If I Was Running A Company…Pop Culture HR Award

I remember an article that SHRM Magazine publish for their 50th Anniversary celebration of the 50 people who changed HR.  That was an impressive list of people from business, scientists, policymakers, newsmakers, and others.  This has me wondering…since I make a lot of pop culture references and write HR/recruiting posts weekly (or try to), why not a Pop Culture HR Award?

The criteria are simple: anyone of pop culture significance (real or fictional) contributed to any part of HR either by entertain, inform, or revolutionize what others see in HR (directly or indirectly).  I will be doing this from time to time if I have nothing to write and really, I’m stealing the format from the Hardball Award Chris Matthews does.

There were so many choices and I assure they’ll get in somehow.  However, for the first winner of the Pop Culture HR Award, it’s fitting I chose this week to start because this is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Super Bowl for this person.  This person had a similar upbringing to the history of human resources:  they were mocked by friends, both professions were ridicule by the public, and both were viewed as “filler.”  Today, their positions grew with power, fame, and notoriety over time as an important part of their respective industry.  This person made it the biggest non-event in the industry.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you the first winner of the Pop Culture HR Award…


If you do not know Mel’s story, think of it as Nate Silver stealing his career path.  Mel started his own company as a college student called Draft Publications (now Kiper Enterprises) in 1981.  He wrote scouting reports, grades the top 300 players in college football who are coming out, and was the first person to institute the mock draft.  Mel would send in his scouting reports to all of the NFL teams to give them detailed information of the players.  He got an offer as a scout for the Baltimore Colts, but Mel decline.  Ernie Arcosi, General Manager of the Baltimore Colts at the time, told Mel that he should become an NFL Draft Analyst.  In 1984, ESPN hired Mel as their NFL Draft guru.  People hated the move because 1) Mel was not a former football player or a scout and 2) Mel was a nerd when nerds were not cool at the time.  Twenty-five years later, not only Mel still has his job as the main NFL Draft Analyst for ESPN, but he has created a cottage industry for “draftniks” from shrubs like me.

Mel’s position was one of a kind in the 1980s and 1990s, but with the internet, fantasy football, and the NFL Network in the 2000s, most football fans believe they can be “draftniks” like Mel.  There are numerous blogs and articles about the NFL Draft because this is the only time fans can act like the General Manager and Mel has open the door since he was neither a player, coach, or scout.  Currently, there are 3 prominent draft analysts: Kiper, fellow ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay, and NFL Draft Analyst for the NFL Network, Mike Mayock.  It used to be Mel was the sole voice, now with competition, he can do this:

Mel’s track record is like your typical hiring manager in your business;  he has a lot of hits from John Elway (Mel’s only Hall of Fame rating he gave throughout his 30 years of covering the Draft), Trent Dilfer, and the blunders from the New York Jets of the 80s and 90s.

Then again, Mel has a lot of misses from his love for Andre Ware, who was a bust with the Detroit Lions and former USC wide receiver great Mike Williams, who Mel proclaim to ESPN NFL Analyst Merrill Hoge, “I’ll see you at his [Williams] Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony!”  Although to be fair, the NFL Draft is a crapshoot since it depends on numerous factors from personality, development, and miscellaneous factors.

In an HR/Recruiting perspective, Mel would be considered the HR Consultant/Advisor, specializing in placement to find the team the right fit for the organization from the structure that he is given and compensation since he looks at the team for needs, when and where the player was drafted, and the overall value of the player means to the team.  Mel can also review the NFL teams’ draft picks, what they achieve, what they did not do, and how to improve the team before training camp opens.

As a pioneer of making the NFL Draft the second most publicized event in football, his Dick Clark genetics, his world famous hair, which should of been the new SHRM logo in 2007, and his eerie parallel path with HR is why Mel Kiper, Jr. is the first Pop Culture HR Award recipient.

Epilogue: the NFL Draft is this Saturday and Sunday on ESPN and NFL Network.  Also, I want to know who in pop culture should get an HR award? Discuss.

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  • Awesome props for Mel Kiper Jr., I love the tie in to HR and recruiting. Also, I’m not ashamed to say, I’m giddy with excitement for the draft, and can’t wait for football season.

  • @HRPuf Same here (although I’m worried my Redskins will screw up this pick like every year). It’s all thanks to Mel that the Draft is popular. The next best thing is fantasy football drafts.

  • Forgot how far back the Jets draft woes went back. I remember the Blair Thomas incident, passing on Sapp and I am just glad I don’t remember how bad the 80’s were

  • @Matt, I remember those days, but when Parcells took over, he made the Jets respectable. It was classic TV when you see Jets fans react to their 1st round pick those days.

  • If you want to give any future HR awards to other sports figures, there are a lot of good ones to choose from. There are good managers of people, like NBA coach Larry Brown, who I think has improved the record of most every organization that has hired him. There are metrics gurus like Billy Beane. There are good recruiters, like Pete Carroll. There are good trainers, like Charlie Lau.

  • @Todd Those are great names to choose from. I have look in Lau since I don’t know much about him, but I will put them into consideration. Heads up: I’m doing another one at the end of the month.

    @Laurie That’s what I do 🙂

  • Fun ideas – I love that you’re tying in sports personalities to the HR world.

    Once you get through with all the heroes, maybe you can move on to pop culture HR enemies…
    Drew Rosenhaus – manipulative recruiting agency
    Mark Cuban – micro-managing CEO (although he is known for shelling out the $$$ to get key talent)

  • […] If I Was Running A Company…Pop Culture HR Award (April 20, 2009) – I have written numerous posts on HR, employment, and the workplace. I started writing constantly about the workplace in the beginning of 2009. I was still finding my voice. Then one day, I thought of writing a post combining pop culture and HR and the first person I wanted to do was Mel Kiper and also wanted SHRM to change its logo to Mel’s hair. This post was at a critical time because it was up when my SHRM membership was up. I thought about not renewing my membership. Then, China Gorman saw my post and tweeted out to her followers and I have founded my HR voice. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t renew my SHRM membership and I would just toss away the “If I Was/Were Running A Company…” series. Thanks, China. […]

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