"There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team," says Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. While it's hard to find fault with a statement like that, for many hiring managers, it's much easier said than done. Team chemistry, often equated with company culture, has yet to be measured in a definitive way, yet many company leaders and executives, including Branson, laud its importance — at times making it the highest priority — when hiring.
Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, has found that for businesses and sports teams alike, "The arena where the future of quantifying team performance and team work is being measurably discussed." In a recent Harvard Business Review piece, he posed the key question: "What combinatorial characteristics of high-performers empower everyone else to over-perform?"
Teams > Workplace Family
Companies, including the popular video streaming service Netflix, attribute their success to their emphasis on job performance and have long compared their hiring and talent management strategies to those of competitive sports teams. Says Netflix, "We're a team, not a family. Netflix leaders hire, develop and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position." While perhaps lacking some of the warmer attributes of a recruiting pitch, Netflix sets clear standards for job candidates from the beginning: performance comes first — a tactic that must be working to some degree, as company stock has risen almost 400 percent just in the last year.
While individual performance is important, companies are looking to leverage the effect that high-performing teams can have on a broader scale. George Karl, the seventh coach in NBA history to reach 1000 wins, emphasizes the importance of quantifying "teamness" to coaches and general managers. "Where Fortune 100 companies once invited pro coaches and athletes in as motivational speakers for internal events," writes Schrage, "the conversation is shifting to sharing analytic best practice."
As more quantitative attention is turning to how players improve the in-game performances of their teammates, asks Schrage, "How might CEOs and boards deploy headhunters and hire executives differently if chemistry can be better measured?" While not a clear fit, says Schrage, "The MLB, NBA, NFL and FIFA are hardly perfect analogues to either gigantic global enterprises or Silicon Valley start-ups. But high performance companies in industries worldwide are digitally monitoring and measuring their people more comprehensively and rigorously."
Photo: Can Stock