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The transfer window: 10 points which businesses can learn from talent spotting in the world of football.

The transfer window: 10 points which businesses can learn from talent spotting in the world of football

It’s that time of the year when things are really starting to hot up in the football world. Having specific windows when transfers can actually happen causes the media to go into an unparalleled frenzy of activity with rumours spreading like wildfire as to which multi-million pound deals are (and aren’t) going to take place.


Thankfully the business world doesn’t have such limitations and recruitment activity can take place 365 days a year. Having the ability to recruit when you desire can lead to wildly varying practices and tactics being followed. What’s interesting to view are the similarities between businesses who have a clearly defined recruitment strategy and how closely they sync with top football clubs who have to work to specific windows of time to get the right players for their squads. Here’s a top 10 run down of recruitment do’s and don’ts which businesses should always consider when thinking through their hiring policies:

1. Know the weaknesses of your current line-up and focus on improving those areas ASAP. The most successful football clubs don’t leave a gaping hole which can be exploited by their opposition. Arsenal’s perennial desire to ignore buying a tenacious, holding midfielder is a classic example of team not performing optimally due to a specific weakness.

A successful business should always know where they are being held back and should have a clearly defined plan to either rectify this internally or resolve the problem by hiring externally.

2. Always be on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ or the latest ‘wonderkid’; someone who doesn’t cost much now could end up costing a fortune once they’ve got a few years experience behind them. The purchase of the 18 year old Gareth Bale for £7m by Tottenham in 2007 certainly made financial sense when he was sold six years later for fee in the region of £80m. Spurs didn’t win a game with Bale in the starting X1 for 25 games – sometimes talent takes time to blossom, but developing junior potential will bring long term rewards.

Companies should always be open to hiring from the ground up. A clearly defined and well managed development policy for entry-level staff can lead to huge long-term recruitment savings through not having to look externally when an opening becomes available further up the company hierarchy.

3. Always know about your opposition’s recruitment strategy; adapt your own to always be one step ahead of the rest. The Willian transfer saga of 2013 was immortalized by Jose Mourinho’s comments about ensuring you hold medicals in secret. Having first been tracked by Liverpool and then having his medical at Tottenham, Chelsea came in at the final moment to actually sign the player.

Knowing where your competitors are focusing their attention and having clear knowledge of what they can offer potential applicants allows a company to devise a hiring strategy to pursue talent in a more clinical fashion. In a tough recruitment market where the battle for talent is becoming more pronounced month-on-month, knowledge is power when it comes to pushing through a hire when you know you could lose that individual to a rival business.

4. Negotiate hard to get the right deal but don’t be afraid to pay to get someone who’ll take your team to the next level. Liverpool fans have been increasingly critical of their transfer committee over their desire to ensure they get value for money in every transfer they make. Whether there was a genuine desire to purchase Alexis Sanchez in the summer isn’t clear, but no-one could doubt it would’ve made a significant difference to their current season if they had released the purse strings to compete with Arsenal over his signing.

The best employers in industry know when they need to pay extra to get the right person for their team. Budgets are crucial to maintain pay thresholds for certain departments but hiring managers should always consider how much extra value they can obtain by having an ideal person join them. If that individual generated / saved an extra 25% in comparison to the nearest rival applicant for a job, wouldn’t a slightly higher salary / compensation package / agency fee be justified at the outset?

5. Don’t shop in the last minutes of the window; whilst you may pick up a bargain or two, you’ll inevitably be left with a lot of average players who don’t add much in the long-term and they’ll cost you the earth. For every Rafael van der Vaart there’s far more Xisco’s and Paul Konchesky’s which happen every transfer window. The panic buy of Marrouane Fellaini was a deadline day legend when it became aware that Man Utd could’ve purchased the player for £5m less had they have completed their deal earlier in the window when his buyout clause was still active.

Companies need to act decisively in an increasingly competitive recruitment environment. A long, drawn-out process may ensure every box is ticked, I is dotted and T is crossed but inevitably, the trends will show the loss of your best applicants to your competitors. Don’t end up having to accept your second or third choice candidate; working smartly and efficiently will ensure you aren’t working in the final minutes of your hiring process to get the right person for your team.

6. The best teams have a clear and defined transfer strategy which sees them buying early and integrating the player into the current team well before they are needed. This summer’s transfer window saw Chelsea purchase Fabregas, Costa and Luis early giving them considerable amounts of time in their pre-season to get them accustomed to their style of play. The end result; top of the table half-way through the season and most of their new players hitting the ground running from day one.

Companies with an astute hiring approach always look to recruit before the need actually becomes urgent. Having the individual in-place early gives them time to absorb the culture and the characteristics needed to be successful within their new role. Expecting someone to perform from day one when they are rushed into the role is often a recipe for disaster; give your new hires breathing space and you will see significantly better return from them on a long-term basis.

7. Choose the right agents to work with. The agent can be your best friend but also your worst enemy; their industry is there to ensure the transfer process runs smoothly and a good one is worth their weight in gold. A bad one however won’t have the right contacts, can slow the process down, will cost you a lot of money and could lead you to actually get their wrong player in your squad.

Good recruitment consultants can significantly speed up a hiring process which can save long-term recruitment costs by getting the right person into a company quickly. The best recruiters will build a close working relationship with their clients and will know implicitly what is needed to fulfil a client’s brief. Sometimes a leftfield candidate who a client wouldn’t automatically consider can end up being the ideal fit for an organisation when they are represented by the right recruiter. A consultant who doesn’t have the right network inevitably won’t add significant long-term value to your hiring processes. Make sure they have the knowledge needed to represent your company as though they are employed directly by you.

8. Keep an eye on the market for weaknesses in your opposition; you never know when their best player could be open to an offer. The success of a football team never guarantees that a player won’t become available to their rivals. One-club wonders like Ryan Giggs and Matt Le Tissier are few and far between; most players do often want to move onwards and upwards to progress as far as they can in what is a short-lived profession.

A career in the world of business is definitely a more drawn out affair and lasts for considerably longer than your average footballer (in most instances). It’s natural that being approached by a company you could aspire to be a part of is generally going to be considered by most individuals. Direct approaches are a key strategy to getting the best team possible in your business; know when a competitor is weak and make sure your employer brand is strong at all times to ensure great people want to be a part of your success.

9. New players with exposure to different leagues can often add significant value to your team but often take time to bed in – give them time though and you could end up with a ‘worldie’ on your hands! Practically everyone doubted Dennis Bergkamp in his first season at Arsenal in 1995; no-one had a single complaint about the value he added over the next 10 years before he retired from football in 2006 – a true club legend.

When an employee joins a new company it’s fair and reasonable for the new employer to have expectations as to what they will achieve. A new employee should always demonstrate the right attitude needed to be successful from day one but they should be given leeway to learn the nuances of an organisation to become a long-term success. Companies can take rash decisions when they’ve got a valuable resource with the right attitude who just isn’t quite reaching their peak straight away.

10.World-class players are few and far between, cost a lot of money and are incredibly hard to obtain; they also don’t always work out when put in the wrong team (Torres/Chelsea, Veron/Man Utd, Imbrahimovic/Barcelona). However a world-class player in the right environment can lead your team to glory.

Every industry has their ‘key players’ who are widely known to all. These people become available very infrequently and ultimately, can’t be depended on to make earth-shattering changes when dropped into a new organisation. Given the right surroundings, management and support, they can take a company from being mid-table underperformers to table-topping market leaders over time. Cherish the opportunity to get your hands on one of these individuals but don’t let that person dominate the organisation – the team always comes first!