3 lessons on retention from the NFL, NBA, and MLB

We tend to throw around the word “team” a lot in the workplace. “She’s a valuable part of the team,” “Be a team player,” and “This is going to take a team effort.” are all phrases that we toss around like second nature. But for as much as managers view their employees as teams, they may not be doing a superb job coaching. We, as HR professionals, may not be the best team managers in the league, either.

What if we truly viewed our employees as a team? I’m not talking about the “John and Sue, you two tackle the Johnson account” type of team. I’m talking about a complete collaboration of skilled individuals, working toward one overall goal, coached and managed by people who help them achieve that goal.


Our businesses may not be as large in scale or profit as the NFL, NBA or MLB, but there are still so many lessons we can learn from these organizations. Each relies heavily on the players, or employees, they’ve hired to do a job. Without the right people, they will lose. Sound familiar? Keep reading for more similarities between you and that millionaire team manager of the Atlanta Thunder Lion Bear Braves. (See what I did there?)


Take a look at these three lessons we can learn from coaches and managers in the big leagues.


  1. Don’t let your star players get traded
    One of the most valuable lessons coaches and managers should learn is how to keep their star players happy. In the NBA, a star player may be 6’9” and average 28.1 points per game, but in the office, a star player stands out by making a difference in your day-to-day operations. In fact, you likely have multiple star players. The last thing you want is to have to fill the void that these employees will leave if they seek employment elsewhere.
  2. Other teams will try to recruit your players – be proactive
    One of the main ways other companies will entice your employees is with more money. Though you may not be in the position to pay more than anyone else in the industry, it’s important that your salary offerings are competitive. If you’re not sure whether or not your compensation is competitive, PayScale is a great place to start. You can also supplement your pay with unique and/or generous benefits and rewards to create a competitive total compensation package.
  3. Give your team what it needs to succeed
    This aspect truly is a collaborative effort between managers and HR professionals. Managers and HR professionals can have a direct impact on employee retention. It’s said time and time again that employees don’t usually leave their job, they leave the people they worked with. Coaches, or managers, are there in the trenches everyday to provide consistent feedback, motivation and constructive performance review. This can all help employees learn and improve in an effective way, increasing retention. HR professionals also have a duty to make sure that managers are equipped to do their jobs, even if that means providing further training. Training and development for your team of employees is also an integral part of retention and can increase engagement and assist with succession planning. 


When it comes to a successful team, there are many parties who contribute to their success. Coaches, or managers, and team managers, or HR professionals, both play an important role in leading the team to victory, whether that means winning a game, landing a new account or increasing profits.


What business lessons have sports taught you throughout the years? Let us know in the comments section below.

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