Talent Management Lessons from the 2020 NFL Draft

Talent Management Lessons from the 2020 NFL Draft

Normally this time of year, I would be waxing poetically on the start of the baseball season. But this year I will, out of necessity, pivot to the NFL draft. There are a few important lessons to be learned. Most importantly the world moves on, even in the face of a pandemic.

For HR and Talent folks, the main lesson is pivoting and moving forward. Our world has changed for the foreseeable future. Thank you to the National Football League for staying on task.

What a wonderful distraction for a couple of nights. And what a great example of adapting technology to ensure continuity. In the end the drafting of players continued. None of the core aspects of hiring was changed. Food for thought for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The optics changed. Yes, there were a few glitches, frozen screens, timing issues. We also had the opportunity to look behind the scenes of all the teams GM’s and Head coaches – even in to their homes and families.

Come on, tell me you didn’t get a kick out of watching Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots, giving his dog named Nike a treat at the dining room table. Or how about the odd home office setup for Mike Vrabel as his son and family friend flanked the coach in some unusual garb. Kids were everywhere on the first two days live streams from NFL draft rooms. A major departure from the traditional war rooms of the past, but a sign of things to come. The blending of he home office now has family and pets!

So, what else did we learn from
this year’s draft?

First, intangibles need to be considered in selecting new hires.  For example, the New York Giants took an offensive lineman who is known to be a good teammate over a couple of more highly touted candidates with the 4th pick in the first round. A significant point is that personality and fit are still important, and may even trump physical attributes and talent. That’s not to say Andrew Thomas from Georgia was lacking in skill. Many teams had him listed in their top three for his position, but it was his positive attitude and team-first approach that pushed him in front of other more highly touted candidates….

The Giant’s also used the last pick in the draft, referred to as “ Mr. Irrelevant”, by picking Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder with the 255th pick of the draft.  Why is this important? Because sometimes the folks you select with little expectation turn out to be pleasant surprises. The odds of Mr. Irrelevant becoming a productive player are less than favorable (unless you’re named Ryan Succop -Succop finished his 2008 rookie season tying an NFL record for highest field goal percentage by a rookie in a season with 86.2%. He also passed NFL Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud for most field goals made by a rookie in Chiefs history.). The 2018 Mr. Irrelevant, Redskins receiver Trey Quinn, is currently among Washington’s top three receivers after two NFL seasons. Bottom line, all a candidate needs is a shot.

So, lets do a quick recap. First, family and even pets will enter into your recruiting mix. Second, attitude matters. Third, talented folks who may not be high on the list need a chance and you never know how those last picks just might turn out.

OK, now you know I’m a big NY Giants football fan (along with my passion for my NY Mets) and I can’t wait for pro sports to start up again….But there are always lessons to learn and the draft always brings a few!

Hoping you’re all doing OK…Be Safe!

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