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UEFA EURO 2024: Lessons HR Pros Can Learn

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UEFA Euro 2024, one of Europe’s most popular sporting events, remains as captivating as ever, bringing the action to homes, restaurants, and even offices. The tournament not only showcases football excellence, but also generates collective joy and national pride from city centres to living rooms worldwide. Though football and the corporate world generally stick to their own turf (wink, wink), HR professionals can learn some valuable leadership lessons from the top European football coaches and their teams. At Hogan Assessments, the leader in workplace personality assessment and leadership consulting, and used by 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, we have identified three specific takeaways from the football greats that can enhance organisations.

Building strong teams is an absolute must

A good coach assigns roles that leverage individual player strengths while promoting teamwork and unity. Former Spanish national team coach Luis Aragonés is renowned for his no-nonsense coaching approach, with a unique style and ability to inspire and motivate players to perform at their best. Despite his unquestionable success, Aragonés faced challenges during his time as a coach, including a period of setbacks that necessitated strategic changes within the team. Following a series of significant losses, Aragonés chose to restructure his squad, entrusting key roles to players who had previously been in backup positions. Aragonés’ ability to inspire confidence and performance in his players made him a respected figure in football coaching, and team leaders in HR can emulate his example to instil motivation that drives achievement. At Hogan Assessments, we believe that motivational feedback is one of the best ways to get the most out of a team, reinforcing valuable effort and encouraging continued development.

The first step when building a strong team is to understand the people. Personality assessments are great tools that allow team members to gain valuable insight into not only themselves, but also each other. Understanding the personalities of team members can help ease any tensions within a working environment and foster stronger working relationships. When team members develop positive relationships, they may feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and solving problems creatively, which is an important step towards building a stronger unit and ensuring success across projects and the wider organisation. HR professionals should come up with strategies that align with their employees’ strongest attributes to increase engagement and job satisfaction.

Optimise recruitment strategies

Thriving organisations understand that much like football, their success relies on the strengths each individual team member brings to the table. Distinct specialties complement each other and compensate for weaknesses. Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, one of the most successful managers in football history, was notable for his exceptional recruitment skills. Ferguson did not only look for players who could make an immediate impact; he also sought young talents who could develop and become key players over time. He established a vast scouting network that spanned globally, assessing the technical skills of players as well as their character and potential for growth. Ferguson valued the character and personality of players as much as their technical abilities. He built strong relationships with players, agents, and other managers that helped him secure top talents. Good coaches spend significant time studying and identifying the most qualified candidates for their team – managers and human resources professionals should do the same.

HR leaders can adjust their recruitment practices to attract and select the most suitable candidates. At Hogan Assessments, we believe it starts with the job description itself. When posting, recruiters ought to clearly demonstrate a unique company culture, with an emphasis on the role and its expectations. Once the candidates reach the interview stage, the process should be kept consistent to make better hiring decisions and improve the quality of hires. This will allow for careful evaluation of potential hires with accuracy, to ensure their skills are the best fit for the job requirements. Just as football teams thrive on diversity, with players from various backgrounds bringing unique skills and perspectives, diverse and inclusive workplaces lead to enhanced creativity, better decision making, and a more dynamic organisational culture.

Prioritise team performance

The performance of a team – how well they execute their plans and deliver results – is the cornerstone of success in both sports and business. The most crucial elements of performance are trust, mission alignment, a results-oriented mindset, and adaptability. Football teams have a clear objective in sight: to win championships. Although office teams don’t earn a physical trophy, clearly defined quarterly goals and project milestones guide teams to achieve measurable outcomes that can be celebrated. Recognising and rewarding team success, both in sport and corporate environments, motivates continued high performance. In football, trust among teammates is key. For instance, goalkeepers trust their defenders to cover their area, while defenders rely on the goalkeeper to block shots. This seamless coordination is mirrored in corporate settings through transparent communication. A strong sense of commitment and accountability drives both football players to perform on the field and employees to meet deadlines and exceed expectations in the workplace.

While it’s commonly assumed that effective teams must be highly cooperative, teams can function in an optimal way even without perfect harmony. High-performing teams shed light on effective communication, clear objectives, and a shared commitment to excellence. Consider the Greek national team in the 2004 Euro Cup: despite having no prior wins in international tournaments, they achieved notable victories against historically elite teams, defeating Portugal twice, as well as France, Spain, and the Czech Republic. Their win in 2004 marked a significant underdog triumph in football history. At Hogan Assessments, we acknowledge that the true strength of a team is not based on how well they can cooperate but on how they overcome challenges to succeed despite adversity.

The Euro Cup is a valuable source of inspiration for human resources professionals seeking to elevate organisational performance. The team building strategies used by high-achieving coaches stress the importance of individual strengths to foster unity and morale. Refining recruitment processes to identify and integrate diverse talents mirrors the meticulous player selection that is so important in team sports. Resilient team performance, not mere cooperation, drives the importance of fostering trust, communication, and alignment in achieving sustainable results across both sporting arenas and corporate environments. By applying these principles, HR leaders can strategically enhance organisational dynamics, ensuring teams are not just functional, but formidable in achieving lasting success.

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