James Mayes

Blog: 5 reasons why you might not want top talent

In Recruitment, Sport on June 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

This post comes from a conversation I had a few weeks ago at #TruDublin.  At the bar one evening the football conversation reared it’s head. In this case, the extraordinary money spent on talent acquisition (football agents) and wages (£100k a week players).

As a Pompey man, I’m acutely aware of the brilliance of managers like Harry Redknapp. Whilst he might have questionable habits in the transfer market, you can’t deny he coaxes brilliant performances from players other clubs have written off. This leads me to think maybe he purposely goes after certain classes of player – and maybe there are lessons to draw from this.  Consider:

  • Competing to acquire top talent is expensive
  • You’ll need to keep top talent challenged to ensure motivation and interest is maintained
  • You’ll probably have to pay at the top end of the scale to retain
  • In some areas (especially sales!) top performers tend to be highly strung, resulting in additional management time commitments
  • Your business is statistically unlikely to require top talent
This last point is possibly the most important. Not every company can be the best in it’s space. Almost all companies have competition, suggesting that if some are the best, others simply can’t be. With that in mind, while you might aspire to improve, and recruit better people, you may be bringing them into an environment that isn’t capable of supporting, motivating and rewarding them. Eventually, this results in a no-win for all concerned. I wonder if it’s possible to run a talent attraction campaign aimed specifically at the second quartile…
  1. Great post

  2. James I would have to agree with your viewpoint. Having worked closely with a couple of recruitment agencies of late looking to bring talent into their own organisations. We have found that the top sales talent often comes with arrogance and an unwillingness to adapt their approach and fit in with the way the business operates. I always stick to the theory of hire for attitude, train for skills…go for the second quartile as you suggest, who perhaps still have something to prove.

  3. Hi James,

    I love my footie so I have to respond to this!

    Harry backs to own ability to performance manage – I think that’s why he has had such success in the transfer market – he doesn’t necessarily bring in the finished article, but brings in players who are just below that tier or who have otherwise arrived with ‘baggage’ which prevents them from being seen as elite.

    What I take from this is that, apart from the once-in-a-generation type genius, there’s actually quite a bit of talent to go around – it’s matter of the right environment, the right structure, the right type of managerial support. Perhaps what companies could learn from Harry is that rather than wage expensive wars for talent’ they could invest more in ‘developing it’.

    The retention bonus, incidentally, is linked to performance. I can see that players might be loyal to a manager who has brought out the best in them – who wouldn’t be? – and I suspect the same would apply in any industry.

    Keep posting about the football James, I’ll be coming back.

    Best wishes


    • I think you’re spot on with Harry picking up either “unfinished” talent, or players with previous baggage – and then doing a great job of really getting the best out of them. As for the retention side, I’ve often heard that people join companies and leave managers. When I look back at my career to date, I can’t argue with the validity of that statement.

    • Oh – regards additional football posts? It might happen occasionally, but my level of knowledge suggests I shouldn’t post on it regularly 😉

  4. As a QPR fan and Recruitment Consultant I feel qualified to contribute. Not all clubs and organisations can attract and retain the best talent – Ronaldo to QPR I think not. But should that stop their ambition to improve and aspiration to be the best.
    As others have noted a strong management team and working environment can help to acquire and nuture talent, then over time the organisation has the opportunity to train and develop their people and achieve great things.
    It has been done – Wimbledon FC, Innocent Drinks…..
    On a personal note, let’s hope Neil Warnock gets the backing he deserves and that I am not watching Championship football gain in 2012.

    • As a Pompey man, I think there’s much to be said for Championship football 😉
      Good call on the examples by the way – always good to base this stuff in something real!

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