Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"To protect young talent, business should look to sports"

Nov. 8, 2017 "To protect young talent, business should look to sports": Today I found this article by Matthias Spitzmuller in the Globe and Mail:

Associate professor and Toller Family Fellow of organizational behaviour, Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

Corporations have much to learn from sports teams when it comes to dealing with employees, particularly with young star performers. Just as in the field of sports, companies need to build a culture that will allow their young employees to shine and grow without prematurely exposing them to too much responsibility that could lead to their downfall.

Take the cases of soccer players Freddy Adu, Giovani Dos Santos, Anderson, Denilson and Mario Balotelli – what do they have in common? They never lived up to the promise of their talent, yet have that rare athletic gift that makes them outstanding soccer players of their generations.

There have been different explanations for the decline of these young superstars, but there is a converging theme in all of them: a lack of professionalism. Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp once famously said that Dos Santos would be all right if he could pass a nightclub as well as he could pass the ball.

Stories of Balotelli lighting up fireworks in his hotel room or throwing darts at youth players take unprofessionalism to the next level.

There is, however, an alternate explanation for the disappointing careers of these young soccer stars: they were asked to play in central positions for a club or country much earlier than they should have been.

Not only did this early exposure led to pressure and public scrutiny that these young players couldn't handle, it also, in many cases, ruined their long-term sporting careers. The question is, do these cautionary tales from sport have lessons that can be applied to rising stars in other fields, such as business?

To examine this question scientifically, my co-author, Michael Gielnik from the Leuphana University in Luneburg, Germany, and I reviewed an abundance of data. We examined the five-year career trajectories of professional soccer players in the German Bundesliga and categorized players as either occupying a central position on the team or a peripheral position, with central positions being those that occupied the most critical positions in the tactical schema of a club.

We then examined how their market value – a good indicator of career progression – developed over time. Consistent with our hypotheses, we found that young players who occupied central positions on their teams were, on average, experiencing declining careers following early exposure to these positions. In contrast, players who were utilized on the periphery of the team did not see the same decline and could gradually progress in their career over time.

In other words, it hurts young players to be cast into the spotlight and be given too much responsibility too early in their careers.

What does this mean for organizations? Can corporations learn from the world of soccer in developing their best and brightest young talents? We believe so.

Although available data cannot speak to the intricacies within these findings, two possible factors likely play a role:
  • First, being in a central position in the tactical schema of a team comes with a very low tolerance for mistakes and failure. A central defender who loses a 50:50 challenge, a holding midfielder who mistimes a tackle or a playmaker who fails to time his pass correctly can easily make the difference in low-scoring soccer games. Research on learning in organizations indicates, however, that it is absolutely essential for employees to take risks and learn from failures. Being in a position that does not provide the tolerance for mistakes that young players need in order to develop and mature results in a lack of opportunity for growth and learning.
  • Second, it is well documented that young soccer players struggle to develop the emotional maturity and leadership capabilities that would be expected from someone with a central position on a team. The discrepancy between technical talent and ability and a lack of leadership skills can result in frustration and defeat for clubs, and declining careers for players.
Young employees are best developed in an environment that is psychologically safe for them, an environment in which they can experiment with different behaviours, fail on a smaller scale, learn from these experiences, and grow into more mature and balanced leaders of the future.

Be it in the corporate world or professional soccer, developing talent takes time and patience, from managers, owners and fans in the professional soccer world, and managers, employees and stakeholders in the corporate world. There is no shortcut to accelerate this process.

Nov. 27, 2017 "Attract top talent with internships, not jobs": Today I found this article by Eric Bosco in the Globe and Mail:

Chief business development officer, Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that connects top-level research with private-sector needs.

If I had the chance for a business do-over, there are a few things I would change in the launch of my former startup, XYZ Imaging. One that stands out is recruiting. No matter how hard our company tried, it was challenging to attract good, highly skilled people to join our team.

I came to the conclusion – which I stand by today – that when a company is new, has only a handful of employees, and is competing with well-known brands such as Google, or Facebook, it is hard to get noticed.

We knew that if we could get qualified prospects through our door, they would gravitate toward our dynamic high-tech team that could rival those of the bigger brands. The challenge was getting them to the door in the first place. We eventually found some success by networking locally as well as by hiring foreign talent eager to come to Canada.

In the end, though, rather than hiring the very best candidates for the job, we often accepted the best we could find. What I've learned since is that for a growing startup, it's far more effective to advertise projects or research opportunities than jobs.

Why? Because innovation is what attracts up-and-coming talent to high-tech jobs. As a result, there are many programs available to startup companies today to help fill research and development positions – from co-operative education and government-funded First Job programs to subsidized internships.

Rather than advertising specific job openings, companies qualify for such programs by describing the pioneering work they do and inviting highly skilled, motivated student researchers to help solve their toughest problems.

There are many benefits to using research internships as a hiring tool for a small startup.

Motivated talent: Employees are often more driven when working in a small, nimble company where they have a hands-on opportunity to contribute to the team in a meaningful way – something a larger company typically doesn't offer.

Perfect fit: Internship programs offer a large pool of top talent from which program partners and university professors will help companies choose interns with the best skill sets for the job.

Faster hiring: Since internships typically don't require a commitment beyond several months to a year, interns tend to more readily give a company a try. Once they're through the door, there's a strong likelihood they will stay.

Rotating interns: Every year brings a new crop of students and a new opportunity for a business to attract more skilled workers that meet the company's evolving requirements.

Two Hat Security of Kelowna, B.C., a developer of artificial intelligence software used to protect online communities from bullying, harassment and child exploitation, is an example of a young company benefitting from internships.

Frustrated by the difficulty of competing with tech giants for talent, CEO Chris Priebe explained that by connecting with student interns, his business "is tapping into researchers at the top of their respective fields who are not afraid to tackle the impossible."

Over the next five years, Two Hat is counting on student researchers from the University of Manitoba, Simon Fraser University and Laval University through the Mitacs internship program to further its product development as it tries to make a name for itself in the cybersecurity space.

The importance of finding the right people to help a young company get to the next stage of growth cannot be underestimated. If I still had my company today, I would without a doubt be using internships as a means to get on the radar of top talent.

Instead of posting jobs, I would be advertising my projects and research opportunities, and I know that as a result, the traffic through my door would not only increase, but so would the quality of talent.

There are 2 comments:

Doug Lippay
5 days ago

Internships can be seen through a variety of lenses. One might consider it as some sort of modern day slavery, where the prospect does mostly menial chores around an office or job site with the hopes of translating that experience into a career. Generally speaking if you re willing to work for free.......

One the other hand, one could see a similar position as free tuition. If the tasks and chores also have some learning and contributing aspects to the organization and if the program was defined both by content and by length of the term, hopefully with a job offer or at least an offer to help with their networking and marketing for the person who has given their time and talents to a company.

5 days ago

This article is curiously silent on a major issue with respect to internships: will they be paid?
In Ontario the law is clear.

According to section 1(2) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, a person being trained by an employer is entitled to minimum wage and other minimum statutory benefits UNLESS certain conditions are met, including (and this is the important one):

"3. The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained."

I recommend that anybody hired as an unpaid interns - who feels they're actually doing more than a little unpaid work - contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour . . . after their internship is over. You'll get your money.

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