3 Things HR Pros Can Learn from “Moneyball”

There’s a new Brad Pitt movie out – calm down HR ladies this isn’t your “Legends of the Fall” Brad Pitt movie – this one is about baseball and he doesn’t take his shirt off! (BTW – my favorite Brad Pitt movie of all time? “Meet Joe Black” – he plays the best looking version of “death” that you’ll ever see)

The movie is called “Moneyball” and it’s based on the true story of how Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, changed baseball by focusing on statistics and measures in selecting baseball players, versus traditional baseball selection methods that were subjective at best.  Beane’s new approach turned the Oakland A’s into a contender, at the same time spending less than half the salary of clubs like the Yankee’s, Boston and the Dodgers.

So, What can an HR Pro learn from Moneyball?  A bunch – but I’ll give you 3 (adapted from Fast Companies – 3 Lessons Every Manager Can Learn from Moneyball):

1. Production trumps all else.  I know organizations that only hire from certain colleges, or look to recruit from big name companies – all of that really doesn’t matter.  Find someone who produces – that’s what matters.   We spend so much time on where someone graduated from, and how the person looks and where they grew up – then we go and hire this “china doll” and they don’t do a darn thing!    I’ve been known to piss off my hiring mangers, once in a while, because I won’t allow them to move someone off the bus – for the simple fact “they just don’t fit in”.  Really?  Well the metrics show me they’re one of your top 3 employees in your group! Find a way to make them fit in – that’s your job as a leader.

2. Give Your Employees a Gift.  And by “Gift” I mean – “tell it to them straight”!  We don’t do anyone any favors by beating around the bush.  If someone has a career-derailer, tell them – tell them soon – tell them clearly – tell them what will happen if they don’t change it.  It will be the best gift they have ever received.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen managers let go of good, solid employees, because they had one thing wrong – and no one would give it to them straight – and give them the opportunity to change.    Beane’s approach was very direct and to the point – our goal is to win championships – you need to change this or get better at this – or you won’t be a part of this process.  It’s not – “well, it sure would be helpful if you could get a little better at such and such.”  It’s “We love you – you need to do this – now – or we will still love, but just not while working here any more.”

3.  Sometimes the Mix isn’t right and needs to be changed.  We’re HR Pros, our primary job is to build top performing teams of adults.  As with any team, you might have the best talent, but the mix of individuals isn’t right, so the team doesn’t perform as it should.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up.  That doesn’t mean you have to go out and fire people – but it might mean you move some people around from one team to the next.  Let’s face it, most of the jobs in our organization can be learned by a high performing person from another part of our organization – that’s just reality that most of us don’t like to admit to!  If you have a good manager who isn’t making it “happen” in their department, swap him with the lady in operations who is an up and comer and see what happens.


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