What every organization can learn about talent management from the Super Bowl

Many Americans believe the Monday after the Super Bowl warrants a day off. The night before takes us on a whirlwind of emotions and the celebration of winning, or the depression of losing, makes staggering to work the next day quite the ordeal. The lingering effect of the realization that the football season is over is far too real for many of us to face, that we feel an extra day off is needed just to get back to equilibrium.

So with all of this excitement around one event, how is it that we can draw parallels to HR and what organizations can learn from Super Bowl XLIX?

After a Super Bowl winning 2013-14 season, it was the Seattle Seahawks turn to have their heads in hands after failing to repeat a task proven to be formidable throughout the history of the NFL. The game seemed to be in their control, until an undrafted rookie from West Alabama (Malcolm Butler) jumped in front of an improbable pass with 30 seconds left in the New England Patriots own end zone, ending the Seahawks 2-minute drive just 1 yard short. Fans and commentators alike didn’t take long to point the finger at Pete Carroll and the rest of the Seahawks offensive coaching staff. Why would the Seahawks, with 50 seconds left and 1 timeout, call a pass play from the 2 yard line when they have the most physical running back in the NFL?

Are fans and commentators right to criticize Carroll and his staff? Or should they be applauding the Patriots strategy and execution?

Over the last 15 years, the Patriots have been the most dominating NFL dynasty in the history of the league. They’ve been able to achieve this for many reasons, but one in particular is that they’ve been able to identify and develop a core group of individuals, each with specific roles to help them win. These individuals come in the way of players/coaches/support staff, and they are always striving to be better. The Patriots have a slogan they live by, and it is quite simple: “Do your job!” These three words echo throughout Foxborough, and are ingrained in the very substance that is the New England Patriot way. Seattle can learn a lot from this.

Seattle has a supremely talented roster. However, with the salary cap, they will not be able to retain this roster year in and year out. Seattle has done a tremendous job finding players in the later rounds and free agency. They have already learned the hard way when they signed Percy Harvin that if you don’t keep the best talent, your team and organization will suffer. These decisions will ultimately decide if Seattle will continue their great seasons, or if they are another flash in the pan.

Both in sport and in business, success is all about having the right strategy, and finding the right team of individuals to execute this strategy. This is why talent retention is so crucial. Deciding on who is the most important to your team’s success; while it is a tough job, it is the only job.

You can argue all you want about the play call on 2nd down, resulting in the whole of the USA knowing who Malcolm Butler is, but what you really should be doing is applauding the Patriots ability to believe in their system and execute their plan. Malcolm Butler was retained on this team after being a try-out as an undrafted rookie from a D-II school. Not many coaches trust their system well enough to have the chest to keep a guy like that around. The Seahawks didn’t lose the Super Bowl, the Patriots won it. They’ve been preparing to win it for 15 years, since the beginning of the Belichick era, and the era of “doing your job.”

If you’re interested in or responsible for talent management at your organization, why not read our short paper on 7 talent management considerations in 2015.

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