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.