What Football Clubs Can Teach Us About Hiring Top Talents
Hiring top talents = achieving top performance? At first glance, the equation is simple. But implementing it in reality is often much more difficult. A new study conducted by experts from Kühne Logistics University, the TU München, University of Maryland and University of South Carolina used the example of European football clubs to investigate which conditions have to be met in order to tap new players’ full potential. In this regard, Marvin Schuth, Prisca Brosi, Nicholas Folger, Gilad Chen and Robert Ployhart identified a number of influencing factors that can be found in any team. As such, they’re not only relevant for professional football, but can also be applied to businesses.
In their study, they assessed ca. 4,500 transfers made between 168 teams in Europe’s top five leagues (Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France) in the years 2008 to 2018. “Here, top talents are often signed up for extremely high sums, and those who put out the money expect their investment to immediately pay off in the form of excellent performance,” says Prisca Brosi, a Professor of Human Resources at KLU. “But in reality, there are other important factors at play, like when the transfer took place and how much time there is to onboard the new player, but also the team’s previous performance level.”
Talent and the time spent on onboarding are critical
In the course of the study, the experts e.g. compared preseason transfers (i.e., transfers in the summer break) and mid-season transfers (i.e., in the winter break). “Though the new player’s individual skills determine their performance regardless of when the transfer takes place, the timing is a critical aspect when it comes to team factors,” says Marvin Schuth, first author of the study and a visiting researcher at KLU. One such factor is the team’s performance before the transfer.
“Talented new players benefit from high-performance teams,” says Brosi, “but this only applies when there’s enough time for onboarding. When transfers are made mid-season with a correspondingly short onboarding phase, high-performance teams tend to have more of a negative effect on new players’ performance,” adds Schuth. Generally speaking, new players’ individual talents are more effective in weaker teams – in contrast, extremely high-performance teams seem less open to “newcomers.” The second key factor is the number of new players joining the team. If there’s not enough time for onboarding, the new additions’ performance declines with each new player added. “We assume that too many new players can disrupt in-team processes, making onboarding more difficult,” says Schuth.
Individual onboarding required
What can businesses learn from football clubs? “At the end of the day, adding new high performers to your team definitely pays off,” says Brosi. “However: new additions’ performance also depends on the team’s past performance level and on the onboarding.” Especially strong teams have to focus on being open to newcomers and offering them support. In this regard, providing sufficient time for onboarding is vital. Newcomers have to be integrated into the team’s processes in order to deliver the expected level of performance. “If there simply isn’t enough time, it makes more sense to add new employees bit by bit, instead of too many new hires at once, which is more likely to harm overall performance,” says Brosi.
Schuth, M., Brosi, P., Folger, N., Chen, G., & Ployhart, R. E. (2022). When new talent scores: The impact of human capital and the team socialization context on newcomer performance in professional sports teams. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0001060