Denzel_inspirational_footballHave you ever seen one of those inspirational football movies? I’m confident you’ve seen at least one. Think movies like Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall or more recently Draft Day, just to name a few. Watching all of these movies at one point or another on a Sunday morning TBS re-run, there’s one thing they all have in common (apart from the obvious football theme): an emphasis on the coach and how he selects the team.

Selecting the team is one of the most critical elements of these movies. The over-dramatized selection processes and inner turmoil over mistakes are critical to introducing key characters as well as identifying the leader’s values. They give us, the audience, a snapshot of each player’s personality and leadership skills – a chance to identify with them and find similarities between their lives and our own. Knowing each of their back-stories, how they think and their strengths and weaknesses helps us see how they fit in the bigger plot, too.

As we get to know each of these characters and the coach, we begin to root for the team. We see how they all fit together, like a perfectly cut puzzle. Unlikely friends and teammates mentor and befriend each other. Thematically, this is the director’s chance to tug at your heartstrings and make you cheer for the home team using a feeling everyone can connect with – the feeling of family, safety and comfort.

Matthew McConaghey football teamThat’s something we search for from the moment we’re born. In fact, according to Maslow, it’s two-fifths of what we need to survive – covering both safety and love in this critical team dynamic. It’s having people around you that you can rely on and people who will defend you. When a football coach – especially one like Denzel Washington or Matthew McConaughey – provides both safety and love, we call it a Summer Blockbuster. But when an HR team pulls it off? That’s a miracle. 

The Hierarchy of Teams

In all fairness, these coaches actually have it much easier than the average HR or recruiting professional. Think about it – the average movie or IRL coach has a pretty slim field of player selection. In high school, they have access to the kids who live within the school’s radius. As the football teams grow progressively more competitive, the selection process becomes more challenging simply based on the number of available positions, not the access to talent.

uphill battleOn the other hand, HR is facing a world where not everyone loves work, or ever expects to, really. They’re not recruiting for prized positions like franchise quarterback and star defensive end; they’re recruiting for your database managers and marketers, facing challenges no one recruiting for a football team will ever have to face.

Power is shifting from employer to employee with the unemployment rate down to 5.1% (about half the 10% rate from 2009) and generational turnover is compounding daily sourcing and organization culture challenges. By generational turnover, I’m not talking a few millenials that decided they want to be contractors. I’m talking about the 10,000 Boomers that are retiring every day, while Millennials swoop in to fill the void with a sharply contrasting work style and worldview that can completely destroy corporate cultures and dismantle teams.

A Chain Reaction

Simply put, this has resulted in less control, more variables, more unknowns, more risk, and in general, a hiring environment that looks a little more like a casino than what is portrayed by Hollywood coaches as they make calculated, thoughtful decisions about building their teams.

All the while, there are enough buzzwords to fill a bingo board about top-ranked or A+ candidates because everyone wants the best person with the best educational and corporate pedigree to join their team. But does that pedigree add up to success? Are we making a huge mistake hiring new team members, all the while thinking more about a candidate’s past performance and skills and forgetting the critical dynamics of the team?

Building a team that will survive the chaos of this constantly shifting workforce, will take more than a few predictive analytics data points and video interviews. It will take people analytics, a data-driven approach to managing people at work.

There’s huge potential for this approach to change the way we work from our day-to-day to our company’s overall bottom line. However, according to recent analysis from Jason Geller, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “Managing Talent Costs with Talent Analytics Technology,” there’s a break down when it comes to making people analytics a reality in the workplace. With three quarters (75%) of respondents citing talent analytics as an important issue, only 8% reported that their organization is “strong” in this area—almost exactly the same as in 2014. Needless to say, people analytics as a focus area for HR departments is at the very beginning of a long and productive journey.

Measuring A Win


These metrics have the potential to shift every element of the HR toolbox. Beyond better hiring and retention, People Analytics can solve even more complex, team-based problems like:

  • Rapidly assessing and analyzing hundreds of candidates for an entry level position and predicting the potential fit for future positions
  • Career path and bench strength analysis for existing teams
  • Comparison of a recently promoted senior leader to their new teams or predicting the fit of a potential manager with various teams
  • Identification of high-potential candidates for specialized emerging leader programs
  • Analysis and development of precise onboarding programs based on results of People Analytics analysis
  • Assembling innovation teams with a proper mix of not only strategically focused individuals but also those that can facilitate, implement, and execute
  • Mining existing talent pools for people that can fit a wide range of positions – People Analytics plays a critical role, by allowing managers to compare individuals with a wide range of future positions, and predict the potential for success.


Frank CostanzoAbout the Author: Frank Costanzo has more than 30 years of experience building and leading technology-based business enterprises across multiple industries, including education, banking, online brokerage, and publishing. In his capacity as Senior Vice President of Sales with Caliper, he is responsible for the sales organization and business development initiatives. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here or follow him on Twitter @jfcostanzo.