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    Entries in talent management (42)

    Thursday
    Jul062017

    Five HR and Talent lessons from the first five days of NBA free agency season

    Basketball is the world's greatest sport and the National Basketball Association provides the marquee platform and competition for the world's best basketball players. Being an NBA-level player is incredibly difficult and rare. There are about 450 people in the world at any given time who can call themselves active NBA players.

    And so it is that the competition among the 30 NBA teams for this batch of rare talents is fierce. Since there can be only five players on the basketball court at any one time, (and ofter, in important playoff games teams may only use on 7 or 8 players total in a game - side note, that is where the phrase '8 Man Rotation' is derived), identifying, attracting, and signing the very best NBA talent possible for your team is absolutely essential to have any chance at success. I can't really think of another business, (maybe the movie business), where talent acquisition and talent management is more important than in the NBA.

    In case you don't know, the NBA's annual 'Free agent season' started on July 1. This kicks off the period of time following the end of the season when players whose contracts have expired are free to negotiate with all teams for a new deal. There's tons of process/rules/labor agreement minutiae too, but none of that matters to this post. All we care about is the talent/team/agent/press/media dance that culminates in many of the NBA's stars signing new contracts.

    And lucky for us HR/sports nerds - much of the talent marketplace dynamics in the NBA play out in public with hundreds of basketball blogs, thousands of NBA geeks obsessively refreshing their Twitter feeds, and NBAtv spending literally hours upon hours discussion individual player moves. And really lucky for us, is that many of these NBA player/team contracts offer up valuable lessons and reminders for our own HR and Talent Management work - particularly when we are dealing with hard to find talent that are in high demand.

    Ok, enough preamble. Here are five of the more interesting NBA feee agent signings so far this year, and what we can take from them.

    1. Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics - 4 years / $127M

    Why interesting? Hayward, an emerging star and the face of the franchise for an up and coming Utah Jazz team, leaves the only team he knows (and a bunch of guaranteed $$ on the table due to the NBA's labor rules that allow current teams to offer higher compensation to retain a player than new teams can offer them to switch), to join the Celtics, shocking many Utah fans.

    HR/Talent angle: After stripping away team competitiveness, compensation, and potential, (kind of a toss up between Utah and Boston), Hayward elected to sign with Boston largely because the Celtics' coach Brad Stevens was Hayward's coach back in college at Butler University. The two formed a tight bond a decade ago that has lasted to this day. The HR lesson here? Make sure you know and leverage the relationships between people in your organization and the hot candidates you are trying to lure away from the competition. In this case, that one relationship likely swung the near-term futures of two franchises.

    2. Kevin Durant resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 2 years / $53M

    Why interesting? Durant, arguably the best player in the league and playing for the best team, signed a significantly smaller and below market deal than he could have demanded, (and received). Why? He wanted to allow the team more flexibility and salary cap space to try and retain as many of his Warriors teammates as possible, in order to strengthen their title defense chances next season.

    HR/Talent angle: I know we are talking about multi-millionaires here, but even for them, not everyone is completely motivated by money. Durant is so happy to be playing on the best team, in a fun location, and in a winning culture that those things possess value, at least to him, beyond just the $$. If you can get a lot of the 'not money' things right in the organization, you may be able to have a chance at competing for talent against your better-funded rivals.

    3. Steph Curry resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 5 years / $201M

    Why interesting? Remember the bit above about Durant accepting a below market contract for the good of the overall team? Well, two-time league MVP and champion Curry has been playing on a significantly below market deal based on his performance for the last several year. This was driven in large part by Curry's early career injury problems that for a time cast some doubt on his long-term potential. But since then, he has emerged as the leader of the Warriors, and probably no worse than the 3rd best player in the league overall. This new deal, for the maximum money allowed, will serve to 'make good' on his out performance of his last contract.

    HR/Talent angle: Really excellent talent might be able to be persuaded to work for less than market rates for a time, if the other things your company can offer them are attractive enough. But they won't/can't do that forever. At some point super-talented people need to be paid fairly, maybe even a little bit better than fairly, in order to 'make good' to them as well. All the company culture in the world won't pay someone's rent, and we should all keep that in mind.

