Why you should run your company like a professional sports team
Companies of the future should take a page out of the sports playbook.
When it comes down to it, recruiting and retaining top talent shouldn’t look all that different than recruiting and retaining top talent for a professional baseball team.
Yes you need a lot of team players, but ensuring you have the right players at the right time, in the right positions ultimately makes the difference between success and failure.
Some will lead your team. Some will fill in gaps while others are injured. Some will be brought in for a very specific, focused purpose while others will simply play a supporting role. But all play an important role in order to build a cohesive, winning team who play with energy, focus and passion, all driven towards the same goal.
So let’s build a team that gives you the greatest chance of hoisting that championship trophy
Position Players: These high-performing athletes play the same position pretty much every day. They provide leadership, continuity and set the culture of the team. They play important roles on the field, on the sidelines and in the locker room to keep everything pointed in the right direction. These people are the back-bone of any company. Most are in for the long haul and provide the strategic vision and inspiration for the company. We often call these ‘permanent’ employees.
It’s worth noting though that even these players aren’t ‘permanent’. No one these days can be considered permanent. From time-to-time the team must be taken in a different direction, a rebuild so-to-speak, which ultimately requires retiring or replacing some or all of the old guard.
Starting Pitchers: These valued players are critical to the success of the team. They are highly specialized and play a consistent role that oftentimes can make or break a game. They don’t play every day but find themselves in a regular rotation.
In a company, these functional specialists are often brought in for a long period of time on a regular part-time basis. Think of a part-time CFO, or an HR executive that a company needs, but not in a full-time capacity. It’s critical to have this expertise on the team. You just don’t need it every day.
Bullpen: These high-performing athletes typically don’t take a regular shift, and while they may be part of a consistent rotation, they are no less important to the success of a team. When they are called upon to play, it’s typically only for a very short period time to fulfill a very specific objective.
In a company, these specialized functional executives are often brought in for a finite amount of time to solve a burning issue or complete a critical exercise. Perhaps a company needs an expert facilitator to support its strategic planning efforts, or a senior digital marketing expert to overhaul its marketing strategy, introduce new technologies and tools to support the plan, and hire someone to lead execution. Think of an elite closer in baseball. Oftentimes they’re only on the field for one inning but that one appearance could radically change the outcome of the game.
Whether you need a starting pitcher or a member of the bullpen, it’s important to note that compensation is in no way a function of how much playing time they get. It requires a different model of thinking. What they are paid is more reflective of the value they bring to the team at any given time, when it counts the most.
Rental Players: These players are often called upon to add horsepower and expertise to a high-performing team that is making a big push for the championship. In the case of a corporation, you might be looking to expand to a new international market and need someone with local expertise, connections and experience to build the business case to justify the investment, set things up, hire the team, and then move on. You may be considering a significant capital raise, or go-public exercise, and your current finance executive simply doesn’t have the bandwidth or expertise.
In some cases, these players are auditioning for a more permanent role, but they know once the season is over, the need for their ongoing services is at risk. In the case of corporate talent, think of these as try-before-you-buy opportunities. These resources offer companies the flexibility to ‘test’ their capabilities, fit and value before making a long-term commitment.
Farm System: Players from the farm team play a critical role in the ongoing success of any team. They are often called upon to fill in when another player in the starting line-up is sidelined with an injury or is traded. They must be ready to perform at the highest level at any given time, when asked. The trick in any corporate environment is making sure you have access to these much-needed resources when the time comes. Perhaps a critical resource in the company unexpectedly falls ill and is out for an indefinite period. Or what if someone catches you off guard and decides to quit? The show must go on, so your ability to fill the gap quickly is often critical to the ongoing success of the company. Finding a permanent solution may take time, so what are you supposed to do in the interim?
I think you get the idea.
The bottom line is that to succeed in today’s business environment, companies genuinely need to think differently about their talent acquisition and retention strategies. Professional sports teams are made up of a variety of high-performing players, pretty much all with different lengths of contract and compensation, and various requirements for playing time. It’s about assembling a complex puzzle with pieces of different shapes and sizes.
Gone are the days where every hire needs to or should be for a full-time permanent position. Companies can no longer think of their organizational structure (or compensation models for that matter) in a pyramid format, but rather a network of resources and expertise whose requirements are based on value and results rather than tenure and entitlement.
Companies need a structure that allows them to remain nimble and flexible to enable their ability to effectively capitalize on opportunities and/or solve critical issues efficiently.
It’s about accessing talent, rather than owning it. It’s time to think differently.