What do football and HR have in common?

More specifically, what does a boyfriend who is football mad but who has no understanding of HR, and a girlfriend who has no interest in football but works in HR – find to talk about during the World Cup?…. Talent Management of course!

My boyfriend was complaining to me about the poor World Cup team selection decisions made by Roy Hodgson, England Manager. He explained how Wayne Rooney had been selected despite failing to score in the past 3 World Cup Finals, and how Ashley Cole was overlooked for less experienced players. After my probing to understand this logic I found out that although Rooney had failed to score in Wold Cup Finals, he remains the highest scoring player in the current squad. Also that Ashley Cole has lots of experience but in the past few months his performance has been inconsistent.

My analysis of the situation was that Roy Hodgson must have been deciding on roles based on the wider team fit not just individual talents, which can result in unpopular decisions. However I was soon corrected when my boyfriend found this view via google “Hodgson chose to overlook Cole in favour of Luke Shaw, so he must now resolve the structural problem in his team with the options he has available.” He also went on to cite that Rooney has been criticised for not delivering to his full potential whilst playing in a different position. So it would seem that the wider team fit was not the reason for the decisions made by Roy.

How can HR help?

I was pleased to find that several Football Clubs do in fact have a Talent Management Strategy. For example Barcelona FC presents a strategy which would be familiar reading in most organisations. It considers identifying and fulfilling skills gaps, ensuring skills are developed through the training approach and also mentions the complications with contracts and compensation strategy. It reflects Capgemini’s R3 approach.

Before going any further, I must profess that I am not personally critiquing Roy’s abilities as a manager – my boyfriend tells me he also made some very good decisions! With this in mind, were he to ask, a few tips I would give to Roy to maintain an effective talent supply chain:

  • Talent is a competitive weapon: ensure that the right skills are deployed in the right way within the market. For example is Rooney in the right position to enable him to deliver against his particular skills and in relation to the teams he is competing against?
  • Talent is a scarce commodity: balance the retention of established/experienced talent with the provision of opportunities for fresh talent. Should there be a few more experienced members of the squad to ensure knowledge transfer to newer members of the squad?
  • Talent management is key in driving business performance: consider methods for identifying and developing talent to ensure that you are not just sticking to old methods and missing out on a key source or opportunity. Every organisation needs to consider its strategies thinking in advance about what skills are required in the future and then over a number of years identify and develop the required talent.
  • Talent should also be aware of what they will be measured against: for example is it; overall performance, such as goal scored over a period of time; repeat performance, such as performance in World Cup Finals; or one off, stand out performance in a specific task/contribution. This will help individuals to focus their energy on achieving the goals (excuse the pun!) that will be measured and valued by the organisation.

I hope that I have inspired other HR professionals who don’t have a passion for football to at least find some common ground with their friends, colleagues and partners in the coming weeks. Above all, let’s get behind our Countries and support the talent that has been selected for this years’ World Cup.