When leading talent looks for something new, what challenges do they look for?

Here’s a current story from sport that interests me (not just because I support the team he plays for!) and illustrates the dilemma.

Aside from the World Cup, followers of UK Football will no doubt be treated to another summer of speculation from the sporting media over, amongst other things, whether or not the footballer Cesc Fabregas will leave London and return to Spain.

Quick summary for those unfamiliar with the background:

Cesc was spotted by Barcelona as a very talented youngster at 9, joined them as an apprentice but at the age of 16 left and signed for Arsenal in London (OK, there was a tiny little bit of poaching, and an independent tribunal did suggest a fee to be paid) as he believed that they would give him first team opportunities at a much younger age. He was correct, and he made his first team debut at 16 ½. At 21 he was made club captain and is now one of the world’s best young talents…at the ripe old age of 22, he will probably be at the centre of a tug of war as his original club allegedly wants him back.

Barcelona are unquestionably the best club side in the world, and won 5 trophies last year. Arsenal are a major English side but have not won a trophy for 5 years, and are an evolving, young team who are probably still a year or 2 away from winning trophies.

The key differentials though are:

At Barcelona he will join a squad of exceptionally talented players, including the current world footballer of the year, he will not be guaranteed a first team place, in fact he will probably understudy more experienced players for a year or two. He will no doubt be part of a trophy winning team, but those trophies will be won whether he is there or not.

At Arsenal he is the very fulcrum of the side, the team is built around him and under his leadership they have made advances this season. He plays with some very good players, but the calibre of the squad doesn’t yet compare with that of Barcelona. Any trophy that they win will in a large part be down his talent and leadership.

He will be a very wealthy young man whoever he plays for.

Decisions Decisions…join a winning team or stay and help build a winning team

Which brings me round to HR and Recruitment…

Does everyone want to join a winning team? How do companies build on their success?

In all our companies there are ‘winning teams’, top performing divisions, target busting sales floors, boundary pushing creative hubs…but what type of person do you add to those teams?

It’s easy to attract a top performer from a competitor…many roles that I get briefed will always stress how well the company/brand/division/team is doing and how that should attract candidates, but is it always best to hire someone who wants to join a ‘winning team’?

Previous experiences within sales recruitment have taught me that many people think that joining a successful business will ensure they too will be successful. It’s never as simple as that though. I’ve often found that it is easier to develop a rookie in a successful team than it is to integrate an experienced performer. Many things are different, from expectation to attitude.

To be the fulcrum of an emerging team, to play a part not just by leading from the front, but blending the team together, being its heart, soul and voice, takes yet another different set of skills, attitudes and ambitions, most of them quite different from those needed to maintain an already successful team. How many people seek out this kind of challenge? And what happens if the team doesn’t emerge and grow? It could be lack of support and clear vision, or it could be the wrong blend of people.

In HR recruitment I constantly interview HR practitioners experienced in change, restructure, transformation. These people love the challenge of going in to businesses that face difficulties or periods of growth. Do candidates in other sectors feel the same?

We have no idea what Cesc will do…

…but we all know what we believe it takes to be a success in our own businesses.

So what desires and ambitions do you look for in talented people?

To play in a winning team, or to help build a winning team?

Views: 139

Comment by Alan Whitford on April 9, 2010 at 11:41am
Hi Mervyn

Great analogies, whether the reader is a "gunner' (as I am) or not. I have always loved working with start-ups, finding candidates who are willing to jump off the end of the pier into the unknown and build a business from scratch. They have a different business DNA than those who just 'want a job'.


Comment by Charlie Duff on May 18, 2010 at 8:57am
I think it's safe to say HR people are not alone: I personally would rather take a journalism job somewhere I felt I could make a difference rather than somewhere I would have to fight to even get noticed, no matter how huge the publication/site/publisher was - I get more job satisfaction from driving improvements. Then again even the biggest sometimes need some TLC and hammering into shape...



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