Coming from largely a business background I was somewhat shocked in a conversation I had with a recruitment manager of one of the leading AFL clubs as to the extent they go to in relation to recruitment practices.  He told the story that in one instance they had interviewed  21  people (referees) who were colleagues, friends or associates of a 17-year-old in order to establish whether he was the right fit for their club. The people they talked to included family, friends, teachers, scout masters, football coaches, and employers where the potential recruit had casual work.   

I couldn’t help think of the contrast of what I used to do when I was in the HR area as well is in other roles in businesses. At best we might have talked to three or four referees that were generally provided by the applicant. No-one provides a bad referee as part of the recruitment process, so you might try to dig a bit deeper but it was unlikely to go to the lengths that this AFL club was prepared to go to.

Football clubs have developed into very professional organisations, particularly over the last 10 years. The selection of recruits into football clubs has become a big business with some clubs having as many as five or six staff dedicated to recruitment alone. The recruitment process generally also involves a lot of work around statistics, which at Leading Teams we refer to as the mechanics.

The data available around new recruits in relation to what might be described as football mechanics is enormous. There are a number of companies that will provide every detail in relation to a young recruit’s football statistics such as kicking efficiency, tackles, hit outs, marking ability, et cetera. Whilst this is important to recruiting managers of football clubs, the one I spoke to spent far more time on what we would call the dynamics of a recruit rather than the mechanics.  By dynamics I mean the character, attitude, essence or spirit of that person.   

In order to investigate these characteristics there needs to be a point of reference. At Leading Teams, we refer to a trademark or a set of behaviours that have been discussed and agreed to by the team.  If you don’t have a clear, agreed framework in terms of the behaviours and the values that your team holds, then you don’t have any measures to recruit against. We go further to say the trademark behaviours developed within any team become the backbone for making decisions around promotion, induction, retention and eventual exit from the business for any individual.  

In my time within a range of businesses both large and small, we rarely spent dedicated time on developing, assessing and reinforcing the set of behaviours that were non-negotiable for our team.  Often in large organisations there were missions and values handed down from the board/senior management, but they were not owned by most of the teams within the organisation.  Getting that alignment can be more difficult the bigger the organisation, but I would challenge businesses as to how often we have the clarity and commitment to a set of behaviours that make us willing to interview 21 referees to make sure we make the right choice.

 By the way, in the end the club decided not to take on that particular recruit.

Simon Armstrong facilitates team and leadership development programs at Leading Teams. Simon has 30 years of experience as a CEO/GM, 20 of which were as GM of Cadbury China and Cadbury SE Asia.

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Comment by Adam Devereux on July 10, 2015 at 10:00

Great read Simon, certainly highlights the importance of dynamics in today's society.

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