Steve Diamond has been involved with Sale Sharks for most of his professional career. Now Director of Rugby at the club, his vision for the future of Sale hinges directly on recruitment to produce a successful, winning team. In a recent interview Morson discovered how his strategies for attaining top talent can work commercially, cementing the parallels between the pitch and the boardroom, sport and business.
One of Steve’s best and most successful recruitment tactics has been to look for talent outside of rugby union. As a great believer in rugby league one of his first strategies when he started coaching at Sale was to look to union’s sibling sport to procure top talent.
When I started coaching, our big ploy was to bring Jason Robinson over from league, and when I went to Saracens I took Andy Farrell with me. Now we have the investment from Simon and Ged the first pick was Denny Solomona and Josh Charnley and they’ve been brilliant for us, with Josh making a great move from league to union.
Steve’s strategy resonates firmly in the current recruitment landscape. With competition for skills at an all-time high, employers are forced to widen the net when searching for potential candidates. At Morson, we see the hiring community beginning to place more emphasis on person-centric recruitment; selecting candidates with the right attributes for the role and company culture, alongside core skills. It can often pay great dividends to consider candidates who have a slightly different experience or mindset. These hires are often a huge asset to an organisation, able to look at strategies and processes in new ways and incite transformational change.
For candidates this is great news and illustrates that you should not be afraid to cast your net wider in your search for employment. Even if you read a job description and see that your experience doesn’t quite align, consider that the hiring community is becoming more flexible in terms of the mandatory skills profile stipulated on job specifications, giving you greater opportunity.
In addition, looking for jobs outside of your comfort zone offers greater career fluidity. A demand for transferrable skills opens up new opportunities to take your career in a new direction, add new skills and widen the choice of industries, locations and roles. In some cases, it may even provide a route to career progression, leveraging transferable skills that are in high demand.
Steve teaches us that employers and candidates alike should be open to different possibilities.
Don’t be afraid to invest in top talent
Putting a price on people is a daunting and often complex process, however Steve Diamond attests to the value of having a flexible approach to procuring talent, maintaining that the most important piece is finding the right person, then working out the right package.
What we’ve seen is the tip of the iceberg. Ged and Simon are putting in the infrastructure behind the scenes, with our endeavours to buy the stadium in the next 6 to 12 months with our partners AJ Bell. Under our previous investors we couldn’t shop for the best players, whereas with Simon and Ged on board they understand how important it is to invest in top talent. It’s not about the money, it’s all about the people.
Too often organisations take a one size fits all approach to recruiting and retaining talent. This in itself can prove to be a very expensive approach. People, especially highly skilled talent, are costly to replace meaning that companies need to take a proactive approach to investment and retention. Offering competitive pay, clear career progression and recognition and reward may seem like a sizeable initial outlay of money and effort, but the recruitment market is a competitive arena and keeping your key performers engaged will pay dividends.
Aside from bonus packages and rewards communication is not only a cost effective but important tool to meet the needs of your employees. Many employee’s see positive and active communication as acknowledgment of their skills – the ultimate goal of employee retention.
Build a pipeline of talent
Steve speaks passionately about the Academy programme at Sale Sharks and it is obvious that bringing youngsters through the ranks is a key strategy for the club.
We have an unbelievable production line of talent in place, which we started 7 years ago. We have 15 players (out of a 32-man team) in the under 18’s England squad, which just shows that we have a really exciting future ahead of us.
Building a workforce or squad by investing in infrastructure to bring through young talent, as they have done at Sale, is one of the key strategies the UK labour market needs to adopt to bridge the skills gap. To meet rising demand, the UK needs to double the number of engineering apprentices and graduates, with more effort needed to encourage young people into STEM related subjects, especially females. Through training, apprenticeships and grass roots education we can ensure young people are equipped with the best tools, skills and knowledge to succeed in the industry.
Network, network, network. The power of the recommendation
Some of Steve Diamond’s most recent, and most talented recruits have come through the art of communication and making the right connections.
The recruitment piece is the most important part of my job and recommendations are a key part of this. I tried to recruit Jono (Ross) 3 years ago, but he decided to go to France and live in Paris (I don’t know why, when you could be living in Manchester!), but he saw the error of his ways and came back to us. When I met up with him for coffee I mentioned we were looking for a number 9, he recommended Faf de Klerk, thankfully and Faf decided to come with us.
LinkedIn is the virtual equivalent of Steve’s coffee shop encounter. As a digital CV and professional networking tool, LinkedIn allows you to make connections with people you may not ordinarily encounter, widening your network through connection suggestions based on skill set or industry. LinkedIn is a key tool for both employer’s and employees looking to find new prospects, so be sure to nurture your profile. By asking for recommendations and giving them in return, it humanises and adds credibility to your profile, enhancing your overall employ-ability. LinkedIn is powerful – manage it, share with it and network – it might end up leading you to your next role or next hire.
The search for top talent is a challenge shared by sports teams and businesses alike. Our chat with Steve Diamond illustrates that recruitment techniques used in sports selection are directly applicable in the workplace in order to build teams of driven, passionate and talented individuals.
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