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Staffing Lessons from Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Football

To say that college football in Texas has taken off on an interesting trajectory would be an understatement. Perhaps no two teams have been more scrutinized before even one play was made than University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M. Put their very different situations to the staffing test and there are plenty of hiring lessons to learn.

Here are three:

    1. Fire (or sideline) fast. We’ve talked before about how Texas Longhorns Head Coach Charlie Strong is a leader who isn’t afraid to make tough calls in order to turn his organization around. Up to the season opener, his tough love style was the talk of the town: Removing the Longhorn emblem from players’ helmets and forbidding them to sign “Hook ‘em” until they’ve “earned it”; even suspending and releasing players for rules violations. For Coach Strong, it’s not about creating fear but about challenging the team to do better in order to strengthen the team’s culture. Much of the responsibility to change is placed on the seniors of the team. It’s a strategy that can have great results in business as well.“Start with people who have disproportionate influence in the organization,” outlines Allan Murray, author of The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management. “Get them committed to the change, or, failing that, get them out. And once they are committed to change, shine a spotlight on their accomplishments, so others get the message. Instead of just lecturing on the need for change, look for ways to get people to experience the harsh realities that make it necessary.”


    1. Don’t let star performers overpower the team. Would Texas A&M survive without Johnny Manziel’s fire power? That’s the question that’s been answered with a resounding “YES!”  Kenny Hill has rather literally picked up the ball where “Johnny Football” planted it, throwing for a school record of 511 yards and three touchdowns in Texas A&M’s season opener. It’s easy to credit the success of a football team to its star quarterback, but this repeatable momentum is hard to achieve without teamwork behind it.“Many people think that winning the game of football is simply a matter of having the eleven most talented players on the field, but that’s rarely the case,” Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin once said. “It’s as much about a player’s intangibles as it is what you can see from direct observation. We look for guys that are always at the ball, even when it’s not expected of them.”“Rather than thinking about how to hire the next superstar,” advices Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for General Electric, in a recent column for The Wall Street Journal, “think about the skills and blind spots in your team. It helps to get outside your typical recruiting channels.”


  1. Give as much as you receive. College athletes are under a lot of organizational pressure. However, it’s important to remember the players are there to learn as much as they are there to perform. This factor is not lost on leaders like Kevin Sumlin and Charlie Strong.“Young players across Texas and beyond know that when they come to UT Austin, they’ll live by Coach Strong’s rules or they won’t play football,” University of Texas President Bill Powers posted recently to his blog. “This will attract the best young men, and they will make all of us proud on the field and off.”


Keep that in mind when hiring your own recruits and you’ll likely improve your staffing efforts and, ultimately, your retention. How importance is guidance? BambooHR recently compiled an infographic pointing out these key findings:

  • 71 percent of new hires believe on-the-job training is the most important onboarding task within the first week.
  • They want their own managers—not HR or trainers—to onboard them.
  • 31 percent of new hires quit in 6 months or less. Most of these new hires are entry level.
  • Their reason for quitting? Most often, the lack of clear guidelines or effective training.


Just as life imitates art, business can often look to sports for reminders on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to staffing. Whether you’re a Longhorn, Aggie or anyone in between or beyond, what game-day metaphors have you discovered to help keep your hiring on pace?


Copyright: mahnken / 123RF Stock Photo