Growth Strategies

FC Barcelona and the Development of Internal Talent

FC Barcelona and the Development of Internal Talent

Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter finals first leg football match.

Image credit: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images
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In May 2009, FC Barcelona defeated England’s Manchester United 2-0 to claim the UEFA Champions League crown. Barcelona’s lineup that evening in Rome featured internationally renowned stars Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry who lined up next to a young Lionel Messi to lead the Catalan attack.

Three unproven players would also make their mark on the match. Gerard Pique, then 21 and Sergio Busquets, then 20, would get be a part of the starting eleven. By the time the final whistle blew, 21-year-old Pedro Rodriguez would make an appearance as well. At the onset of the 2008-2009 season, the three were but unproven and unknown commodities who had been a part of Barcelona’s famed La Masia Youth Academy. In addition to their success with Barcelona, all three players would also be a part of the Spain teams that won the World Cup in 2010 and the Euro Cup in 2012.

FC Barcelona has won a litany of titles over the last 10 years with mostly internal and homegrown talent. And they are a case study for why organizations should develop systems and processes to cultivate its employees.

Related: Measure These 5 Talent Metrics for Greater Success in Hiring and Managing Employees

No one is going to argue that companies shouldn’t develop their talent or to invest in processes. The question is how. I’m very lucky to work for a company that places such an emphasis on skill and career development. Besides being surrounded by smart coworkers and friends, I can take courses or programs that will make me a better me and thus a better employee. And the mentorship and advice from my managers has been invaluable in my development. It’s one of the reasons why Google has been consistently voted as of the “Best Place to Work in America.” I mean, the free coffee helps. But, you’re going to need to do something once you’re all caffeinated up.

Related: 5 Secrets to Coaching Your Employees to Greatness

I understand most companies do not have the size or scale of a Google or Facebook to pay for MBAs or offer corn-fed kale for dinner every evening. But developing talent could be as cost effective as starting a book club, like New York City based startup Contently. And they’re well funded. Another avenue is challenging employees and giving them tasks that may be just outside their scope. Before Waze became a part of the Google family, for example, I was given ample growth opportunities in our lean startup.

I began selling Waze Ads with little sales experience. I had to learn on the go. A year or so later, I was managing our business in Latin America, despite never having worked internationally, having no experience managing complex relationships and being only 25 years old. While I worked hard and made the most out of the opportunity, I had immense support from my managers. I was given leeway to try out ideas and make mistakes, knowing that my superiors had my back. I’ve written extensively about my beginnings with Waze and how fortunate I am to be a part of the team. But Waze is filled with many more impressive stories about opportunity. I wasn’t the first unproven youngster to come from the Waze La Masia, so to speak, and I certainly won’t be the last.

Related: Forget Outsourcing, Startups Should Hire the Best In-House Employees

I had a chance to meet and connect with Jim Keenan. He helps companies build sales strategies that scale. He told me about the importance of establishing processes to uncover hidden talent in organizations.

“Very few companies have what I consider to be effective programs or tools to develop talent. They see their employees as short term solutions and don’t invest in their development. So these kids leave to make their name and contribute elsewhere. Talent retention is what keeps many young companies from growing.”

With coaching and mentorship, they can then grow into the roles and contribute. According to a blog post by recruiter Jorgen Sundberg, the cost of onboarding an employee is about $240,000. But what if you could instead develop whom you already have?

Real Madrid is FC Barcelona’s fiercest rival. They don’t just clash in playing style, they clash in philosophy. While Barcelona takes pride in it’s youth academy and player development, Real Madrid are known for their Galactico policy of buying the most expensive players year after year. The Telegraph breaks down the cost of the two teams 2011 squads. Real Madrid’s starting lineup that year cost an immense 290 million euro. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona’s outlay, by no means modest, amounted to 90 million euro. Big difference, not just in the accounting books, but also in the trophy cabinet. Since 2011, Barcelona has won eight major titles while Real Madrid have amassed five. And in large part, they had homegrown talent to thank.