I recently read a great article on Quartz about retaining talent in the workplace and, specifically, what motivates employees to leave their jobs and organizations. Though articles on this topic now seem to be a dime a dozen, I found this one particularly interesting and insightful. I encourage you to read the entire piece – it’s not too long – but in the meantime, here are a few themes I took from the article, and how I feel they apply specifically to work in the sports industry.

Takeaway #1: Trust Your Employees

Building a relationship with your team that’s based on trust is a crucial component of success in any industry but is especially important in sports business, where the difference between success and failure so often hinges on teamwork (or a lack thereof).

This may seem like a “no duh” statement… but how often do you as a manager actually take the time to consciously think about the concept of trust as the cornerstone element that fosters team success? In some of my past management positions, I’ve definitely been guilty of not thinking too much about trust, fostering trust, and identifying whether or not it’s truly present. By contrast, though, when I think back to the most successful teams and departments I’ve been a part of, trust has been a major piece of the puzzle.

Trust enables individuals to do their best work (knowing they don’t have to over-focus on avoiding mistakes at all costs, allowing for creativity, etc.), and frees supervisors from having to micro-manage (which is sometimes necessary and valuable… but, as a daily habit, is more likely an indicator of ineffective teaching methods and/or faulty communication). It’s absolutely key to organizational success in sports, an industry in which both high levels of productivity and efficient use of time are crucial.

Takeaway #2: Culture is Critical

In their article, Quartz cites professional network Readyforce’s philosophy of “placing a high price on ‘hilarious'”, and hiring candidates based more on their personalities and less on their actual skill sets. Readforce believes skills can be taught but personality can’t, and their priority is finding candidates who mesh with the organization’s culture.

In sports, this approach makes a ton of sense. With seemingly hundreds of candidates applying for every open position at a team, league, etc., properties today can (and should) place a higher premium on personality. Since most sports organizations remain slightly under-staffed and over-taxed, having a team that actually likes working with each other will ultimately be more productive (and have way more “staying power”) than a group of geniuses that don’t ‘mesh’… and thus may get easily frustrated with each other, and the sometimes stressful inevitabilities of a career in sports (long hours, low pay, etc.).

Takeaway #3: Respect Your Team’s “Real” Lives

In the Quartz article, HR expert Carly Guthrie references early morning meetings (and, surprisingly, Friday evening happy-hours) as sometimes-unnecessary employee stressors. Ultimately, she says, “people who love their job and the company will work all the time”, so there’s no need to force long hours with super-early meetings and mandatory late nights.

It’s been my experience that sports businesses almost uniformly adopt the “work hard, play hard” approach, requiring long hours while also encouraging frequent employee socialization via special events, happy hours, etc.

Teams, of course, can’t do much to change the “long hours” maxim: since many employees have game day responsibilities, lengthy days and late nights are often inevitable. However, adopting a “stay as long as it takes to get the job done” approach may be more effective than a “be at your desk by 8 AM and don’t clock out until the last fan has left the ballpark” policy. Such an approach would enable employees to self-govern, and likely lead to greater efficiency (and less grumbling).

On the social front, I think Guthrie is on target when she suggests simply being respectful of your teams’ time. It’s true that most employees love the occasional company-sponsored social event (and such events often serve a positive, team-building purpose), but scheduling them, say, during the week (when your employees are less likely to have personal activities already planned) and being mindful of how much “personal time” they require will make them even more appreciated.

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