If I Was Running A Company…The Sports Mentality

If you look really hard, what industry is most visible to HR?  You think you got it?  It is sports.  When you think about it, businesses always have followed the sports model for a long time.

In the past, athletes and employees stay with their respective organizations for 10+ years or more until they retired or move to a different career.  Now these days, there is a three-year cycle for organizations and then decide what direction they want to head after the cycle is up.  It could be our attention spans shrinking through the years and/or that this world has so many choices that we get swayed easily.

Another aspect sports brought to business is the free agency culture.  If it was not for the Curt Flood case in baseball, free agency would not exist.  Although Flood lost the case against Major League Baseball, he brought awareness that anyone can work for any employer and people should not stay with their organization for a long time if they’re not comfortable.  Curt Flood’s stance has bought to attention to all workers in all industries that they want to work where they feel they are needed.

Another comparison between sports and business is their organizational structure:  You have your president, you have your chief operating officers, you have your director of recruiting (in sports terms, a general manager), recruiters (scouts), director of HR (head coach), assistants, and a bunch or workers.

On the flip side, sports have given us inflated egos to workers.  The 1994 baseball players strike was evident that the employees run the system and as a result, baseball players were getting record contract deals each year (All thanks to Donald Fehr).  This has carried in to other leagues, as well as potential workers thinking they can get big money because of their skills and employers’ need but never had the experience.

Why I’m making this comparison is because if sports did not exist, would we know the definition of free agency or have a structure like these sports have created?  I doubt it.  So, when people want see benchmarks, look not only to your industry, but look into your favorite sports team and see why they have been successful and by any chance you’re a fan of the L.A. Clippers or the Detroit Lions…look into other teams.

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  • Excellent post. I’m actually doing a research project this summer regarding top management team transition, by looking at the hiring of college basketball coaches. Is it better to hire an assistant coach from a championship team, or another retread coach? Does the types of experience matter (i.e., did they coach in the NBA, in the Big 6 conferences, etc)?

  • Great post, Tracy. I think one area where sports and typical HR don’t mix though is the NFL pay structure for high draft choices. Huge salaries and bonuses going to totally unproven talent. Interesting how that seems to sit ok with the long time veteran players.

  • @Steve. That is true. The only comparison I can make was when I had a discussion with Jessica about she had an applicant that has some experience and wanted $80,000 for those 1-2 years. But overall, your’re right that no one should get that much money when entering. Thanks.

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