Janine Mostyn, Founder and Managing Director of talent search specialists Huckleberry Sport, says that as the industry is entering post-Covid recovery, it is worth investing in experts when it comes to hiring new staff.
First the good news.
Go beyond the ghostly echoes of still-empty stadia and the steady drumbeat of bail-out demands and there are reasons to believe that the sports sector is beginning to recover from its Covid-induced coma.
Of course, it would be mad to get too excited at this stage. There is still a long way to go before we can start thinking about business as usual. In fact, there is a persuasive school of thought that suggests we may never return to the way we were. Sport can survive, sport can thrive, but sport will be different – a changed product for a changed world.
The reason for my optimism is, quite simply, that companies are hiring again. In the same way that the number of cranes silhouetted against a city skyline is looked on as a bellwether of the general economy, the number of shout-outs for staff now appearing on LinkedIn and other platforms is an indication of fresh confidence in the sports sector and a willingness to invest in the future.
So why do these green shoots not bring me more joy?
The point is that I fear any new-found confidence is actually rather shallow. Although companies may be hiring, they are still looking to cut costs wherever possible and, unfortunately, that includes in the hiring process itself.
Right now, recruitment is being carried out almost exclusively through free social media platforms rather than recruitment consultancies which will charge for their services. And from where I sit, that looks like a short-sighted approach.
Now of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
But let me take you back to the whole principle of hiring staff. They are an investment in the future of your company and, as we all know, investments can go up or go down. They can work brilliantly or misfire spectacularly and the role of a recruitment consultant is to minimise the likelihood of the latter by making sure the right person walks through the door for the right job at the right time.
When there’s such a lot riding on every role it’s asking for trouble to reduce the recruitment process to the commercial equivalent of online dating where you may swipe right and get lucky or swipe left and later discover you’ve missed the perfect match. And while you never have to go on a second date, it is not so easy to walk away from a new hire when you have got it wrong.
Advertising roles online for free may have its attractions, but it is worth taking a reality check and considering whether they ultimately outweigh the disadvantages.
At times like these most roles advertised will attract a tremendous volume of responses. So, who is going to sift through them all? Who has the expert eye to spot tell-tale weaknesses in a CV, manage all the applications or simply think more broadly about the kind of candidate which will work best for you? In the absence of an internal talent team, the answer is unlikely to be an already over-stretched administrator or hiring manager who has been asked to add recruitment to their ‘to-do’ list.
Then, how do you cast the widest possible net. Going online may well grab the attention of those already working in sport and actively looking for a job, but what about the others? How do you get those who are already in a post to think about your opportunity? How you identify people from other sectors whose particular experience could make them perfect for your role? How about the underrepresented groups who may not apply when they see such high numbers of applications already for fear of ‘what’s the point?’
The answer is that you can’t. At least not without getting help or getting lucky and you would be foolish to rely on luck.
It has often been said that sport is entering a new era and that new skillsets and enhanced qualities of management and leadership will be demanded by the companies and organisations which will thrive in the future. And guess what? You won’t just find them by preaching to the choir of existing sports sector workers on LinkedIn. You need to fish in a bigger pool.
For many years, recruiters have earned their fees by adding value. They have candidates who may not be overtly seeking a new role, they know and understand their candidates and have the experience to look beyond the straightjacket of a resume to recommend people you may never have considered even if you’d been able to find them. And critically, their wide net of contacts and candidates is likely to extend beyond sport, making them uniquely positioned to find talent current working in other sectors.
The point is that amidst the collective desire to cut costs, I fear the industry has lost sight of an important fact. Money spent on recruitment should be looked on as an investment, not simply a cost, and failing to make smart investments to get the smart people at a time when the economic tide appears to be turning, could prove ruinous in terms of both finance and opportunity further down the line.
Getting recruitment right will be crucial as we enter what is likely to be an unprecedented 2021 and the industry recovers. Consequently, it is important to consider options in addition to social media to ensure you hire the best candidate out there, not just the best from those who applied.