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Raising the Bar the Moneyball Way

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 09/21/2016 in Recruiting articles |

I was recently rewatching the movie “Moneyball” and this movie often makes me think and rethink about the way we recruit.

If you need a quick refresher, it comes down to the Oakland A’s had their best players hired away for more money than they could afford.  So big teams with big budgets would hire the best players.  Small teams with small budgets would have their best hired away.

baseball

CC BY 2.0

The problem was that everyone was looking for the same thing – A players and Stars – often using the same (industry accepted) subjective wisdom and outdated (sometimes flawed) metrics of comparison.  They all had to fit certain molds.  Instead of playing this game (and losing), because the A’s couldn’t afford to compete, they pursued the misfits and the players that were undervalued because of industry biases and preconceptions.

Most companies I have recruited for are in a similar situation.  They want the A players and Stars…and often can not compete with the salaries being offered by other teams.

Then you combine this “raising the bar.”  I keep hearing about hiring managers trying to raise the bar on their teams.  They don’t want to just bring in people as good as they ones they have…they want people who are better than what they have (or are trying to replace) to raise the bar on their talent.

Often this comes with the same salary figure as the others or the one being replaced.  So they want bigger players and bigger stars but not pay any more than currently paying.  Does this make any sense at all?

As recruiters, we are tasked with finding the solution.  The budgets are not going to be increased.  They may not be open to telecommuting or relocation so the pool can be expanded.  So what are our options?

After watching “Moneyball” again, I am thinking we might have to work with hiring managers to redefine what they are looking for in order to raise the bar.  Firstly, raising the bar must be defined and what is trying to be accomplished.

Peter Brand said in the movie,

There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams…Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.

I see the same thing happen in recruiting.  Hiring managers think in terms of hiring employees.  The goal shouldn’t be to hire employees, the goal should be to buy the skills necessary to fulfill the goals in mind.  Don’t hire stronger employees in order to raise the bar, but stronger skills (to get more runs) necessary to accomplish goals and win the game at the next level.

Raising the bar

Thank you to Gary Paulson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So to buy wins…you need to buy runs.  What are the runs we are trying to buy in the talent we are seeking for our positions?  And if we are trying to raise the bar, this question becomes even more important.  If you are trying to improve your performance (game) as a team, then to get to that next level of play as a team…what skills (to get runs) would be needed?

Perhaps, getting someone with more experience or broader experience is not what is needed.  Maybe it is a bit of specialized skills and experience that the rest of the department lacks.

I often see hiring managers say they want to raise the bar only to then demand candidates with more experience or broader experience…but this does not necessarily equate with “buying wins and buying runs.”   It tends to show the focus is on buying a bigger player. This could be an instance of asking the wrong questions.  The question is not how do I get a stronger, more experience all-around player…but what do I specifically need to get more “runs.”

Let’s go back to misfits and undervalued players because of misconceptions and preconceptions.  I believe there is a gold mine here.  Potential employees that are having a difficult time getting hired or paid well because they are lacking something or are a misfit because they do not fit the mold of typical.

Thank you to Neal Wellons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thank you to Neal Wellons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Perhaps, a potential goldmine of customer service talent would be to hire very good waiters and waitresses from restaurants.  I have had a few spectacular servers wait on me at very typical restaurants.  I would think they might do very well in any position requiring attention to detail and focus on customers (and their needs).  Sure, they never have worked in customer service like you may be hiring…but they know how to take care of people.

We need to think outside the box here.  Who does not fit the mold of typical people in the field, but may excel in it because they have the skills needed where it is important (for runs)?

I once worked for a company where all our buyers/clothing designers came from the same couple colleges, with the same degree, and basically the same skills.  I hired a college graduate (Art History major) that loved clothes and worked in retail sales in a clothing store.  I got her in initially as a “gofer” to the buyers.  She soon was promoted to junior buyer and then buyer.  Managers told me she was one of the best people they have ever hired.  She did not have the background everyone else had and yet she excelled.  Under “normal” circumstances, she would not have been considered.

We need to rethink who we are hiring and why…especially if we want to raise the bar.

 

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