Building the Dream Team: What HR Can Learn From Pro Football

Devin Foster

What do the most winning pro football teams have in common? A culture that embraces, recognizes, and invests in its people. That applies to high-achieving companies as well.
 

On our last episode of Talent Experience Live, Phenom's Product Marketing Manager Devin Foster explored the parallels between building unstoppable pro football teams and thriving corporate organizations.
 

To find out how you can take a page out of your favorite team's playbook to position your people for success, watch the full episode here, or check out show highlights below!
 


Roster check: It’s all about your people


People are at the heart of both a workplace and a professional sports team, defining its character and culture. 
 

Success ultimately depends on how all the players align how to work together to meet their goals (or, of course, to score goals, if you’re a pro baller).
 

So who’s who at your organization? It might help to think of your key players this way:


Team owners = C-Suite, Stockholders, and Venture Capitalists 

They’re setting the tone at the top, investing in the overhead that will get the work done – leading to attract top talent. 


General Manager = CHRO, VP of HR

As the leader of HR, this person is in charge of positioning the team with the technology and tools needed for optimal success. 
 

As Foster describes it, “When we look at it from an HR perspective, it's the kind of HR tech that they’re providing you with to thrive — in the same way that a general manager selects or drafts star players.”
 


Coach = VP of Talent Acquisition

The TA leader, like a head coach in pro football, is pivotal to assembling top talent on your team for long-term success. “They are setting things up for the future and truly are all about bringing in your star players,” Foster said.


Quarterback = Recruiters

Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Patrick Mahomes. They’re household names for a reason: When it comes to winning or losing, quarterbacks have the most visibility, and these are the guys that have delivered over the past few (or many) years. 
 


Likewise, your recruiters get credit when they bring in the winning hires. Today, the most successful recruiters act as talent advisors, building relationships with managers and candidates alike in the same way that quarterbacks guide their teammates. 


Running Backs and Wide Receivers = Hiring Managers and Internal Leaders

What do running backs and wide receivers do? They’re the top scorers, the ones who get fans excited about showing up for the game. 
 

Hiring managers and internal leaders have similar star power in your organization. When do you need to make a big impression and really show off your culture? You bring in your most charismatic team leaders to score points fast.


The Offensive Line = Sourcers

It’s often said that football games are won and lost in the trenches. Who’s in the trenches for you? Your talent sourcers who are busy sending email campaigns and getting on the phone with candidates. They are the ones making the plays that fill the pipeline.


The Big D = HR Tech and AI

Having the right technology helps your star players get in the red zone by working smarter and more efficiently. In today’s super-competitive talent market, AI-driven tech is becoming essential to staying ahead, Foster noted. It also enables the constant communication and outreach needed to stay top-of-mind with candidates.
 

 

“When we look at chatbots and automation, and all of the aspects that go into AI — not only for external candidates but also for your employees – that’s your defense, that’s what’s going to help you win championships.”


The game plans that position you for success 


Game Plan 1: Technology is key 

Not only does technology make life easier for your team, it gives leaders the ability to evaluate what’s been working and what hasn’t. “You have to look back and see what performs well in certain situations,” Foster said.
 


It’s a little like HR’s version of reviewing game footage to adjust for next Sunday.


Game Plan 2: Culture helps win it

Just as championship winners proudly hoist that Lombardi Trophy, having a winning company culture is definitely something to showcase. But what if your culture needs a little work? 
 


Often when pro football teams want to change the culture, they simply fire the head coach and expect positive changes will naturally follow. It’s never that easy, though.
 

The best football teams and organizations alike know that real change comes from the ground up, with input and buy-in from all your players.


Game Plan 3: Data is your secret weapon

Sports analytics help teams dig in deep on performance, tactics, and strategy. In HR, a common challenge when it comes to leveraging analytics is the lack of cohesive data.
 


“When we look at analytics from an HR perspective, oftentimes we’re looking at very specific KPIs, like time to hire, time to fill, call metrics, email metrics. All of these are hyper-analyzed and they live in different places, especially if you don’t have a holistic approach to your talent acquisition suite,” Foster said.
 

Quality of hire, although elusive to measure, is the game-winning metric. As Foster explained, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many emails have been sent, calls made, applications submitted, or even candidates hired if turnover is high.
 

“When you look at your company's analytics, you really have to take a look at the entire picture and take a 10,000-foot view and say, 'Where are we getting the most qualified candidates, and how do we keep them here?'”


There’s no big championship game in HR


The season never ends for HR and TA departments – there will always be open jobs; that super-tough role to fill. “When you’re constantly fighting this uphill battle, you have to continue to get better in all phases of the game,” Foster concluded.
 

So get the right people in place. Then give them the tech they need for the blitz.
 

“With this tight job market, when companies are continually trying to pull everything out of their hat to get talent in the door, HR tech is the one thing that can help them out.”

 


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