3 Things Managers and 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, where 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 major league baseball by focusing on statistics and measures in selecting baseball players instead of the just the traditional baseball selection methods that were subjective, at best.

Beane’s new approach turned the Oakland A’s into a contender, while at the same time, spending less than half as much on salaries as clubs like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

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So, what can an HR Pro learn from Moneyball? A bunch, but I’ll give you three thoughts (adapted from Fast Company‘s 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 really 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 that someone believes “they just don’t fit in.” Really? Well the metrics show me they’re one of the top three 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, and 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.” No, instead it’s “We love you and you need to do this – now – or we will still love you, but just not while working here any more.”
  3. Sometimes the mix isn’t right and needs to be changed. We’re HR Pros, so 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 maybe isn’t right so the team doesn’t perform as it should. If that is the case, 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 a 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.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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4 Comments on “3 Things Managers and HR Pros Can Learn From Moneyball

  1. Ladies, you will still enjoy this movie even if you don’t like baseball. The lesson here is that the numbers tell a truth that perception does not. Good points, Tim. And good movie, Brad!

  2. This is all true and much more important for HR and recruitment than it might seem.  The Moneyball relevance to HR is not just “lessons from the latest Hollywood box office smash”. 

    The lessons are really important because hiring the right employee is all about performance.  And the factors that determine performance are not what most of recruitment uses.  That is a big, big problem for recruitment just as it was – and still is, for some teams – in baseball.  

    To hire the right employee you need to know what predicts performance, which can be measured and known to pretty high accuracy, via good assessments. What predicts performance: cognitive ability, behaviors (together: competencies), work preferences and skills.  None of these is evident on a resume, and that’s a problem, a big one, and even if one of these were on the resume, the resume is not a scientific instrument of proven validity.  People, in other words, exaggerate.  Assessments, relatively speaking, don’t.  

    So, the big and powerful lesson: use scientific, analytical means to identify high performers based on what really matters for high performance.  That is very doable, and done all the time, via assessments. 

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