Four Talent Lessons From the NFL Draft

Every year, it's a  chance to start over. Fresh talent, new strategies and a focus on success. Launching a company? Growing a business? Launching a new division? Starting a new project? No. I'm talking about football.

With football, every year is a chance to revisit, rebuild and reignite a team around a common goal: winning. And everyone's on board to get there. Everyone.

Imagine if we had this rigor in business. 

Every year the NFL repeats this demanding process: the NFL Draft. 32 teams have the chance to pick from the best talent available. They pour over statistics, trade picks and prioritize options in case their first choice gets stolen away. We do almost none of this in talent acquisition. We usually source only when we need to. And we certainly don't bring our entire C-suite leaders together in a war room to select entry level talent. We keep databases with very little data.

Sure, we've gotten worked up about social recruiting and we're starting to care more about metrics. But what the NFL Draft teaches us is the power of a complete talent strategy. Here are five ways CEOs and HR leaders can try that perspective on for size.

1) Whole person assessment

When NFL teams evaluate talent, they're looking at everything: skills, behaviors, reputation, potential and more. They evaluate professional and personal character. They consider the player's behavior off the field and how he'll fit with the team, the fans, the geography. While HR can't replicate every step for legal and other reasons, the idea of evaluating the whole person is lost in a sea of hiring managers looking for the guy they can have a beer with. And that never works.

2) Chance at a tryout

Coaches look at height, weight and combine measurables. They see potential players run through the 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical leap exercises. Sure, job seekers go through multiple interviews and assessments too, but rarely do we ask them to perform on the spot in multiple tests at once, against each other over several days. And there isn't the pressure of multiple employers watching. HR's tried and tested behavioral interviews get at what someone might do in a certain situation. The combine actually makes the candidate do it in front of everyone.

3) Lay of the land

With the 14th pick of the draft, the Chicago Bears chose Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech. "The best cornerback in the draft," the announcers proclaimed. And clearly Chicago knew it too. Scouts and coaches look at talent across the board. They know who's the best available at each position at any point in the draft and they've already evaluated where that player might add to their strengths. If recruiters and talent acquisition leaders took scouting this seriously, sourcing wouldn't be such a reactive exercise.

4) Public celebration

Tears, high-fives, the ceremonial caps--when a player's name is called at each draft pick it's celebration time. There's a call from the team owner right before the pick is annoucned and a hug for mom when it's first made public. Players climb the stage, get a jersey and the flashbulbs commence.  A job offer can be one of the most important life events a person can experience. And all we do in HR is celebrate with an offer letter and a start date.

If we keep treating the hiring process as routine and expected, that's how our talent will perform. But if we make a bigger deal of it, pay more attention, raise our expectations and see talent as what stands between a struggling company and true success, we might change everything.

Need some inspiration for your upcoming recruiting season? My alma mater's football team enters the stadium to Metallica. There's nothing like it. Imagine celebrating your talent like this:

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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