Leaders and human resources executives can learn a great deal from baseball’s top executives at the Chicago Cubs. They have success in signing stellar recruits, and have made their strategy of recruiting “the whole person” into the envy of other major league teams.
In an age when so much business is transacted electronically at a distance, the Cubs push hard for in-person meetings in order to identify what is important to each recruiting target and establish a personal connection. Also, the high touch culture approach produces valuable word-of-mouth when solicited players ask current players how well their families are treated. They hear about neighborhoods players reside in, local attractions, and the kids’ room at the stadium.
The formerly lowly Cubs team has snagged the most desirable free agents since Theo Epstein arrived as president of baseball operations, and he and the general manager, Jed Hoyer, applied the competitive strategy of selling the whole life approach: You are more than a baseball player.
For example, pitcher Tyler Chatwood, whose wife was pregnant when the Cubs targeted him was presented, unsolicited, with a list of recommended physicians and hospitals in the area at their first meeting. Appealing to the most important influencers in the players’ lives is working, as they have signed all the free agents at the top of their list – and almost all of them for less money than other teams offered. Senior leaders — take notice!
Monetary compensation is not the Cubs’ most important tool or incentive offered. They don’t enter a salary bidding war. So the players regard team executives as straight-shooters.
One agent quoted by the Wall Street Journal said the Cubs “sell the crap out of we value you as a person.” This is a very appealing factor for the mostly Millennial players baseball covets now. They see themselves as multi-faceted and family focused. Granted during the season they put in more hours than most highly paid professional service and other knowledge workers, constantly honing their skills, both physical and mental. They value and demand their form of work/life balance, and the Cubs management leads with buying into that.
Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, a successful recruit, told the Wall Street Journal that players are rushing to join an organization they expect to make them holistically happy. The personalized, high touch approach to recruiting and retention has made a huge difference in the overall team success.
I regard the perception of personalization and high touch, as one of the crucial skills for success at work for marketing, recruiting, talent development and retention.
While I am an avid baseball fan and love this example, which resonates with most individuals and is relevant to all industries, most of my work has been with professional services and knowledge workers. From my experience, I advise you to consider:
– In-person visits with clients/customers at least a few times a year, even if there is no ongoing business at the time. It’s even more valuable than for sustaining business development opportunities and identifying needs you can address.
– Providing education on specific issues external stakeholders already or likely will face.
– Training them on organizational culture, processes, and continually improving the working relationship, keeping intergenerational concerns in mind.
– Tracking the changing demographics and generational preferences of both external and internal constituencies to be sure you can mesh their needs with your business demands and be flexible.
– Within the capacity of your company, allowing for individualized career paths.
Challenge your assumptions about what employees, clients, alliance partners and referral sources consider most important and how they want to interact — by asking regularly. Get to know them and what they truly value. Deepen relationships. Keep the conversation going. Remember the Cubs and their high touch culture.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps organizations solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients to achieve better productivity and knowledge transfer, retention, succession planning and business development results. She is president of Practice Development Counsel, and author of “You Can’t Google It!! – The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.” For more information, please visit www.pdcounsel.com.