    4. Joe Ingles resigned with the Utah Jazz - 4 years / $52m

    Why interesting? You might not have heard of Joe Ingles, but he has quietly emerged after a late start to his NBA career as an extremely versatile and productive player for a developing Utah Jazz team. He's also friendly with (now former), Jazz star Gordon Hayward, (see above), and by signing Ingles early, (and paying him really well), the Jazz hoped that would be another chip they could leverage in their efforts to retain Hayward. 

    HR/Talent angle: As we know now, the Jazz management couldn't convince Hayward to stay, so let's hope for their sakes (and jobs), that the $52M investment in Ingles works out. There is always a lot of chatter and talk about the importance of having friends at work, but I wonder if this example makes us pause a little bit on that, at least in terms of elite talent. I am not sure the very best performers at any line of work get all that worked up about having friends at the workplace. The best talent makes its own friends, if you get my meaning. If you do, you are smarter than me. 

    5. Jeff Teague to the Minnesota Timberwolves - 3 years / $57M

    Why interesting? This move, signing a veteran point guard in Teague, combined with a prior trade for All-star Jimmy Butler is sending a signal to the league that the Timberwolves want to compete for playoff places and championships now, and not in 5 years. Last year the team failed to live up to its pre-season hype, and part of the reason is that its primary star players (Towns and Wiggins) are so young and inexperienced. Bringing vets like Butler and Teague signals a different, 'win-now' approach.

    HR/Talent angle: This is kind of the NBA version of the startup company that needs to bring in some pro managers to help run things arc. The young talent or founders have all the great ideas, can generate a ton of excitement and buzz, maybe can secure the first couple of funding rounds, but when things start to get a little dicey, (and they almost always do), the inexperience of the leaders starts to hurt. It's important for HR leaders to take that kind of measure of leadership groups, particularly in new companies, and think hard about when, where, and how to get more experienced voices at the table before things go sideways. See Uber in case you want to read up.

    There will be more to come from NBA free agency in the next couple of weeks. Even though I am really depressed that their are no more 'real' NBA games on for a bit, I am looking forward to heading out to Las Vegas in a week or so for the annual 8 Man Rotation trip to catch some live NBA Summer League action.

    The NBA - there's nothing like it, and for HR/Talent pros, there's plenty we can learn from it too. 

    Monday
    May082017

    15 Years Later, Still Talkin' About Practice

    This week was the 15th Anniversary of NBA legend Allen Iverson's classic 'talkin' about practice' press conference, where the Philadelphia 76ers star, just a few days after seeing his Sixers team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics addressed the media and was confronted with questions about his (allegedly poor) practice habits. Iverson had a tempestuous relationship with 76er coach Larry Brown, himself no stranger to controversy, and the 'practice' rant stemmed largely from Brown's comments to the media about Iverson's casual attitude towards practice and preparation.

    Some video exists from the 2002 press conference, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), that shows Iverson in full on 'practice' rant, mentioning about 20 times in two and a half minutes that he saw it as being ridiculous as a the franchise player, and league MVP just one season prior, and a legendary fierce and fearless competitor, that he had to spend time well, talking about practice.

    Video below and some more comments from me after the jump...

    A few things about Iverson's comments and the 'practice' issue overall.

    One, the video, and most of what everyone remembers from the press conference was the two minutes of so of Iverson repeating, 'we're talking about practice, not a game' over and over, which makes it very easy to call into question Iverson's dedication and commitment. What is missing from the video, and can be found in the full transcript of the press conference here, is that before and after the 'practice' rant, Iverson talked openly about being hurt, confused, and disappointed in trade rumors that were floating around at that time. Iverson, rightly so, considered himself and was recognized by the league, as one of the very best players in the game. In 2002, he was in the middle of an 8 or 9 year run where he'd be named to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team each year. In our workplace parlance, he was 'top talent' an 'A player' or a purple squirrel if you will. So naturally Iverson would have to be surprised and insulted that the team he had performed so well for, including dragging on his back to the NBA finals just one year prior, would even consider shopping him around the league.

    Two, the rant, and the 'practice' context raise really interesting and ongoing questions about talent and more specifically how hard it can be to 'manage' the best talent. Iverson was a former league MVP, the league's leading scorer, and had an unquestionably ferocious style of play, notable for a guy just 6 feet tall and thin-framed. No one who watched Iverson play consistently ever came away from recognizing his commitment and intensity to winning basketball games.  At the time of the 'practice' press conference, he was 26, had just completed his 6th year in the league, and won his third league scoring title. Was he a perfect player? No. But he was one of the very best in the game and it can be argued he knew how to best prepare himself and his body to stand up to the rigors of a long season and playoffs.

