How Baseball Reflects Your Talent Management Strategy

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The 2016 World Series pitted two lovable loser baseball teams that finally saw the rewards of each squad adhering to a talent management strategy unique to each club. The Cleveland Indians hadn't won a World Series since 1948. The Chicago Cubs suffered longer: 108 seasons without a championship. No one deserved to lose, but the Indians came up short in a thrilling seven-game series, letting Cubs fans forget the supposed Curse of the Billy Goat.

Cubs and Indians executives, though, had to build their clubs without regard to superstitions. Working within budgets of their own and facing a league-imposed luxury tax for exceeding a salary cap, each team went about building its roster differently, placing an emphasis on what they believe would help them win. Granted, your employees probably won't have to swing a bat to get their jobs done, but stealing from a baseball club's talent-building playbook could help construct a winning team of your own.

Talent Management Starts With Money

Facing the pressure of a century-old curse, Cubs owners finally loosened the purse strings in 2016, spending $188.4 million on payroll and placing the team in the top-five list of MLB spenders for the first time in six seasons, according to the sports contract resource Spotrac. The Indians, in comparison, spent a lot less money — $114.7 million, 22nd out of the 30 MLB teams.

As an HR leader, it's important for you to work with your organization's management teams to decide how they can spend on your talent management strategy. Knowing how they should spend gives managers a clear understanding of priorities so they can focus more on retention and promoting from within, or aggressively pursuing outside candidates that could come at a higher upfront cost.

Your organization could follow the lead of the Indians. The team filled a roster mostly with hungry, young players but left some key roles for proven veterans who came aboard through trades and low-risk free agency signings such as veteran slugger Mike Napoli.

Or you could imitate the Cubs, whose management recognized that its core of young players couldn't win it all without some high-priced help from the free agent market, like longtime Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester and star outfielder Jason Heyward.

Retaining The Best Talent Means Letting Them Grow

Nine of the 25 players on the 2016 Indians were homegrown, meaning they were chosen by the club in the MLB draft or signed by the team's international scouts. The Cubs had five players come all the way up through the team's farm system.

Teams that depend on developing a bulk of their talent often have no choice because of revenue, but they can benefit in the long run. So could your organization.

The workplace equivalent of a homegrown roster is retention. Hiring people for low-to-mid-level jobs, immediately including them in a strong organizational culture, letting them participate in their own continuous performance management assessments, offering useful training and career development opportunities and giving them a clear path to advance come together to create the type of buy-in that makes them proud to put on the organizational uniform.

Making the Right "Trades" With Focused Recruitment

In a six-year span ending with the championship season, the Cubs traded for 15 players who would help the 2016 club. Most of these players had not yet established themselves in the Majors when they came to Chicago — closer Aroldis Chapman is a notable exception — but the Cubs identified their potential and gave them a chance. Similarly, the Indians had a lot of "outside" help on its 2016 roster: 13 players acquired from trades, including a star reliever of their own in Andrew Miller.

Despite the best retention efforts, your organization similarly can't rely just on homegrown talent. As the Cubs and Indians have shown, you can benefit from acquiring employees who aren't fitting in with other organizations but whose talent might work in your system.

HR recruitment can shift from a "wait until they apply" mindset to a proactive "go get 'em" attitude. For example, organizations can use social media to tell compelling stories about their employees and jobs, aiming to lure outside talent. Organizations can also use AI-based software that creates algorithms to identify ideal job prospects. The rise of advanced metrics in baseball in recent years was surely applied by each team as they built their 2016 rosters.

Setting a talent management strategy budget could determine whether you can swing for the fences with social media, HR technology and other recruitment tools. Having a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of prospective employees could let you see how well they can fit with your team.

Find the Right Balance for Your Team's Talent Management Strategy

Your organization has a different kind of championship to win, but you can certainly approach talent management the same way a baseball team does. Balance meaningful retention with smart recruiting -- "trades'' and "free agent signings" -- and your organization can be ahead of the game.

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