November 3rd, 2016

Five Things Managers Can Learn from Football Coaches about Managing Talent

You’re always looking to improve your game, so why not learn from coaches who are in the game? Let’s take a look at football coaching strategies that can double as workforce management strategies.

No, you’re not roaming the sidelines, throwing your headset on the turf or getting Gatorade showers. Your job’s just not that glorious. It’s okay though, because you still have big responsibilities—like hiring and retaining your company’s talent. What you do is close enough to what football coaches do, so let’s take a page out of their playbook.

#FiveThings managers can learn from football coaches about managing talent:

Here are five things you—as an HR manager, department manager, hiring manager, whatever your title is—can learn from football coaches.

  1. Screen potential new draft picks employees exceptionally well.

To build teams, pro franchises draft college players and sign free agents, while college programs recruit high school athletes. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, it’s not. There’s a whole lot of screening prospects, evaluating them, visiting them, visiting their people (agents, parents, guardians), before making offers and acquiring talent.

How’s that mirror what you do? Well, you should vet, vet… then vet some more, without excessively prolonging your hiring process. Depending on the position, it’d probably behoove you to go beyond a single interview and background check. What about a second interview? A panel interview? Studying candidates’ portfolios? Having pointed conversations with references? It’s a poor decision to rush your hiring process when the wrong hire could cost you tens of thousands of bucks.

  1. Build and develop your talent from the bottom up.

Every player is a rookie or freshman at some point, and might even be stuck on the practice squad. That’s fine as long as coaches can use players’ ambition as a foundation for growth. It’s a part of the process. Some players complete it with hare-like speed, while others creep along like a tortoise. The trick for coaches is striking the perfect balance—offer players enough criticism and teaching without burning them out.

Every employee is new at some point. Yes, a fresh-out-of-college coordinator will need lots more development, but even a seasoned director might need some new skills, or at least some acclimation to a new culture and/or procedures. Put training plans in place with great detail. And just like coaches, don’t slow or expedite training too much; find that sweet spot in the middle that allows employees to get comfortable and grow simultaneously.

  1. Give your people a tech-laden platform.

To keep up with the Joneses, coaches are always implementing the latest tech to help with player development. We’re talking theaters with the best audio and video money can buy, wearable tech that monitors performance and even virtual reality that allows players to diagnose formations. Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s proven to engage athletes and help them on game day.

Aside from putting your employees in a virtual reality where angry linebackers chase them down, you should do the same for your workforce—from paying for relevant online classes, webinars and training, to equipping them with the latest laptops, communications platforms and project management software. It’s up to you to find the budget to invest in useful—and often necessary—technology and connectivity.

  1. Motivate with goals and the rewards attached to them.

Coaches establish performance-related individual and team goals. This empowers players to improve their games and serves as a reminder that team success is most important. Often times, there are incentives attached to the goals. For instance, pros can earn bonuses, whereas college players can earn starting positions. Regardless, every incentive serves as motivation.

In your office, plant or warehouse, do the same. Ensure your employee and company goals are measureable and attainable, yet challenging. Convey them clearly, document them, and offer proper rewards. By proper, we mean substantial enough to motivate—things like bonuses, profit sharing, extra vacation days, promotions and public recognition.

  1. Implement a mixture of strict X’s and O’s and creative freedom.

Coaches are always drawing X’s and O’s in playbooks and on clipboards. They’re saying zig here, zag there, and we’ll get the yardage we need. But coaches also know that their players possess immense athletic talent and a feel for the game. If a play breaks down or another window opens, players should have the liberty to create.

It’s the same at every company in America… at least it should be. Think about it. Job descriptions, task details, performance goals…these are all X’s and O’s. You just need to remember the same thing as coaches—you hired your people for a reason. They have expertise and skills. They can improvise when necessary and run the slant instead of the fade. It’s in them; you just have to empower them.

Alright, coach. Now that you’re even better equipped to manage a roster, do it—and put your employees in a position to win. And if you ever feel like you need a new assistant, give us a ring!





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