    Should Iverson have been more attentive and subservient to the wishes of the coach, and tried to be a more dedicated 'practice' player?

    Probably.

    Did Brown know the right way how to get the best out of Iverson, his star player?

    Probably not.

    I guess I am coming off as a bit of an Iverson apologist here, especially when most of the people that have seen or heard about the 'practice' rant come to the quick conclusion that Iverson was selfish, pampered, and in the wrong. I guess all I will say to that is as a manager or leader you eventually sink or swim largely by your ability to get the best performance out of your star performers.

    Iverson has some blame here for sure, but definitely not all of it.

    Probably too much of it.

    Wednesday
    Apr192017

    Creating a Narrative for Talent

    Long flight last night out to Vegas and to pass the time (and I needed to since this flight was not equipped with Satellite TV and thus I was not able to watch the NBA playoffs), I was multi-tasking with Jason Bourne on the screen and the SI.com Media Podcast in the ear.

    On the podcast host Richard Deitsch asked guest James Andrew Miller (author of books on ESPN, CAA, and Saturday Night Live), about an ongoing negotiation between cable sports channel Fox Sports 1 and personality Katie Nolan. When discussing how Fox Sports 1 might look to retail Nolan (who apparently will have other options), Miller said something really, really interesting. Check this out...

    Miller: She is a real talent. I think she knows it. I think Fox Sports 1 knows it. And so I would expect if she does stay, they will have to come up with not only something that is more than what she is doing now, they will have to come up with more money, and so it is probably one of those things where she tests the marketplace.

    But this whole idea about testing the marketplace isn't just about dollars sometimes, it's about other opportunities. She might not know what she wants to do yet. She might not even know what she can do elsewhere. 

    Fox Sports 1 has to realize that this is all about creating a narrative for talent, this is about saying, "Look we want to remain your home, and this is what we can put together for you", and then maybe you even have to go beyond that and start to look more broadly about what they can do in their larger Murdoch empire.

    On the pod Deitsch and Miller went on to debate Nolan's ratings, other shows, and other things, but the important thing to me, and the part of the conversation I replayed three or four times was Miller's concept of creating the 'narrative for talent.' Leave it to a writer to come up with such an elegant and evocative description of a standard employee compensation/development/retention conversation.

    Think about what a 'narrative' implies. A story. A beginning, a middle, maybe some twists and turns. Maybe some conflict or challenges. Maybe a hero on some kind of a journey. Maybe a fantastic and delightful surprise. And then, hopefully, a happy ending.

    A 'narrative' just seems cool, fun, compelling, interesting.

    It makes you want to listen. It makes you want to learn more. It makes you want to keep turning the page.

    A comp discussion? Where you talk about ranges and midpoints? Or a review of goal completion? Where you debate whether or not a goal was 25% or 35% complete? Or a look at next quarter's corporate university training offerings to look for some development opportunities? Ugh.

    Those all seem dull. Rote. Required even by the HR police.

    None of those really want to make a talented person want to hear more of your story.

    So that's what I thought was interesting about Miller's way of describing the way that a company needs to approach a conversation with a talented employee that might be on the verge of something big, but also has a ton of options.

    It's all about creating a narrative. 

    Tuesday
    Dec272016

    VACATION REWIND: Goal alignment sounds boring, but it can get you fired

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From February - Goal alignment sounds boring, but it can get you fired, (NBA coaching edition)

    My favorite sport is basketball, my favorite league is the NBA, and my favorite team is the New York Knicks.

    Yesterday, my beloved Knicks relieved their head coach, Derek Fisher, of his duties about 2/3 of the way through his second season as head coach, with the Knicks currently possessing a 23-31 record, good (or bad) for 12th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference and about 5 games out of the 8th place, and the final playoff spot in the East.

    There were various reasons for Knicks' team ownership and management to make the move to release Fisher, but I want to focus on one in particular that has been cited in many of the reports of Fisher's firing. It's a classic HR/Talent Management concept as well - dull sounding goal alignment - the basic, but as we will see overlooked in the Knicks' case, idea that organizational goals should be defined, communicated, and understood throughout and down the organization. Playoffs? Playoffs?

    The goal in question that at least partially served as a catalyst for Fisher's demise: for the team to finish in the top 8 places in the Eastern Conference and make the NBA playoffs, one season (and a few new players) removed from last year's franchise worst 17- 65 record, and dead last finish in the East.

