I am a big football fan. Apparently so is the rest of America. Not only is the NFL the most popular professional sport in America, but it is the most popular television program with the highest Nielsen ratings. Football is a multi-billion dollar business.
I am fascinated by the draft. As someone that has been in the pre-employment assessment industry for the past ten years, I am very interested in the process that NFL general managers undertake to determine their team’s draft selections. After all, NFL player selection is an extremely intensive employee selection procedure. Players are evaluated on their past play and behavior in college. Additionally, prospective players are invited to participate in the NFL combine. The NFL combine is basically the NFL’s version of an assessment center. Prospects participate in a variety of physical ability (40 yard dash, vertical leap, bench press, etc.) and cognitive ability assessments.
Each position has its own prerequisite skills and abilities. A receiver needs the fast-twitch muscles for speed and leaping ability. Additionally a good pair of hands and route running ability is important. As such, the 40, vertical jump, and catch drills are a good assessments of receiver skills and abilities. The skill set for quarterbacks is different. As the leader of the offensive unit, leadership ability is important. Cognitive ability is necessary for success. Quarterbacks need to be able to process information quickly. At the line of scrimmage they must have the ability to evaluate the defense and make adjustments as necessary. The ability to learn and execute an offensive game plan is critical. Ultimately, a quarterback needs to be able to predict where every other player is going to be on the field at any given moment during a play. Historically, general managers have used an in-depth series of interviews and oral examinations using game film to measure these cognitive, quarterback skills.
I read a recent interview with the Cardinals General Manager. The interviewer asked him what he looked for in prospects. He said that it depends upon the position, but regardless of position he looks for players that have passion for the game, smarts, and great football instincts. It struck me that this General Manager intuitively, and in an informal manner, has done what most successful companies do in a more structured and formal manner – competency modeling. The Cardinals recognize that different skills and abilities are needed for different positions, but they have identified that passion, smarts, and instincts are the common traits, or core competencies, that are required to be successful on their football team.
Successful football teams, and companies for that matter, clearly define the competencies that are necessary for success in each of their positions. A competency model is the foundation for the talent acquisition strategy, employee development, and performance management system.