8 things Euro 2016 teaches us about talent management and recruiting

Euro 2016 is winding down and what have we learned? Hooliganism is alive and well; the Irish have the best fans; England can always be counted on to underperform; and the French are back in business.

Looking past the headlines, though, the tournament has also offered a number of important corporate lessons.

Here are 8 things Euro 2016 can teach us about talent management and recruiting:

Teams are (often) more important than superstars

When the Italian national team was selected, it was instantly called the worst the country had ever sent to a tournament. This was partly down to injuries and a number of questionable selections by coach Antonio Conte, who, when not looking like a deranged serial killer with a bloodlust, put the focus on a specific formation and tactical plan. He was, in essence, hiring for fit and working to create a cohesive team. The result? Italy surprised many early on by beating Belgium and Spain, two tournament favorites.

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Superstars (often) need support

In Gareth Bale, Wales has one of the world’s most dynamic and dangerous players, and they benefitted from his goal scoring ability throughout their qualifying campaign (leading to the not-completely-complementary nickname of “Bales”). Their historically successful Euro 2016 tournament, however, was fueled by tactics that got the best out of Aaron Ramsay, Ashley Williams, and Hal Robson-Kanu, among others. Bale remained an imposing presence, but by properly supporting him, the plucky Welshmen were a very difficult team to play against.

Investments in training and youth make a difference

Wales. Iceland. Northern Ireland. Croatia. What do these countries have in common? Apart from a love of the potato, they all punch way above their weight (not one has a population above 5 million people). How? By making long-term investments in training, coaching, and youth football programs. Iceland, in particular, has established a national program of player development that sees children as young as 3 years old playing the game in heated, indoor “football houses” 11 months of the year. This program also put an emphasis on coaching development, and there is now one Uefa-qualified coach for every 500 people in Iceland. I know, it’s terrifying.

Team spirit counts for a lot

What Iceland and Wales may have lacked in pedigree was made up by self-belief and a strong team spirit. To help develop the latter (and drum up support in the rugby-mad country), the Welsh football association created the “Together, Stronger” hashtag, which was then used by players and fans. This may seem trivial, but it contributed to a sense of pride and team spirit that transcended the actual 23-man roster. Read more on how social media can be used to engage talent.

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Iceland, meanwhile, were busy chanting like Viking invaders on a village raid, which, you know, has a way of making a team look like they’re a) very cool b) ready to take on anyone and c) unified with a capital U. Lesson? Developing a strong, shared team spirit, and being the place people want to work for, can go a long way towards staying competitive with companies of all sizes.

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A strategy can give you the edge

Belief and team spirit can only take you so far. Eventually, you need a plan of attack. Italy were widely praised for their tactics and team organization, which made it difficult for opponents to break through their defence. To beat them, German coach Joachim Löw (he of the armpit, arse sniffing, and nose picking videos – see below, if you dare) copied the Italian formation, matching tactics note for note and giving his more talented squad the advantage.

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Play to your team’s strengths

No one should really be surprised that England underperformed, but nevertheless, former English manager Roy Hodgson (the guy that looks like an owl) was heavily criticized for his tactical set up and team selections. Chief among these blunders was playing striker Daniel Sturridge on the right wing, and asking the 6ft 2in Harry Kane to take corners (he has scored 9 headed goals in the last two seasons). Lesson? When recruiting and building a team, don’t try to fit round pegs into square holes.

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Give young talent a chance

There is some debate around Renato Sanches’ actual age, but whether you believe the midfielder is 18 or 24, the point remains: the young Portuguese player was given the chance to play, and he took advantage of that to score a dramatic goal, sending his team into the quarter-finals. England, meanwhile, limited the playing time of teenager Marcus Rashford (who is actually 18), who managed to actually make the English attack look dangerous. Oops.

That doesn’t mean you have to hire millennials exclusively, but it’s not a bad idea to give young talent a chance. Click here to learn more about how HR pros see millennial workers.

Use everything at your disposal

There was more to Wales’ success than hashtags and team spirit: they were also very well prepared. Two days before matches, players were given reports and video analysis of their opponents, with data sent directly to their mobile device. The team also conducted daily saliva and urine tests to create individual training sessions for each player (making sure that someone in need of rest was not run ragged).

We’re not suggesting you start testing your employees’ urine, but are you taking advantage of the hiring and recruiting resources available to you?

What else have we learned from Euro 2016?

See also:

Intoxication, absenteeism, and hooliganism: Employers weigh-in on The World Cup.

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