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Growth Strategies / Hiring

Why You Should Hire Team Members the Way NFL Teams Draft Players

Focusing on talent over fit can undermine your organization's success.
Why You Should Hire Team Members the Way NFL Teams Draft Players
Image credit: Rich Graessle | Getty Images
- VIP Contributor
Entrepreneur, CEO and Founder, Sports 1 Marketing
5 min read

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Developing a values-based team is no easy feat. For most companies, this task comes down to one simple question: "How do you hire?"

Related: How to Spot a Liar in an Interview -- and What to Do About It

In my experience, you can master this task by observing how the most successful NFL teams approach the pre-draft process. More than a few NFL prospects were asked unusual questions by teams at the NFL Combine this year, as they are every year. In fact, certain draftees are even secretly followed by private investigators. Why? Before they invest, teams want to make sure that their values and culture are aligned with new potential team members.

These teams and organizations are looking for players with shared values; knowing that a person’s mentally fit for an on-field role goes a long way toward determining their achievement.

This idea of fit and culture affects more than just sports teams. You can apply it to any type of organization.

The importance of shared values

Shared values provide a firm with the foundation for success. A strong culture ensures alignment, over both the short and long term.

When looking to add to your team, you must take into consideration candidates' personal values, experiential values, giving values and receiving values. Are their beliefs aligned with your team? Do they carry a similar energy? Will they fit your system? Or fight it?

Related: Our Company Had a Minuscule Budget for Finding Talent. So We Decided to Get Crazy.

Just like the most successful teams in the NFL, with the New England Patriots being the prime example, the best business organizations also have strong values and cultures. The Patriots tend to draft players from specific programs where they know the environment and culture, just like many companies tend to pull from highly acclaimed or time-honored universities. The Patriots covet fit over just having talent. They know how vital this is to a team environment. In business, it's essential that you value fit as well.

Culture and community

Culture is a means to establish alignment among a group, with everyone agreeing to and sharing day-to-day priorities and long-term goals. Utilizing the AAA Strategy of getting Alignment with the individual, laying out an Action plan, as well as preparing for Adjustment, this creates efficiencies that lead to statistical success. When an entire team has the same goal and a shared plan to achieve it, the likelihood of a positive result skyrockets.

Fit in business (and football)

But what happens when a person is picked for her talent alone, without regard to fit? A poor fit of an employee in an organization predictably results in high turnover, which can cost the organization more than half of a person's annual salary. And that does not factor in all the other unseen costs that are associated with a team member who rubs others the wrong way or isn’t aligned with the rest of the organization -- e.g., a renegade who takes personal pleasure in bucking the system.

Related: If Your Employees Are Looking for New Jobs, the Reason Is Clear

This same fit principle applies in the NFL. Teams tend to look for fits in specific schemes and systems, with some organizations highly valuing a physical cornerback prospect, like Iowa’s Josh Jackson, while others historically prefer to add pass rushers with upside or focus on skill position players.

Creating a culture

There are several different ways to instill a strong culture in the workplace, but be sure to make it a high priority in your own hiring process. This is essential to put culture at the forefront of your business activities and helps to avoid future headaches.

When hiring, you must look at a person's values to achieve a proper fit. I look to hire people who display gratitude, empathy (forgiveness), accountability and effective communication in their daily lives because these are what Sports 1 Marketing teaches and upholds in our culture. Whatever values you hold, make sure that you have a process in place to identify them among job candidates.

Using training to teach and demonstrate core company values is key, too. It's something you need to make sure is a part of your daily business regimen. New hires must have an understanding of company values their first day on the job, and these values need to be regularly reinforced with activities that show their impact.

Related: Here's What You Can Expect If You Want to Get Hired at Facebook

Having a system in place to recognize those who display the values that you want to portray is important, as well. A reward system -- for example, paid time off for community service -- encourages your team to embrace your company's gratitude and empathy values wholeheartedly.

Culture cannot simply be told; it must be learned. Make sure you set forth a high standard during your hiring process. And don’t neglect to train and practice these values with your team. Only then can your team move forward together, aligned in their goals, and ready to take on the world.

Stop Looking for the Perfect Candidate. Look for One Who's Failed