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What Can HR Learn from the 2014 World Cup?

Posted by Eric Friedman

hr learn from world cup

The World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world. It takes place over 32 days and includes 32 countries from all over the globe. Data is not yet available for this year’s World Cup, but the 2006 World Cup final game was watched by an estimated 715 million people.

So what does the World Cup have to do with HR? The answer is, a lot more than you might think. HR professionals can learn a lot from this year’s World Cup, like how to select the best candidates, the importance of having a solid talent pipeline, and encouraging teamwork. All these are lessons that can help any company develop a more solid workforce that drives success.

Here are five tips from the 2014 World Cup that HR professionals can learn from.

Select good players

Choosing the right team to compete at the World Cup is the same as finding the top talent to work at your company. The process is long and involved. Coaches will send scouts to watch players, just like businesses hire recruiters to go out and find the best talent. Players must go through training camp and exhibition games, which is comparable to  potential employees going through the interview and orientation processes.

The ultimate goal of the process is not choosing all the best players or the most qualified candidates, but rather picking the group of players or candidates that will work best together as a team and help the organization succeed. Being the most qualified doesn’t always equate to being the best for the position. The proper selection process is vital to a company’s survival.

Promote teamwork

Often the individual players get the glory, but one person cannot win a championship. At this year’s World Cup, Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball Award, which is given to the tournament’s most outstanding player. The only problem with this is that his team finished second. He admitted after the trophy ceremony that the award meant nothing to him because his team did not win. One person can make a team good, but it takes teamwork to make a team great. This philosophy can be applied in the workplace as well. One employee can be smart, confident, and successful, but he or she alone cannot make the company succeed; it takes a group of well-trained, motivated, and productive employees.

Secure top talent

There’s a good reason why only eight countries have won the World Cup since 1930: top talent. The teams from Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and the Netherlands are considered to have some of the best soccer players in the world, so it’s no surprise that these were the final four teams of the 2014 World Cup. A company should always be looking to bring in the most talented personnel it can. If you are interviewing a highly talented person for a specific job and they don’t necessarily fit, that doesn’t mean you should just dismiss them. Keep them in mind for other positions and recommend them to other areas of your company. Good people are hard to find, and when you do find them, it is vital that you try to find a place for them.

Plan for the future

In both the world of soccer and the world of HR, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. It’s easy for companies or sports teams to get carried away with the present while forgetting to properly fill the talent pipeline and plan for the leadership succession. A soccer team has to keep a mix of youth and experience on their team. All of the best teams in the World Cup this year had a combination of savvy veterans who could be counted on and young rookies who needed to learn the ropes. With this combination, when the time comes for the veterans to retire, the rookies will have learned from them and can become captains. The same thing applies to any company—it should keep its workforce balanced between seasoned, highly experienced industry veterans and fresh-out-of-college, entry-level rookies. This way, the younger employees can learn from the older ones so they will be able to step into their shoes when needed.

Embrace technology

In the past, if someone mentioned the World Cup, it didn’t generally trigger a discussion about technology, but this year things changed, as goal line technology was used for the first time ever. The soccer balls were equipped with an internal microchip that signaled the referee when the ball had completely cleared the line. This kind of technological advancement was controversial, but in the end, everyone agreed that it helped the integrity of the game. Much like soccer adapted to the changing times, HR must also accept the changing times and embrace technology such as cloud computing, social recruiting, and mobile apps.

Did you take away any lessons from this year’s World Cup? What about another sporting event, like the winter Olympics?

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

6 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Rebeca Stears September, 24, 2014

    At first I was really amazed by the comparison you have made between human resources and the world championship because they seem to be two completely different issues. But after I read what you wrote, I understood exactly what was in your mind. To win, you must be the best, and to do that, you need to know what steps you have to follow and how to plan your activities. But at the same time, it is very important to know how to allocate your efforts and especially when is the best time to act.

  • Andrew Sally September, 24, 2014

    Right now, the best ally for those who work in the human resources field has become technology. Access to information is now faster and easier. On social networks, you can easily find people who have special training, who are open to collaboration, or who simply want to change their job, a fact that proves to be very useful for a recruiter. It just takes time to surf the Internet and find the best person for the job that we want to recruit for.

  • Susan Frangakis September, 25, 2014

    Absolutely agree with this article.
    Professionally I work in HR, and personally I also volunteer at our local club soccer team as Team Manager.
    Throughout the soccer year, I have provided advice and support to the Coach on Leadership, Teamwork, Performance and Communciation – and together we are a formidable team!
    I’ve seen it in action.

  • Sam September, 26, 2014

    A champion team will always beat a team of champions. Always abided by this in sport and work so your article makes a lot of sense! Thanks

  • Jack Cleary September, 26, 2014

    I do not know if this is a fair comparison that you’ve made between a sports team and a corporate team, although it is true that they have many aspects in common. But I think athletes are more talented when it comes to acting as a team, while the top employees of a company don’t do very well at this. Young athletes are educated to act together to achieve a goal, while young business students tend to be individualists.

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