Talent Mismanagement?

Well, well that was quite a 24 hours in the British football transfer Market.

This past week the Premier League in England had its January transfer window come to a close,In amongst all this were two transfers that caught the attention for their combined value being in the region of £85 million. There was the £50M sale of Fernando ‘El Nino’ Torres to Chelsea and Liverpool replacing him with Andy ‘El Geordie Ponytail’ Carroll at a cool £35 million.

Putting aside the Carroll transfer for one moment, I was fascinated about what sort of insight the Torres deal gave to the ethos of Chelsea and how these seemed to run counter to their previous communications that they wanted to invest in youth development.
What I imagine the initial aim was to produce individuals of the calibre of La Masia (as described in previous posts on this blog) but it does not seem to have been the case.

Approaching the matter from a HR Talent Management perspective, what can we learn from what occurred?

1. Have a clear assessment of potential star performers and how they met your requirements
If you are going to implement a talent management process, you need to have a clear idea of the competencies required moving forward and any skills gap you can envisage. In some ways sports organisations are very sensitive to rapid change in this regard – Jonah Lomu’s career in Rugby Union is testament to how fragile some careers can be.

Jonah Lomu chairThe sad fate that awaits all former Rugby players – they are magiced in to chairs when they hang up their boots! Image by Velvet Android via Flickr

However there is some room for manoeuvre. Outflows from the organisation can be identified . Using retirees as an example, we all have prospective ones on our books that are only more likely to be allowed more time in roles given the trend current legislation (and the longer we are all living) but that is not to say you cannot prepare for them leaving. Likewise, footballers do well to last beyond their late thirties, meaning you can identify those areas that might prove problematic and when they might start being an issue.

Didier Drogba at 28 is not an issue – Drogba four or five years older? Might be time to start to start drafting a succession plan, no? Examine the skills and experience that this individual brought to a role and then see how your culture can foster the development of this.

2 . Accept when priorities compromise your values – but admit it
What is interesting is Chelsea made a point of letting a collection of experienced employees with a record of previous seasons of success (Ballack, Carvalho, Shevchenko – ok I am pushing it with that last example!) stating they were going to rely on their youth set up to provide squad support over the coming season; with Daniel Sturridge, Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran were held up as being standard bearers for this policy moving forward.

Following the latest transfer window the first two have been loaned out to other clubs to gain experience, with McEachran looking as though he might be given a chance in coming months. The last instance aside, what does it say about the value the club place on these employees ability that they are not willing to let them fill positions that are vacant? And, more pointedly, does it suggest that they need to have a rethink of their talent pipelines?

If the problem is identifying the talent at source (i.e. at academies etc) then examine this and how this can be addressed. Would most organisations accept under performing staff coming through their graduate recruitment programme? Unlikely – they would address the sources or nature of the programme to see why they were not being equipped with the necessary competencies and how this could be rectified.

If the issue is that you do not think the policy will generate a return soon enough (i.e. youth team players of enough ability for sustained success) then react, as Chelsea did, by making changes – but don’t suggest that there are not issues that need to be addressed in how you manage your recruitment and selection. It sends confusing messages to those staff you attracted under the previous policy – ask Sturridge whether he knows where he stands and how it has affected his motivation.

It is not something unique to football clubs, or sports for that matter. Shawn Murphy talks on the matter quite eloquently in this blog post – imbedding culture and accepted practices (expecations, performance management etc) starts from your induction and on boarding. Hell some might even say it starts when you advertise to prospective recruits!

Finding it all a bit dispiriting? Don’t worry, I am sure the individuals concerned in this post received in one weeks worth of salary more than most of us might see in a life time, so no danger of being below the poverty line yet. Not sure about what sort of state it has left their long term career goals and development mind.

Still down? Well, there is always the 6 Nations…

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