As 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day, and the need for talent management and acquisition becomes increasingly important, it seems HR professionals are continually trying to keep up; being reactive instead of proactive. Imagine, instead, you had to do the deep sourcing necessary not only to maintain your current lineup, but anticipate and be prepared for sudden changes that occur. As always, HR can turn to the world of sports to find guidance (and solace) on the topic. In today’s post on The Ringer, Danny Kelly provides a deep look at the world of scouting for NFL teams.
In the process of putting together a roster, the draft is just the beginning — every club must look to outside sources to fill out the rest of the squad. The day-to-day task of accounting for injuries and suspensions, filling holes and adding depth, and keeping the team as competitive and talented as possible falls under the purview of the less famous and less understood counterpart to the college scouting team: the pro personnel department and its cadre of scouts.
What advice do pro scouts give to talent maintenance that can help you succeed as a HR professional?
1. Know Your Roster
As Kelly writes,
Before pro scouts can even start to look to outside options — free agents, guys on the street, or potential trade targets — it’s essential to evaluate each and every player already on the roster, from the top down.
Performance management is crucial. Pro scouts often use a color coded scheme to rank their players. Blue might indicate a Pro Bowl caliber starter. Red, a solid starter. Orange, as Kelly describes, might be a “band-aid.”
2. Constantly Update the Player Database
This might post the greatest challenge to current HR. it’s not enough to simply know your own talent….you have to know the talent elsewhere.
The duty for every pro personnel department is to create and manage a database of every player in the NFL, every signable player without a team, and a number of players from lower-level or international leagues. The term “no stone left unturned” is probably a motto for more than one team.
“You’re gonna be scouting the CFL, the arena league,” said Dan Hatman, who worked in personnel departments for the Giants, Eagles, and Jets who is now a director at The Scouting Academy. “When the UFL and XFL were around, [we scouted those leagues, too]. Anybody that’s not college eligible. We’d go through as many of those players as humanly possible — in addition to grading all 32 teams’ rosters every single year — so you constantly have updated grades on everybody who’s in the league.”
Who in your department is scouting other organizations, checking the movements of accountants or tellers across jobs, etc.?
3. Keep the Shelves Stocked
What happens when an employee is out on leave or short term disability? Or has quit? Or, praytell, dies? Are you ready to act quickly? Kelly highlights how NFL teams encounter that inevitability:
The initial impression may be that when disaster struck for both of these teams [Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles], the subsequent moves were desperate and random. But while it’s certain that neither squad wanted to have to turn to free agency and trades to address newly created roster needs, their reactions were neither arbitrary nor panicked. These moves were the result of months, and in some cases, years of scouting, evaluation, and contingency-plan preparation, and both teams were able to act quickly to deal with the loss of key players because of the behind-the-scenes work of the pro scouting departments to build what’s frequently called a “short list,” “ready list,” or “emergency list.”
Who’s on your short or ready list? Are you moving someone up internally? Have you done the requisite networking and have your virtual rolodex ready to go?
4. Exploit Roster Cutdowns
In the next two weeks, NFL teams are going to have to reduce their pre-season roster from 90 players down to 53. This means their will literally be 1,200+ players (many of whom iwill be among the top 2,500 players in the world) suddenly available to plunder.
Are you aware of the available talent when a plant shuts down or layoffs occur in your part of the world?
5. Win the Battle of Attrition
Do you interview candidates not necessarily for jobs that currently exist, but for when jobs might come free in the future? The best NFL teams do.
To keep the ready and/or emergency lists properly updated, teams typically work out a group of free-agent players every Tuesday, when the rest of the team has a day off. “We’re bringing in guys off the ready list or bringing in guys as favors to agents,” Hatman said. “Say you’ll have an agent call and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this guy who’s bugging me because he hasn’t worked out for a team for a while. Can you bring him in and work him out?’ He does that because every workout goes on the transaction record, and it’s one of those things. ‘Oh, you know, X, Y, and Z worked him out. Now we gotta go look at him. We gotta vet him.’ That’s what every department does.”
…and here is the money paragraph:
For some teams, the pro personnel team becomes almost an HR department. “When I became a director, I thought it was really important that I was around the team,” McCartney said. “I went to practice every day, I watched, I was around the players, I knew what the issues were. The outside world has no idea what’s going on in the inside of an NFL building a lot of the time. I think people would be shocked to learn how many issues there can be that they would never in a million years hear about. A football player has a mental breakdown. A guy’s struggling at home in a relationship, and some guys can manage that, others can’t. It’s relationships. They’re people. People have problems.”
These problems can affect a player’s availability during the week or on Sundays, and the team, at times, must make roster changes to account for that. “There’s all kinds of little things like that,” McCartney said, “and [teams] must strike balance between the short term and the long term.”
NFL teams know it is not enough to just look at the unique skills and abilities. They have to look at the employee has a whole and the environmental issues that may affect his performance.
6. Rinse and Repeat
This cycle goes on year after year. And it’s always changing and evolving with new coaches, new players, new schemes, and new pro personnel. The methodologies, the scouting reports, and the ready lists must be continually updated and improved.
The search for talent never ends….there is no finish line. Are you ready to do the same for your organization?