Does Your Organization's "Bracketology" Efforts Stack Up?

Guest Contributorby Elias Rassi | Posted | Industry Buzz

Does Your Organization\'s \

The month of March is special. For one, it marks the start of spring. Second, the longer days and increased sunshine means the dark and dreary days of winter are almost over. I hope I didn’t jinx anything there, by the way.

But for sports fans, March means only one thing: March Madness. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament officially begins today and will conclude with the national championship game on April 6th at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Aside from watching the games, the most exciting part of the whole thing is picking your bracket – a pastime known as bracketology.

The process of selecting a winner from start to finish – and monitoring the results! – quite literally consumes the lives of the most die-hard to casual fans of college basketball. (If you haven’t been following the college basketball season closely, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to pick a winner.)

It has also become very popular within corporate offices with many organizing formal pools to celebrate the “Big Dance.” In fact, global outplacement experts Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates companies could lose more than $1.9 billion in lost productivity during the first week of the tournament alone.

For fun we thought we’d take the concept of bracketology and apply it to talent management strategy as a way to show there are similarities between how you pick a winning basketball team to how you develop a winning team in your organization.

So, how does bracketology apply to talent management? Let’s break it down.

The inaugural berth aka talent acquisition

In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast University sent shockwaves when it eliminated No.2-ranked Georgetown. It was FGCU’s first ever tournament appearance in just its second year as a Division 1 program. It made their improbably victory over a big name such as Georgetown that much more impressive. The victory catapulted this Fort Myers-based school into the national spotlight.

The talent management angle: treat recruiting like marketing

What does a victory like that mean for a school such as FGCU? For one, it improves their ability to recruit high-end talent. If you’re in the talent attraction game, think of it from your employer’s perspective.

For top candidates, choosing which job to pursue is not just about what the job role is, but how they can contribute to the organization and what they get in return. There needs to be some reciprocity to the employee-employer relationship.

So, treat recruiting like marketing and build your employer brand within the job description to inspire and excite potential candidates. And when it comes time to discuss the job opportunity with a potential candidate, use the job description to sell how this individual can have an impact on your organization’s success.

If you’re a growing company, ditch the bias not to hire overqualified individuals. The truth is, they’re the veteran presence your team needs to take them to the next level. Overqualified candidates can yield very positive results for your company. They could bring new skills to the table, offer leadership and mentoring opportunities for others, and could open the door to a network of contacts that could be beneficial to your company.

The Cinderella story aka talent identification

Every year, a relatively unknown team upsets a top seed and moves deeper into the bracket. In 2006, there was George Mason. In 2008, the Steph Curry-led Davidson Wildcats (you might have heard of him).

There were two in 2011: Virginia Commonwealth University and Butler. Even before this era of college basketball, there were legendary performances by Loyola Marymount in 1990 and the Jim Valvano-led North Carolina State in 1984.

All of these teams overcame seemingly insurmountable odds.

These teams had to work harder to keep their tournament hopes alive.

The talent management angle: provide targeted coaching and feedback:

If we consider the Employee Performance Continuum, which TalentSpace blog contributor Jamie Resker wrote about last year, these employees have good interpersonal skills, but are low output performers.

These employees might not be doing so well to reach their objectives, but managers know their performance can be turned around with proper coaching, feedback, and targeted development plans. All of which can turn them into high performers.

Remember, managers have a great impact on employee engagement. Having conversations with your employees and addressing their learning and development needs is critical to the success of your talent management strategy.

At the end of the day, your organization’s talent will build a lasting competitive advantage. The more employees are able to deliver quality work, the better position your organization becomes to achieving better business results.

The Favorites aka talent development

These are the top dogs. The Kentucky’s. The Duke’s. The Kansas’. The North Carolina’s. The Arizona’s. These schools are always top-contenders for college basketball glory because they have the ability to recruit top-end talent.


They’re winners and produce talent that eventually make their way to the National Basketball League’s hard courts.

The talent management angle: know the difference between high potential and high performing employees

High potential employees are the superstars in your organization. According to the Corporate Executive Board, “HiPos” exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Aspiration: The desire for the responsibilities, challenges, and rewards entailed by more senior roles.
  • Ability: Combination of innate characteristics and learned skills.
  • Engagement: The employee’s emotional and rational commitment, discretionary effort, and intent to stay.

But, remember: Top performers don’t always make the best leaders. Anderson Leadership Group president Henryk Krajewski explains,

“Performance is how well I’m doing my job tasks. Potential is how well I might perform in a future role, in a given organization — and commonly we’re talking about leading larger and larger groups of people, and making more and more consequential decisions.” 

You need to ensure you understand the difference between a high performing and a high potential employee before you being discussions about career advancement.

Oh, and when you’ve made that distinction, simply letting employees know that they’re part of the succession plan isn’t enough.

When we look at talent management from a wide lens, we must maintain a view that allows for room to promote high-potentials and develop the leadership skills they need to be successful in the next phase of their career.

The final whistle

If you’ve spent some time reading the TalentSpace Blog, you know this isn’t the first time we’ve made the link between sports and talent management strategy and best practices.

Liverpool FC taught talent acquisition professionals a thing or two about building passion for their employer brand.

We drew examples from NHL coaches to help managers become more aware in how they can inspire and coach their teams to greatness.

And we even went back to 1936 Berlin Olympics to learn about what the University of Washington crew team can teach us about the power of engagement.

In the same way, bracketology can teach us a thing or two about coaching and developing people to higher performance while providing them with richer career advancement opportunities.

From opening tip off to the final buzzer, make sure your talent management strategy is a slam dunk.

Your turn: What winning talent management strategies do you have to add? Leave a comment below.

Talent Management Blueprint: A Guide for Building a World-class Workforce

Build your championship winning workforce today!

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Talent Management Blueprint: A Guide for Building a World-class Workforce

Build your championship winning workforce today!

Download Now

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