Selection, Assessments and the MLB

Major League Baseball is back this week, which means I now have something to do each night until November!  Yeah me, I’m winning!

More importantly the MLB gives us some great things to write about throughout the season.  I don’t know of a sport where more there is more of a correlation to HR than Major League Baseball.  Think about what the MLB does as compared to our daily jobs as HR Pros across the country:

  • No one does more analysis and assessments before hiring (drafting) than the MLB
  • No one has a larger succession plan in place than the MLB (minor leagues)
  • Pay for Performance compensation (Ok, I’ll give you a pitcher who has a 9-13 record and a 5.79 ERA should not get paid $5.6M per year – but we all have our market)
  • Constant employee motivation and leadership development – Employee Relations Issue (hitters in an 0 – 21 slump at the plate, Manager calls him out in the newspaper, etc.)

You get the picture – the MLB is like one giant HR laboratory – but with an unending budget – and a heck of lot more Dominicans than your average U.S. workplace.

The one thing I wonder is how long we (HR/Talent Pros) would have our job – if we had the same success rates in selection as our MLB counterparts?

There are up to 50 rounds each year in the Major League draft – and a MLB team can sign as many Free Agents (those who didn’t get drafted or no longer have rights held by another team) as they want.   In the end the failure rate of selection is astronomically high.  From a Sports Illustrated article in 2010:

…major league teams selected 436 high school players after the 13th round. Only nine of those kids signed a contract that year and eventually made it to the big leagues — a 98 percent failure rate. After Round 26, teams selected 213 high school players, only one of whom, Victor Diaz, an outfielder who appeared in 147 games for the Mets and Rangers, played even a day in the big leagues — a 99.5 percent failure rate…

Can you imagine a 99.5% failure rate in hiring in your organization!  You would have your job for about 26 minutes!  You think you have a hard time assessing talent, the folks working for MLB teams, it would seem, could use some help from some HR Pros and assessment vendors in revamping their selection process, because something isn’t working right – and you thought the athletes weren’t held accountable!

There are good lessons to learn from their failure of MLB’s selection science (or should I say lack of selection science):

1. Don’t get caught up in the hype.  What happens when 13 old guys stand outside the fence watching some 17 year old kid throwing 91 mph fastballs – they all lose their minds – HR folks aren’t much different – have you been to a college career fair for hard to find grads!  Just because they have 1 skill doesn’t make them a star, and even if they have more, they might not be the fit for your “team”.

2. Past Performance Doesn’t Always Predict Future Performance.  Oh, that one stings a bit.  It’s definitely one major criteria to look at, but it doesn’t always ring true – many factors come into play – culture of previous organization, former leadership, position, industry, etc. 

3. Don’t overlook small town, small school kids. It’s easy to pick up great business hires from Harvard – but what about one from Northern Iowa?  Not every kid who goes to an Ivy League school is going to be great, and not every kid going to B and C business schools are idiots. 


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