Trading on past glories
Now the 2016/17 football season is upon us I thought I would start with a blog about talent. For those of you who don’t know I am a long suffering Liverpool FC fan, having supported them from as far back as I can remember as a young boy growing up in Southport, Merseyside. I remember my dad taking me to Anfield as a young boy and the amazement as I walked up the steps to see the hallowed turf for the first time. We were playing Stoke City – I can’t even remember the score now – all I remember is feeling very small against the vastness that was Anfield (pre Centenary Stand and seated Spion Kop).
As any football fan would know – the fans of Liverpool FC have, in recent years, certainly traded on their history (‘you ain’t got no history’) – at a time when arch rivals (Man United) and new kids on the block (Chelsea, Man City) have consistently added silverware.
The gulf between the finances of these top 4/5 clubs (particularly those in the lucrative Champions league) means that these clubs are often paying a premium price for established players. There are plenty examples where this approach has worked, although there are many examples where the outcome is not so positive. Some clubs can clearly afford to take that risk, and continue to do so, but this is restricted to a bankrolled few.
The clubs below this top group are adopting a different approach to recruiting talent. Typically, they are playing a numbers game – risking smaller amounts of money (but still obscene in the grand scheme of things) on a number of players with potential. Critical to this are elaborate scouting networks with the aim of spotting talent under the radar to try and avoid getting into a price war with clubs that will pay more. These tend to be players that may have had a good season or two but still need to realise their full potential. A lot of these fall away, and those that make it – typically become fodder for the top clubs who are prepared to pay a premium for that talent (the likes of Suarez, Bale, Sterling etc).
Attracting talent to Liverpool FC is challenging – the club can’t match the budget of the top clubs and currently can’t guarantee silverware or even the prospect of consistently challenging for silverware. It can be argued that historically the club has traded on it’s history – many players have joined on a promise of restoring the club to its former glory years, the financial rewards will play their part, but don’t under-estimate the lure of playing for your childhood club. Robbie Keane, Craig Bellamy, Patric Berger, Dean Saunders, Fernando Torres and others ultimately joined Liverpool FC to fulfil their childhood dream of playing for the Reds. Who you support doesn’t seem to engender better performances as some of Liverpool’s better players since the glory days have turned out to be Everton fans – Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler to name a few.
Which begs the question – as the new kids on the block continue to gain childhood fans due to their success how will this impact Liverpool FC’s future talent recruitment? There will be generations of aspiring young professionals that have an emotional attachment to other clubs that they supported as a child. Will this mean that if Liverpool continue to be an upper-mid table team with little silverware they will really struggle to attract talent. The club cannot trade on their history for ever.
How do I relate this to business and recruitment? Opinions about businesses as places to work are not typically formed in childhood but are certainly forged during your working life. Company reputation to a prospective recruit is critical and can embody a multitude of things: pay and remuneration, company ethos and culture, attitude to employees, training and development, reputation of management, to name a few. Like footballers, the principal motivation may be financial but the deal breaker (not trophies or silverware) is the opportunity for the candidate to feel valued and develop their career with your business.
In the current market where supply (decent skills) outstrips demand (jobs) these issues are less critical, but certainly in UK data analytics it is hard to find good people and there are plenty of roles for experienced hires – so attracting and retaining good talent remains the biggest challenge impacting businesses in 2016 and beyond. It is absolutely critical that your business has a good reputation in the marketplace as somewhere where people feel valued, rewarded and are clear about how their short and medium term career goals can be satisfied.