on talent sourcing and attraction as if you were looking for the next Lionel Messi?

Why not morph that uninspiring compliance-centric L&D function into a crack team of specialist coaches intent on transforming mediocre midfielders into gun strikers who could make the difference between winning or losing against your competition? Perhaps instead of dealing with the tears and tissues, our HR Business Partners could look out for all of the extra stuff that helps to keep our talent healthy, happy and motivated to bring their A-game every time they enter the park for your firm?

Food for thought I reckon.

Does your HR team operate like this? Love to hear about it.