Perform like a Premiership Player – How HR can ensure Champion Goal Performance!

Perform like a Premiership Player – How HR can ensure Champion Goal Performance!

Football bod
It’s that time again, and whether you love it or loathe it, the Premier League is about to kick off.

News, rumours and gossip about transfers abound. Financially damaging relegations, sponsorship deals, obscene salaries and player’s performance both on and off the pitch are everywhere you turn.

However, underneath all the noise, hype and seemingly endless coverage, there is the important matter of performance - and arguably nowhere more so than football is performance amply rewarded! Top performers in the beautiful game are often not rewarded in the same way as they would be in any other job, but HR is undoubtedly a consideration, and some clubs, for example, Manchester City who employ around 530 staff, have given a great deal of thought to putting in place an HR system that ensures they recruit and retain the right talent, both on and off the pitch.

Football is undoubtedly big business. Recruitment, retention and performance are hugely important, and mistakes in any of these areas are incredibly costly! The cost of Premier League relegation is averaged at around £21 million in television revenue and £4 million in commercial revenue alone.

With such big money involved, the goal posts (pun intended) are very movable when it comes to behaviour, contracts, loyalty and the hiring and firing of staff. Bookies even take bets on which managers will be dismissed during Premier League season. So, as HR professionals, what expertise could we bring to the pitch?

Here are a few football facts I thought we, as HR professionals, could consider!


Whether in the office or on the pitch, gossip about pay, transfers, and personal lives can be a huge HR concern. When news like Luiz Gustavo moving from Bayern Munich to join Wolfsburg for a rumoured £12.8 million got out, both Arsenal (who were after him) and the man himself were immediately in a good position to know their bargaining power. HR needs to keep their eyes and ears open for what is going on with both staff and competitors. News travels fast and it has never been easier to find and contact your top talent!

Employee Engagement

With big money at stake, and top talent in high demand, you’d better make sure your employees are happy. If you manage to get hold of the top talent in your field (again, pun intended!) then you really want to keep them there.
According to, ‘Manchester United will not sell Wayne Rooney to any other club regardless of how much money they are offered, or how unhappy he becomes’. Hmm. Not HR best practice, although given his salary, I assume he is pretty happy where he is.

Communication, support and feeling valued are often just as important as the money –even if most of our workplaces don’t offer quite as attractive incentives as footballers get so casually!

They may be top talent, but they should still play by the rules…

It’s important to keep your best players happy, but they are still part of a team and should behave that way - their performance affects the reputation of the whole club. Bad performance or misconduct should not be ignored.
Your top talent will most likely be aware of their skills and of their value to the organisation.

It can be a tricky job for HR, but you need policy in place that addresses poor performance or negative issues that arise, however talented the staff member. Luiz Suarez biting Branislav Ivanovic on pitch? Imagine if that were in a boardroom. Although I don’t believe Ivanovic followed it up, that was definitely a time for HR to step in and have a chat, and for some serious feedback!

Company Culture

The best companies and the best football clubs have this in spades. Slogans like ‘By skill and hard graft’ (Blackburn Rovers) and ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’ (Everton) make sure everyone knows the team message. It is the performance of the team as a whole that gains supporters, brand ambassadors, sponsorships and the best team players. The greatest clubs have brand personality and a culture you can believe in, and so do the best companies. HR departments need to nurture company culture and make sure it is clearly communicated.

Know your competition

Premier League all-time top goal scorer Alan Shearer (who netted 260 goals, in case you were wondering) said ‘whoever I played against, I wanted to find out how they ticked. Before I played them I always knew their weaknesses [and] their strengths’.

This is the same for organisations, and for the HR department. Whether you are thinking about business competitors, the next person who will fill a role in your team, or you existing staff, taking time to understand them and gain insight into areas of strength or find out where there is room for improvement is the key to success. Getting feedback, communicating and regularly assessing performance is what will ensure you have the winning team.

So that’s how to play the beautiful game like a pro. Although I’m still on the look-out for that multi-million pound contract…

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