Dream Fulfiller - What Winning Sports Coaches Have to Do With Attraction and Retention in the Workforce

Kevin Watson - Director of Business Development ·

For those of you that are avid college athletics fans, your team’s success each year typically depends on the following; their ability to recruit, to get the most out of their talent, get players to gel as a cohesive unit, and to keep players on the field/court/etc. (healthy and out of trouble). If you think about it, the same is probably true in your line of work as well.

Few coaches have been able to crack this code over the past seven years better than Alabama’s head football coach, Nick Saban and Kentucky’s head basketball coach, John Calipari.

*Disclaimer – I’m not a big fan of these coaches (in part because they always seem to be winning, and they don’t coach for my alma mater).

They both have an uncanny ability to get the most out of their players and to get their players to gel as a cohesive unit.

Beyond that, they seem to have cracked the code when it comes to talent attraction (winning on a consistent basis doesn’t hurt the cause).

According to the website rivals.com, Alabama has had the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in six of the past seven years — 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. They finished second in 2015.

Calipari is no slouch in the recruiting department either. Over the past seven years, Calipari has had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country on four different occasions – never dipping below No. 5.

Over the past eight years, Alabama has played in five National Championship games, winning four (no other team has won more than one during that span).

Kentucky has four Final Four appearances over that time span, more than any other team in college basketball.

Some might look at this as a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Are they great at recruiting because they win consistently, or do they win consistently because they are great at recruiting?

The answer may lie somewhere else.

If you go to John Calipari’s official website, and click on the “About Cal” tab, he describes himself as “a player’s coach with a penchant for helping people reach their dreams…” If you scroll down, you will find a section titled “DREAM FULFILLER.”

Calipari was one of the first coaches to encourage his players to enter the NBA draft after their freshman year, putting his player’s interests ahead of his own. Of the 21 players at Kentucky who have declared for the NBA Draft after their freshman seasons, all 21 have been first-round picks. Calipari is 25 for 25 in that regard if you include his Memphis players. Nick Saban has sent 61 players to the NFL in the past seven years, with 21 of those players being selected in the first round.

In the “what have you done for me lately” world of sports, it is counterintuitive that these coaches would encourage their best players to leave school early, but that is precisely what they have done. The coaches that try to see the world through the lens of the players, seem to be reaping the benefits.

The same is true in the business world. We see countless managers, supervisors and leaders that try to metaphorically wrap their arms around their best employees for fear that they will lose them to another department, division or competitor. As a result, they stifle the employee’s growth, oftentimes causing the employee to harbor resentment and/or leave the company.

At my last job, our Regional Sales Manager made it his number one priority to promote as many people as possible. As a result, people would run through walls for him because they knew that he had their best interest at heart. As a result, we were the number one sales team in the country and each time someone was promoted, he was able to backfill the position with another really talented person because people were clamoring to come and work for him.

If you are struggling with employee retention and attraction, you may want to shift gears and take a page out of Saban and Calipari’s playbook. Start by sitting down and understanding your employee’s goals, aspirations and dreams and then become a “dream fulfiller.” Once your company develops this reputation, you will start to attract a higher caliber of employee as well. You may lose a few really talented people throughout the process, but you will lose even more if you don’t start to do what is in their best interest.