    Here's an excerpt from one report on the firing on how management and Fisher's boss, Knick team President (and NBA coaching legend), Phil Jackson were disapponted in some recent comments from Fisher regarding the Knick's goal of reaching the playoffs this season:

    More importantly, however, ESPN reports that Fisher wasn't developing as a coach quick enough for Knicks management. Some of that pressure may have been because the Knicks, for stretches, looked like a playoff team. Yet in the midst of a rough patch, Fisher, during an interview, said missing the playoffs wouldn't be a "disappointment."

    "No. Disappointed in what?" Fisher said in an interview on ESPN radio. "We’re a developing team with a ton of new players. ... We have to be reasonable about who we are and where we are and accept what is and not get caught up in what we should be and allow other people to define what our success is."

    Let's unpack that a little, exspecially for folks who don't follow the NBA as much as I do, (everyone).

    At the start of the season the Knicks were incorporating several new players, their best player (Carmelo Anthony), was working his way back into form following an injury/surgey last year, and after only 17 wins a yar ago, probably could not have been reasonably expected to compete for a playoff berth this year. Jackson and Fisher, both veterans of the NBA, had to have known this, even if they said different things publicly.

    But then a few things broke in the Knicks favor in the first half of the year. Anthony rebounded well from injury and was playing some good basketball, rookie Kristaps Porzingis was MUCH, MUCH better than anyone would have expected, and several new players made contributions to the team. The team was actually in contention for a playoff spot until their recent swoon - losing 9 of their last 10, culminating in the firing of Fisher yesterday.

    So the organizational goal at the beginning of the season was probably something along the lines of 'Let's be better than last year, let's develop some new players, and let's figure out which players are not going to cut it.'

    About half way in the season, due to some unexpected and better play, at least to Jackson and managment the goal shifted to 'Let's make the playoffs this season.'

    But somehow Coach Fisher either didn't get the message, or, didn't buy in to the new goal as one that was reasonable, and one upon which his performance should be evaluated.

    Against the first set of goals for the season, even at 23-31, Fisher's performance would have at least been 'acceptable.' The team is better than last year, rookie Porzingis has been a pleasant surprise, and (mostly) Fisher has found a way to be competitive game in and game out.

    But against the revised or re-calibrated goal of making the playoffs this season? Well it seems almost certain after losing 9 of 10 that the Knicks are not going to achieve that. Fisher publicly stating that missing that goal 'would not be a disappointment' said to Knicks management that their was a disconnect between what the organization was working towards and what one of its key managers, (Fisher), had in mind. And so Fisher had to go.

    It's ok for leaders to change course, set a new goal mid-stream, or ask even more from people who are performing well. But if those folks you are asking to do more and be better are not fully on board? Well then you have pretty different definitions of 'success' in the organization, and that ultimately will drive a wedge between leadership, management, and employees.

    Note: I have probably watched 45 or so of the Knicks 54 games this season. I don't think they are a playoff team either.

    Wednesday
    Nov162016

    PODCAST - We're Only Human 3 - What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    We're Only Human: What is Talent Mobility and Why Does it Matter?

    Host: Ben Eubanks

    Listen to the show HERE

    In this episode of We're Only Human, host Ben Eubanks talks about talent mobility and its applications in the workplace. Talent mobility is the practice of using internal talent to fill temporary or permanent roles. 

    Unlike succession, which is typically a top-down approach, talent mobility takes into account the interests and aspirations of employees.  As a talent practice, the idea of talent mobility isn't necessarily new. However, there is renewed interest in the topic due to some interesting trends Ben mentions in the podcast, including changes in career longevity, employee ownership over career paths and work tasks, the gig economy, and challenges with sourcing high performers. 

    In addition, Ben covers some case studies and examples of companies that are doing interesting work with talent mobility, including World Bank Group, Chipotle, and Hootsuite.   

    Listen to the show on the show page HERE or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers click through)

    For more information about Talent Mobility you can check out Ben's presentation on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/beneubanks/talent-mobility-the-key-to-engagement-retention-and-performance

    Many thanks to our show sponsor Virgin Pulse - learn more about their products and services at www.virginpulse.com.

    Reminder, you can subscribe to We're Only Human and all the HR Happy Hour Podcast shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the major podcast player apps - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.